(This is another great question from our Next Level Leaders…I found myself giving myself homework after this question!)
How do you find the balance of work, life and God? Seems like a simple enough question but early in my ministry career, it was actually one of the biggest puzzles for me to figure out. I was twenty-two when I was hired at Wekiva Assembly to be the Children’s Pastor in Orlando, Florida. I will always be grateful for my first opportunity to minister – I was young, unsure of a lot of things, had only volunteered with children for a short while. Plus, I was married with a very young family and trying to figure out how that all worked. So to create the equation: Work + Life + God = Balance. Honestly, there wasn’t a whole lot of balance. It was more of an isosceles triangle aquarium and water would slosh to one point. Then, the table would tilt and it would slosh to another point. I would run from one need to the next. If you asked me my greatest need at the time it would have been to figure out this equation. I am not sure if I really got it during my time in Orlando for a couple of reasons. I was young and needed to grow up. I didn’t have a mentor at the time who had walked through this in ministry. Finally, I didn’t have a great grasp of “healthy boundaries.”
Fast forward to today. What is the answer to the equation? Realize it is a work in progress for me today but here are some of my insights.
I believe in working hard and giving your very best when you are working. If you see me at church on a weekend, you might get the impression that I am very relaxed and focused on the people. That is awesome because I strive each week to serve the people of GFC and I really enjoy doing it. I think of our weekend services as the “big game” and want each person to experience God where they are at so He can cause them to take another step closer. For this to happen, requires a lot of work. You might not see the numerous questions I am asked by staff, leaders and people in the congregation. Someone has to make final decisions. I look at a lot of details that others might overlook so others who have an eye for those things don’t let the flashing light, piece of trash or missing sign take away from their experience. When I head home after the last of our weekend services, I am tired. People take a lot of energy for me but I do love it.
During the work week, my day will begin around 4am. I get a lot of ribbing about this and I even think I am nuts at times. This gives me my “God time” for me personally. (More about that later) The reason I mentioned it as part of my work time is because I consider it a vital part of my work. If I am not growing spiritually on a personal level, then I will never be able to lead from what God is doing in my relationship. I will lead from just past experiences – I have found a person growing in their relationship with God is the best foundation for growing others in theirs. Monday through Thursday I work out and on Tuesday and Thursday, I have breakfast meetings and my small group. Once I am in the office, I have a very simple job description – “I am an ice breaker boat. My job is to break the ice pack in front of our staff and ministries as much as I can and then get behind them and empower them to move forward until they cannot go any further.” (I told you – its pretty simple.) To do that, I have regular meetings with my direct reports and Pastor Craig, take time to strategize upcoming projects and meet with key leaders of the church. Simple yes – easy no! I don’t know how Moses kept moving the masses each day but it does take a lot of work to move GFC each day. I am blessed with a tremendously gifted staff who really do their jobs well. In “breaking the ice” for them, we are seeing some tremendous results in God changing lives. And I will go home usually around 4pm. I do have “night meetings” but we established a guideline that a pastor shouldn’t be out more than 3 nights a week, including service nights. There are weeks this gets skewed but they are pretty few. When I go home…I go home.
I will let you in on a pretty obvious secret about being in ministry…you are never really “off.” Life happens and you will get calls at all hours of the day because of people. If you don’t want to intersect people with your life, ministry is the wrong choice of profession. So, my phone, email and text are always on at home. Here is how I keep the balance of that – yep, you are going to hear my secret to ministry. The book, “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend gave me the missing key. The book basically showed me that I am the gatekeeper to all the things I want to let in and keep out of my life. As a young minister, I felt like I needed to keep the gate wide open so I would not disappoint people. Of course, I can’t keep it shut at all times either. So, when I am home I do see the calls, texts and emails and I ask myself, “Do I need to do something with this right now?” Most of the time, the answer is “no.” Some life experiences are emergencies and you need to act accordingly – I don’t have a problem with that. However, most of the time, a person is experiencing something or a decision is put into my que because of a situation that taken a while to develop. If that is the case, it can wait until I am in a better place to give it my undivided attention. Sounds harsh, right? I don’t want to disappoint people but I have found that you are going to get the best results from me when I am at my best. This allows me to enjoy my relationship with Kristin and our family at the highest level. Believe me, they have given up life experiences because of my ministry. However, none of them have any resentment to the ministry because we always made them the priority when we are home. (And as Casey says, “we took really cool vacations as a family.”)
You would think this would be the easy one of the three, but it actually was the hardest. When I was a young minister, I went from one day of reading my bible to the next day reading my bible because I had a sermon to prepare. It changes your perspective in a big way. I had to learn what it meant to go after my “personal” relationship with God and my “professional” relationship with God. Now that I have been in ministry for almost twenty-five years, it is still tough because you will read the bible and think “I preached this” or “I remember the time when…” and pretty soon you are in ministry mode and not personally growing.
Here is what I do today to grow in my relationship with God. I have four things that I do during my devotional time during the week. I can choose one, a few or all – read the Bible, pray, worship or sit in quiet before God. I have come to the place that when I get up, I know which one will feed me that day. I found that I would get in a rut if I only did one of these each day. Ironically, I never thought of myself as a “prayer warrior” but this has taken my prayer to a new level because those days become days I really “want” to pray. When you read the bible, I encourage you to do it with a couple of friends. I have a couple of guys that we post two scriptures from our bible reading each day. Then we just comment back and forth as we have ideas to share. It makes it more interactive and I have learned some great truths from these guys. Finally, I do this only on Sunday through Thursday. I take Friday and Saturday off. It gives me permission to get away from the “routine” of doing a devotion. This works for me, not everyone else. I encourage you to earnestly find what makes your devotional time work and be consistent.
I do get asked occasionally, “Do you get something at a weekend service or are you working?” Great question with a simple answer – “Every time.” I expect for God to give me a nugget from the sermon, an experience from a worship song, a conversation with someone who will grow me closer to God. I think because my expectation for this is high – God usually delivers. I don’t put the expectation of those people to provide it, I expect God to do this for me and He does.
Work + Life + God = Balance
Let me encourage you to take this equation and put yourself to the test. My homework after meeting with the NLL leaders – evaluate each area in this equation for where I am today and write about it in this blog. What will your assignment be?