- What are your plans for a summer break?
- Where will you vacation?
- Do you have any great recommendations?
I typically take a break from ministry books on vacation. (If you have a killer recommendation, I might make an exception.)
My recent reading includes:
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There (Highly recommended. My leaders are taking many staff members though this one.)
- The Shack (Everyone I know has read it. I’m about 1/3 through it.)
- Crazy Love (Chan is incredibly challenging.)
- UnChristian (Very interesting.)
- The American Church in Crisis (I wrote the forward for this but am reading again slowly to digest Olson’s rich and meaningful work.)
- Pop Goes The Church (Tim’s work is extremely valuable for ministers.)
- It All Goes Back in the Box (Ortberg is alway good.)
- Acts and Romans
- Looking forward to Wild Goose Chase
What books have you read recently that you’d recommend to me and to our swerve community?
Some say to really rest, you need to totally disconnect. That means no cell phone, no email, no blogs, etc.
For me, checking in occasionally relieves me of any concerns. I’d rather have a few questions answered than be away and wonder if certain things are covered.
I find a quick scan of emails or occasional call helps me to relax.
What about you? Do you stay totally connected, semi connected, or disconnect totally?
Here are a few things I’m learning about taking time off:
- Two consecutive weekends off from preaching is ten times better than one.
- Time off makes “time on” much more effective.
- Even if I don’t feel like I need to be off, my family often needs me off to focus completely on them.
- My church enjoys hearing from others.
- Most people are supportive when you take care of yourself.
- Staying in town when you’re off doesn’t feel like being off. (Someone always needs something.)
- Speaking somewhere besides your church is not a weekend off.
- Going to church somewhere else is a huge blessing.
What can you add about taking time off? What works?
Many pastors and church staff members don’t take much time off from the church.
There are many reasons:
- The pastor might not have a staff, so he believes he can’t be away from church.
- The pastor is worried a guest speaker won’t do a good job.
- The staff member feels guilty when they take off.
- The student pastor might not be able to afford to get away.
- The church staff member is afraid she’ll be viewed as a slacker if she isn’t at church.
- Some pastors are so driven that they don’t want to take time off.
Whether the reasons are fear, guilt, misplaced passion, or some combination of these, the tired and burdened pastor will be less effective in ministry, more vulnerable to sin, and at a higher risk for burnout.
Is it hard for you to take time off? I’d love to hear from you. Please explain your struggle honestly.
Because a pastor’s schedule, role, and duties differ from other professions, the rhythms of life should differ as well.
Your rhythms will vary based on several things including:
- The stage of development of your ministry. For example, starting a ministry or transitioning a ministry might take more effort than other seasons.
- The age of your kids.
- The focus of your ministry.
I’d suggest that you embrace the season that you are in. (Don’t act like it is summer if it is winter).
Here are a few of the ways I’ve embraced the different seasons.
- In the early years of the church, I worked almost non-stop. Some might think I’m exaggerating, but my wife would tell you I’m not. (She understood and embraced that season as best she could with the promise of a new season coming.)
- Once the church was off-the-ground, I intentionally slowed the pace and arranged my schedule to spend much more time at home with our growing family.
- Instead of multiple short breaks from ministry/church, I’m now taking fewer, but longer and more restful breaks.
- During the first ten years of the church, I didn’t write books or speak at conferences. My sole effort was on building the church.
- In this season, I invest way more time in developing leaders than in the past.
- With six children at home, I limit my travel schedule to about one night out a month.
- Once the kids are older, I look forward to much more international travel.
Are you doing anything that is inconsistent with your season of life and ministry? Please share any seasonal rhythms that work well for you.
Pastors, your life is different.
I used to fight for the normal life. One of my mentors told me that as long as I strive for normal, I’ll fail. He encouraged me to embrace the differences of ministry and learn to flourish within those differences. (Living the balanced life will likely be impossible.)
Pastor, here are just a few ways your life is different:
- You prepare new messages every week for the same crowd. (I can’t think of any other profession who does this without the help of curriculum or speech writers.)
- You do what many managers or business owners do. (The short list includes: maintaining the building, building new facilities, hiring, training and firing staff, overseeing the budget, raising money, recruiting and leading volunteers, etc.)
- You shepherd the flock. You might counsel someone who is suicidal, meet with a couple who is about to divorce, do a funeral and a wedding before your preach on the weekend.
- You are rarely “off duty.” Like the doctor who might be on call one weekend a month, you are almost always “on call.”
- Though your hours are flexible, they are generally long and unusual. You work many nights, weekends and most holidays.
- You have the pressure of life in the “fish bowl.”
- Your role creates many social obligations.
- No matter how much you do, your ministry is never “finished.”
Some resent the differences. Some embrace them. I choose to embrace the differences and strive to follow Christ as my model instead of the culture’s cry for balanced living.
We’ll talk more the next two days about how to thrive in the differences of ministry life.
Which of these differences affect you? What differences have I not mentioned that are important to you?
One of the most common topics people ask me about is how I balance my life, family, and ministry.
My response is simple, “I don’t live a balanced life.”
In my opinion, the balanced life is unachievable and unbiblical.
Jesus didn’t call us to live a balanced life. He called us to follow Him.
While following Jesus, our life will often be out-of-balance. He may lead us on long stretches of ministry followed by a substantial season of rest. Ministry will rarely be predictable.
Some pastors are pursuing the illusive goal of the balanced life only to fail again and again.
- Their marriages struggle.
- Their ministries limp along.
- They are spiritually exhausted.
This week, instead of talking about living balanced, we’ll look at how to be imbalanced in a way that honors God. Along the journey, I’ll share certain ministry rhythms that help sustain me. (I hope you’ll share some of yours.)
How have you been failing at living the “balanced life?”