At our annual staff retreat last fall, pastor / guru Al Gilbert from Calvary Baptist over in Winston-Salem spent a couple of days downloading just a sliver of his knowledge to our relatively young staff team. Pastor Al talked to us about the ups and downs of leading a large church, and to completely dissect all of those talks would take roughly twelve light years’ worth of blogging. It was good stuff.
One of the statements that continually pops back into my mind was this: “There’s no such thing as a balanced life.” When Pastor Al first said this, I did the internal equivalent of the teenage girl sign of scorn: “P-shah!” (No, I don’t know how teenage girls spell it…that’s as close as I can get.) I p-shahed because I know that there is too such a thing as a balanced life, Mr. Smart-Pastor-Guy-Who’s-Been-In-Ministry-Since-I-Was-Born.
But now I realize that Pastor Al had a point. Unless you live in Perfectville, USA, you can find balance in life about as easy as you can find a necktie in Gaston’s closet. Nobody is going to have a life that always fits neatly on a pie chart: 60% work, 25% family, 10% ministry, 4% recreation, and 1% Roseanne reruns. (Your personal Roseanne intake may vary; adjust your work percentages accordingly.)
Merriem and I had a saying early in our marriage: “It’s just a season.” In other words, “We’re busy now, but not for too much longer. This big event will end. This semester will be over. This campus will be launched. This insanity will pass.” We made a conscious decision to discontinue the “It’s just a season” remark a few years ago, mainly because whenever one of us said it, the other one realized that all these seasons keep crashing into each other until finally somebody was going to only be able to say “It’s just a se-” and then abruptly be interrupted as they received a firm kick in the throat. (That’s Merriem kicking me, not me kicking her, because she has a very cute throat and my shoe print wouldn’t go well with much of her summer wear. Besides, she watches a lot of Jack Bauer and would have my kneecap inverted before I could get anywhere close to her.)
I digress…back to Pastor Al. He acknowledged that, especially in the life of a pastor and pastor’s family, that imbalance must be expected. There will be days…weeks…months where I have to give an inordinate amount of time to the church or to ministry. But there will also be times that are relatively calm. Both are necessary, and both should be expected. There are times that I have to suck it up and just get the job done, and there are times when I need to say “no” to some great opportunities, simply because my family is more important than doing the opening prayer at the Women’s Ministry Annual Bake Off and Missions Auction.*
The important thing in this – whether you’re in ministry or simply working a nine to five – is that your family must have a vote. I don’t always recognize when I’m busy, because I thrive on being busy. However, my kids and especially my wife have full authority to rein me back in and help me remember that they’re way more important than just about any ministry pursuit I can imagine.
A great book on this topic is Andy Stanley’s Choosing to Cheat. If you struggle with this topic of balance, CTC will rock your world.
So how about you? How do you wrestle with this topic? Comment below.
*Not an actual event. Don’t get your raspberry scones in a wad.