Pastors Knute Larson, Jeff Bogue, and Jim Brown talk about how they prioritize their church and family life.
“We need to talk.” If you are like many of us in the pastorate, you knew what was coming when your wife asked for time to do this. It was about you working too hard or too long. Only Andy Stanley has never been there. He is the one committed to the 40-hour work week.
You knew when the conversation was scheduled, that you needed to listen and that there should be no quoting of Paul the Apostle about extreme dedication or buffeting his body or family!
It was time to work harder about not working so hard or long. Again.
Fact is, no one will take care of this for us. No one will guard our schedules for us, though a few can help. No one will plan tragedies so that our pastoral care and love can be at a convenient time.
We must work to balance our lives, refresh our spirits, enjoy our families, and still please our Savior. All of that can be done at once, albeit not easily.
This month the three of us are taking our best shots at conquering the issues of time. We will be attempting to tell the difference between what is urgent and what is important. How to love our families and the church without the second one being a mistress. How to make and keep a Master Schedule.
Please take the time to see if it helps.
Believing we can all do better, even Andy Stanley,
Knute, with Jeff and Jim
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Is there such a thing?
- Yes and no. Yes, there is such a thing as making sure you are personally healthy and that your family is healthy. Make sure you are raising up leaders around you and not doing all the work yourself. No, there is never going to be a time in ministry where you work 9-5 and have your weekends free.
- I often say, “I do not believe in balance. I believe in correction.” I am never going to have a normal schedule. I am never going to not work on the weekends. But I can correct my schedule. I can take the right amount of time off and away, so that I serve, invest, and enjoy my family in a healthy way, without damaging them by being overcommitted to the life of my church.
- Yes, there is such a thing, but it is a daily battle. You must remain vigilant about it, and no one else will do it for you.
- As a leader you must help your team to find proper balance too.
- If you do not gain control then burnout will take place and set you back.
- Yes, and it should always be a goal. It might be described as when the pastor, his family, and the church are all satisfied.
- Yes, but the tension never goes away. We should be realistic about the life-long (okay, job-long) hard struggle to balance work and rest, church and family, serious and fun. We must learn to live with that tension.
- I love Governor John Sununu’s comment when asked by a news person if his job as White House chief of staff was difficult. “No,” he replied, “I only have one person to please: the President.
I know we should please our families for sure, but our first call is to work hard, rest, and be part of the family with a schedule that would please our Savior.
That means we do not try to please the church or fellow pastors or Christian magazines first!
What are the main enemies of healthy balance?
- Lack of planning. A pastor should keep a schedule and within it there should be down time, home time, and free time. It must be planned and managed.
- “Tyranny of the urgent,” is a huge enemy of balance. A pastor must learn to discern what is truly urgent and what can wait. There is a huge difference between an emergency, a priority situation, and a need or project that needs to be addressed.
- In an emergency, you drop everything, obviously, and many times we need to run to people’s sides.
- With a priority situation, you might rearrange your schedule because there has been a crisis. It needs to move to the top of the priority list, but it does not mean you leave your child’s soccer game to go deal with it. It may just mean it is the first thing on the agenda tomorrow.
- Projects are simply things you need to address next, and they can be scheduled out for weeks or months or worked on routinely. This way the problem can be solved in a reasonable period of time.
- Not equipping the body. If, as the pastor, you are the one running around doing it all, you are actually doing your job wrong. Equip the body, raise up other leaders, and give them real leadership. These are huge ways we balance out the load of ministry.
- Not gaining control of your schedule.
- Trying to please people instead of God.
- Setting unrealistic expectations on your own life.
- Thinking that somehow things cannot be done without you.
- Lack of delegating responsibilities.
- Micromanaging others instead of empowering others to lead and serve.
- Thinking too highly of yourself.
- Lust for recognition and applause
- I only use that four-letter word to get attention and to admit that there is a fine line between the holy desire to please our Lord and the selfish drive to be approved by others.
- Improvisation, where we go from one fad or new book theory to another, trying to copy what others have done. Changing and starting up new things takes extra time.
- Golf (or television, hobbies, basketball, movies…). We all have 168 hours every week so even if we get eight hours of sleep seven nights per week, a couple hours a day for eating, and (fill in the rest of the blanks), there are still a lot of discretionary hours left. Often that is the issue —how we use them.
- Lack of a Master Schedule J. You have got to start believing in this if you are not using one yet!
- Old-time traditional church events — like driving two hours each way to have a men’s meeting and then wondering what was accomplished.
- Groupie life at church, where we expect or invite people to be in all kinds of groups — Sundays, Wednesdays, in homes, Saturday mornings, women’s, or men’s! That is as bad as the old “every time the church doors are open” claim!
What disciplines, truths, or policies help you?
- The discipline of taking my day off and using all of my vacation.
- The discipline of schedule. You cannot just walk into my office and interrupt the rhythm of my day. We put things on a schedule, and even my staff and elders are kept to that idea.
- The discipline of evaluating what are worthy interruptions and what are interruptions of convenience.
- Guard your day off and take it off.
- Hand out your cell phone number wisely.
- Free your staff up to love on their families.
- Find ways to refresh and recover on your own.
- Learn to say no!
- Develop leaders, interns, and volunteers to do some of the work.
- Have cell phone free hours in the evening at home.
- Take all your vacation days.
- Master Schedule! I capitalize it intentionally. This is where you take your goals and values, put them into a week schedule, and then stick to it so the important things get done and the balance is true. This means all kinds of specifics like exercise, family time, marriage dates, personal times, discipleship, shut-ins (some items are monthly), and more. And of course study time. They are all put into the schedule that is the goal for each week.
Then that schedule is kept.
Obviously tragedies, family, and special needs can interrupt this, but not just a lack of discipline.
- My wife. “We need to talk.” She of course knows when there is an imbalance, and then I know also. This is the main item of tension in most ministerial marriages.
- None of us plans tragedies and emergencies of course. We do know we must decide what the goal is for hours in a normal week. We will never be “done,” whatever that means in this calling. But we can say, barring emergencies, what is our goal or balance in terms of hours to work in a regular week: 52, 55, 60, or whatever you decide.
Okay 40, if you are Andy Stanley or one of his close fans, but to do that you probably need to be able to speak as well as he does and have the same kind of staff and resources.
How do you allot time and decide priorities?
- You must decide priorities and then allot time for them.
- Priorities are the flywheels that everything else spins off (e.g., preaching-sermons cast vision, connect with people, and serve as a billboard for the gospel and the church itself. Therefore, it is a high priority, and I am going to allot a large enough segment of time that I can hit a “home run” with my sermons, week in and week out.)
- Spend time in prayer and seek the Lord, asking for wisdom and discernment.
- Determine the urgency or overall impact of any event.
- Learn to prioritize people over things.
- Remind myself of these three things on my business card and the order to which I have purposely placed them: husband, father, pastor.
- Carefully, aligning them with long-term goals and good health for me, family, and the church.
- Do not scold, but I really believe in the old cliché list: God, family, health, job, others around me, the world. I must schedule time for all those, and keep those spaces filled with activities or quiet times that fulfill those priorities.
- Then slightly change those twice a year — probably in August for the fall “semester” and in December for the second part of the church year (same as school year).
- Allow someone you report to and someone who loves you to have input on how balanced your schedule is. When possible, have an assistant help you to guard this schedule.
- And take that time “to talk.”
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Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years. Pastorpedia is brought to you by CE National. Visit cenational.org/pastorpedia for more issues and to read the bios o