Written by Steve Hoekstra,
The balancing act is pretty much just that – an act.
It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life; family events, kids sporting/school/special interest events, church events, work/ministry related events, community events, hobbies, recreation, projects and the list goes on. The question has been asked over and over “How do we balance our family life with our church life, with ministry”? During my first Pastorate I came home one evening to my wife sitting at our kitchen table crying and hurt. I asked what was wrong and she, in her kind way, said ‘you spend more time with church families and others than you do with your own family.’ Wow, did that hit hard!
We sat and talked until I came to a very difficult realization that if things did not change I would lose my wonderful wife and family, then as a result, my ministry. I made a commitment to her and to God that I would begin right then making changes. I was the pastor of a small church then with about 100 attenders. One thought that occurred to me was that I not only needed to change my own priorities and attitude toward ministry, but also as an equipper of the saints, I needed to help my church to understand the role of a pastor so that our expectations would be tracking along the same pathway. I read everything I could get my hands on about balancing home and church, family and ministry. I found one book in particular that was most helpful for all of us at that time. It is Priorities in the Ministry by Earnest Mosley. After I read it, our church bought about 50 copies and in many different small groups studied this book until it was so ingrained that I remember hearing one of my close church friends begin a discussion on priorities to a store clerk as we were trying to get away on a fishing trip.
There is much about Dr. Mosley’s book that I still believe can make a difference in a minister’s life and church. Since that time over 40 years ago, I have modified the concepts in the book with those of my understanding of Scripture and even though I still find myself overwhelmed with “wearing too many hats” my wife and I have some things we do and know that have helped us.
- We Know – Jesus said: Come unto me all you who are weary and overwhelmed (my word) and I will give you rest.” Then in Colossians 1:27 we are reminded that it is Christ in me that is the hope of Glory – not me. The reality that it is not what I can do for God that will ever make a difference, it is what He is able to do through me – in His own power – that will make a difference. The term Let Go and Let God became a mantra for me in the late 1970s and since. Jesus tells us “apart from me you can do nothing.” When I am working in my own power trying to grow a church, minister to a class, love my family, be available to my community I will end up overwhelmed, guilt ridden and not mentally or spiritually healthy. However, when I am receptive to God working through His gifting in me I will have a spiritual sense of contentment and most often joy.
- We Know – Understanding the Roles that I have: Christian person, married person, parent person (for life), church member person, employed person and community person. Some of you can think of more but the point is to know the roles you have so you understand that you cannot prioritize roles. I had a man many years ago tell me that when he was at work he was one kind of person but when he was at home he was a different kind of person and then at church he was a completely different kind of person. This man ended up having a complete nervous breakdown later in life. We cannot prioritize roles only goals within the roles. When I am at work I am still a parent, when I am at church I am still a Rotarian, or whatever. Understanding that my being a Christian person – that is having a relationship with Christ permeates every aspect of my being.
- We Do – I take my wife out to breakfast or lunch at least monthly for a “planning” meal. We look at our calendars for 6 months out. I give her every appointment I have, she gives me every appointment she has. We plan days off, vacation days, work days, tax preparation day, working on the chicken yard day, travel days and everything we can think of for at least 6 months. At these monthly meetings we review the present month in detail making any course corrections and adding in anything new or taking out cancellations. We then look at next month in detail, noting anything we need to do in preparation for a project, travel or whatever is coming up. We then look at the next four months after that making sure we have what we need as we approach those months. I see this as a part of my ministry to my family and to Colorado Baptists. You might think that it takes too much time for all of that – but I ask how much time do you waste going in circles, feeling overwhelmed and being frustrated redoing things. It takes us one meal a month to do the work and then a few minutes a day to review and make any changes.
Putting this together at around 700 words, when we could fill a shelf with books written about this subject, feels a little like throwing one starfish into the ocean when so many litter the beach. It may not make a dent in the numbers on the beach but the one that is thrown back sure appreciates it.
I believe that the real key is to realize it is not my ministry but His. It is not something I do for Him, it is something He does through me.
I still – after 40+ years don’t always get this right, I still find myself overwhelmed and over busy, but it is much less now than in those early years.
Steve and Janice Hoekstra