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Unbalanced Yet Stable

How can I balance my life between loving God, caring for my family, and serving as a leader in this church?

Every so often I get a phone call, email, or become engaged in an interesting conversation. The topic is typically phrased like this: “How can I balance my life between loving God, caring for my family, and serving as a leader in this church?”

The topic is balance – but one of the problems we face is trying to figure out what “balance” is. The dictionary at my desk lists 8 separate meanings for the word if it’s used as a noun and 9 meanings if it’s used as a verb. Yes, 17 different meanings for one word. The definitions range from having multiple things in equal proportion to having several things in harmonious proportion to one another to standing without falling over.

When we think about spirit/work/family life balance our minds easily slip into a simplistic consideration of the topic, namely, that the things we are trying to “balance” should be equal in weight or proportion. If this were true, it would make the answer to the opening question easy as there are 24 hours in each day and three things to keep in balance. So, let’s devote 8 hours daily to each. Unfortunately, humans sleep, so we actually have about 16 hours a day to divide which makes it less clean because the math requires 5.33 hours daily for each. But wait – we typically work for about 8 hours each workday, but we have 5 or 6 workdays rather than 7. Yikes! This balance thing is obviously more difficult than it might originally seem. That’s why it so often raises questions and why it’s something to talk about.

The quest for balance may well just be a quest for maintaining health in the people and things important to us.

In my earlier adult years, I indeed sought balance. But I found it frustrating and impossible to achieve. I now suggest pursuing the concept of appropriately providing attention to each of the highest priorities of our life based upon what is required in the season of life in which I find myself. Rather than living a balanced life, I seek to live my life in a way that allows me to accomplish my priorities by giving each the attention they need at the particular time (or day) in which I find myself. I seek stability in the outcomes of my behaviors in the three important aspects of my individual relationship with God, loving and serving my family, and serving the Lord (whether for pay or as a volunteer).

What do I mean by stability? I don’t mean to imply a static state or nothing happening. Rather, I mean that they are healthy, producing the fruit that they should, and not suffering from neglect.

I was frequently facing the “balance” issue during my prior career in policing. The very nature of the work requires people to work various shifts, various days of the week and on important days and holidays. Yes, I worked on Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter Sunday, though not always. Yes, I missed celebrating birthdays and anniversaries for loved ones on the day that they occurred, but I was able to (most of the time) keep the priorities in at least a stable state, if not growing by not forgetting that they were all priorities and being willing to sacrifice myself a bit in the short term to gain the long term results.

Men watching computer screen

I remember days where I would drive to work for an early morning Saturday work event, drive home to go to one son’s soccer game, go to the afternoon band event for my other son’s performance and back to an evening work responsibility. It was not easy, and it didn’t always work, but it was worth the effort.

Employment in church ministry is sometimes similar. Things happen that are work for us but extracurricular activities for those in the congregation. Sunday comes every week. We need to vigilantly guard our priorities. In fact, it’s our vigilance that will result in stability and fruit in these endeavors – paying attention to what is going on in all three areas.

How do you and your team deal with the desire for “balance?” How do you maintain stability in the most important areas of your life? That’s something to talk about. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.

  • This article identifies three major life areas of importance: Personal spirituality, our family, and our work responsibilities as church leaders (or other vocations). Do you agree with this list? Are there more than three major categories? What are your categories?
  •  Because we cannot create a mathematical formula for allocating time for each, what do you look for in determining the state of health and fruitfulness in each of your areas? How do you determine whether things are healthy or not?
  •  Does the concept of seeking ongoing stability rather than “balance” resonate with you? If not, what words would you use to replace those terms?
  • Do you have any system to remind you to pause periodically to reflect on the health and fruitfulness of your major life areas? Is so, what is it and how is it working? If not, what type of system would ensure that you do so?
  • Organizations have similar characteristics as people in this regard. Are your church’s major priorities stable? Are they accomplishing their purposes? What systems do we have in place to help us make such an assessment? Are they healthy and bearing fruit? If not, what do we do now to address that?

The quest for balance may well just be a quest for maintaining health in the people and things important to us. Everything cannot be of equal importance, but we can and should pay attention to the health and fruitfulness of the things that are. How are you doing? How is your church doing? How would you know? And who is holding us accountable for our efforts? That’s something to talk about.

Let us know if we can help and how your conversation goes. Contact Bob Osborne by e-mail at bob.osborne@efca.org

This is one of a series of articles intended to facilitate and guide church leaders’ conversations about significant issues that often are not talked about among pastors, boards, and church leadership teams. Visit the EFCA West website to see prior Something to Talk About articles.

Bob Osborne

Bob Osborne is the director of church health for EFCA West. He is passionate about equipping, encouraging and strengthening church leaders: “Our good intentions are not enough; we actually need to implement them.”

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