When I began serving as a youth worker, I was young. It's was just me. I was single. My time was flexible. I could go places, do things, hang out when I wanted to, and spend time with people as I pleased. Then I met the woman who would become my wife, and life began to change.
At first it was fun and easy. We did youth ministry together. We were young and mobile, and very willing to give of our time in the name of ministry. At this point we were still volunteers. And the ministry we were working with was a ministry that we started. But then came the child and a call to our first, full-time ministry. Our first born arrived and a couple of weeks later we relocated. it was a whirlwind of emotion, excitement, and the fear of the unknown. We simply chose to step out in faith and trust that God had a plan.
It's now 20 years later. We have 5 children. We have served in 6 different ministry settings; 2 Christian summer camps, 3 churches and a church plant. Our life is busier than it has ever been. We juggle full-time ministry, the calendars of our 5 active kids, community activities, part-time jobs, and life within our house. All this is to say, finding the balance between life and ministry is an absolute must.
A couple of years ago, I lost my balance. I took a new ministry leadership position that within the Church. Like many in this position, I had huge dreams and great big god-sized hopes. We were going to make a difference for the kingdom. We were going to a place that the community would want to be a part of. So I poured myself into the position. I gave everything I had to give. When I didn't have anything to give, I took from my family and gave it to the pursuit of becoming what I thought we were becoming, thinking, "it's only for a season." After three years I hit the wall. On the verge of depression, exhaustion, and total self destruction, I realized that I had lost my balance. No matter how well I tried to organize and use my time, it was my priorities that were out of balance. I was dying. And so was my family.
After three years I hit the wall. On the verge of depression, exhaustion,
and total self destruction, I realized that I had lost my balance.
After a couple heart-to-heart conversations with my wife, and some godly counsel from two, highly respected mentors, I knew that I have to regain my balance. It was time to remember my priorities and make some dramatic changes. And so we (my wife and I), started to reconstruct our life, and it began with me admitting that I needed help.
Admit that You are Not, BUT God IS!
I lost myself. Through the many years that I served as a youth pastor, success in ministry did not rely on my own strength. All that I did, I did knowing that at the heart of it, God was in control. But all of a sudden, If found myself believing that I was the one who was in control. Sure, I might have said the right words, but deep down inside, I carried the weight of the responsibility of the leadership position. I took failure and the lack of growth personally. I analyzed and evaluated everything I did and equated the lack of new faces as a failure due to something I did or didn't do, or worse, as a result of my personality or gifting. I thought, "I wasn't charismatic enough. I wasn't outgoing enough. I wasn't a good communicator. I wasn't a good enough leader." My life became a growing list of my deficiencies. While I wanted to rest upon God, I was afraid that my weakness would shine through and I would been seen as the broken man I was.
The first step I had to take was to admit that I had shifted my focus from the cross to my own strength and abilities. It became more about what I could do, and less about what God and others could do. I needed to put my eyes back onto God; His purpose, His plan, His strength, His timing. I needed to be reminded of His grace, His love, His forgiveness, His mercy. I needed to walk with my Creator, my Savior; to feel His presence and know that He was there, willing and able. My first and greatest priority was my relationship with my God.
Make the First Things First!
For years, my family came first. It was something that was drilled into my head by guys like Andy Stanley, Doug Fields, Mike Yaconelli, and Jim Burns. Over and over again I would hear these guy stressing the importance of putting your family before your ministry. From caring for your relationship with your wife to loving on and spending time with your children, family was your first ministry. And so for years, I made sure that my family received my very best. But when things are out of balance, too often, it's the family that suffers. And mine did.
I miss school functions and sporting events, something I once said that I would never do. I grew irritable and angry. I was short tempered and explosive. I filled my free time with study and preparation. I became isolated and lonely. And every thought in my head was consumed by the worries and fears of ministry. I had lost my joy.
My first ministry is not to the organization or my student ministry. My first ministry is to my wife and children. The second step I took to finding my balance was to make my family a priority again. It's not a quick-fix thing, but a daily choice to put my wife and kids above my ministry. I've had to make some changes to the ministry in order to accomplish this. Today I am still repairing the hurts I caused. Honestly, I am still healing myself, and so I am still working to put my family first.
I needed a life change that would change my life.
Make the Life Changes that will Change Your Life.
One of the things that came out of those heart-to-heart conversations and mentoring sessions was the realization that there needed to be a much larger change to help me regain my balance. I had to change the thing that was throwing me off balance. I needed a new job.
Because I allowed my ministry to consume my life, it was vital that I step down from my position. Feeding an alcoholic more alcohol doesn't help him become well. Nor would I have been able to stay put and fix what was broken. I needed to relocate. I needed a life change that would change my life.
Making the decision to leave and take another position was scary, but necessary. I needed to repair what was broken and to rediscover a healthier balance between life and ministry. Now a year later, balance is coming. I am not consumed by the realities of the church or leadership. I am part of a team. I share responsibilities. There are systems in place. There are people to serve with. I can say no, and it not be held against me. I can leave the office because of a family need and not have to lose a day of work and pay. And most of all, I am doing what I love.
Balance is more than just making sure that you accomplish everything that needs to get done in a day. Balance leads to joy. It's not just checking items off a list, it's about living. It's doing what you were created to do; being who God created you to be. It's finding pleasure and delight in what you do. It's keeping God at the center of your life, making your relationship with him your highest priority, trusting him to provide and care for you. Balance at home isn't in saying you will go to this school function of event, and spend this amount of time with this or that child. Balance at home is found when your family gets your best. Not the leftovers. Not the squeezed-in moments. It's your attention, your presence, your self.
Balance comes when you make the sacrifices and changes to fix what's broken or out of place. It takes time and determination. It's you working at it every day.
Do you want to find balance between life and ministry? Then begin with your priorities and ask God to help you find the balance that works for you.