One of the first major lessons I learned in ministry is the importance of remaining intentional about preventing burnout and maintaining a balance between family, work and ministry.
This is a lesson, unfortunately, that I had to learn the hard way. A few years ago, I ended up having to leave a pastoral staff position at a church, because I was not intentional about striking a balance between being a full-time undergraduate student, work, family and ministry. I said ‘yes’ to almost everything at church. It left me very little to no time for my family. My relationship with my wife began to suffer. I burned out – BIG TIME! And it left me feeling hardly any passion for ministry (or anything else for that matter). Everything was a chore. It was terrible.
As hard as it was for us to leave this church, my wife and I knew that it needed to happen. I needed to step back from a pastoral role until I finished school. I plugged into another church, but in a volunteer role, helping where and when I could. I graduated with my ministry degree, and was shortly thereafter brought on staff, first as the youth pastor/midweek service worship pastor, and then to my current role as the creative arts/midweek service worship pastor.
I learned from my past mistakes and I am much more aware and intentional about keeping things as balanced as I can.
Here are some things that I have incorporated into my life to help me keep a healthy balance between my various responsibilities and to maintain my passion for God, family and ministry/work.
Sabbath – Be intentional about taking one day per week to rest. Use this time to spend with God, family, friends. During this time practice being and not doing.
Practice the Presence of God – Don’t limit your time with God to just a specific, scheduled time during the day, but also practice being in his presence throughout your day, no matter what you are doing. Set your phone, watch or whatever to alert you to pause, take a deep breath, and meditate on God for a few moments. You can set these alerts on an hourly basis or at least a few times per day. Doing so, will help keep you oriented in the right direction – towards God! I found it to be an excellent stress reliever as well! =)
Be willing to say ‘no’ to some things. Often, there is incredible pressure for leaders to say ‘yes’ to everything, and to be involved with everything. One of the best things I’ve learned in my time in ministry is that you (and I) don’t have to be a part of everything our church does, and it is OK to say ‘no’ to some things. What those things are depends on your position at the church, the responsibilities and expectations that come with your position, and your ministry context, etc. But it is OK to say ‘no’ when appropriate to do so.
Take a vacation! At least once per year take some extended time off, whether it be a week, or a long weekend to spend with family, friends or on a solitary retreat somewhere. Get away and refresh!
Join a group of other pastors/leaders in similar pastoral staff or leadership positions to yours for support, encouragement, accountability and prayer. This is sometimes difficult to do, depending on where you are serving in ministry. If you are part of a small church in a small town, chances are there may not be many options for you to do this. This is where ministries like All About Worship can be of great value to you. You may not be able meet face to face with other worship/creative arts pastors, but you do have a connection to the AAW community for support and encouragement. If you are in a geographical area where there are such groups available to you, I encourage you to join one if your schedule and life situation allows.
I don’t always do these things perfectly, or as consistently as I would like, but you know, life happens. =)
They are, however, things I do or have done which have benefitted me. I am confident that if you should decide to do any or all of these things, that you will find them being a benefit to you as well. I pray they will be!
God bless you on the journey!