Learning to Balance
I’ve only been at my current appointment for 4 1/2 years but in that short amount of time my congregation has had two different pastors. Let me explain!
When I began pastoring here in July of 2010, I was fresh out of seminary and had just gotten married eleven days prior to moving into the parsonage. As newlyweds, my husband and I had no plans in the near future to begin a family and so we found ourselves with lots of time on our hands. It wasn’t very often that I couldn’t just get up and go if called when someone was in the hospital or that I couldn’t attend an event or meeting on any given day at the church. Then a little over two years later, it all changed. This once very flexible pastor who could work sixty hours a week, became a mom and it all changed. That is how my church had two different pastors, the non-parent who was very flexible and the new mom with a whole new set of family responsibilities.
As a mother I had to relearn what balance meant. I could no longer do everything, anytime anyone needed me. It was hard, I was used to getting to do everything and being able to go whenever I was needed, and the church was too. It took about a year to finally get to a place where life and work were balanced, or at least better balanced. Now as I look ahead, as my family will expand once again in January, I know it will be a whole new adventure learning balance again with a family of four. But there are several things I learned the first time around that will help.
1. Remember you can’t do everything. I was fresh out of seminary and full of all kinds of energy for ministry, I wanted to do everything and be involved in all of the aspects of the church. But when my life responsibilities grew, I had to come to terms with the fact that I could no longer do everything. I had to pick and choose carefully those things I could do at the church and give myself permission to not be at every single event for the entire time or not be heavily involved in everything.
2. Learn to say “no.” This goes along with not being able to everything. Sometimes even for the things I really wanted to do or be involved in I had to learn to say no. I only have so much time and so much energy. When I over commit, than I do nothing well and I enjoy things much less.
3. Take a sabbath. Amidst work and life responsibilities there must also be time spent for renewal and refreshment. For me it’s essential to my life, without a day of rest, I find myself more stressed and less able to enjoy the beautiful parts of life. I also find myself disconnected from God without that day of rest and renewal and it makes ministry a lot harder.
4. Make a schedule/keep a calendar. This has become one of the most important parts of maintaining balance in my life and work. I am able to see visually where my time is spent and then I can prioritize the important things so I don’t miss out on important family moments and important ministry moments.
5. Protect your family/personal time. As a pastor my schedule is never 9-5, Monday thru Friday. Evening meetings, events and Sunday worship make this kind of schedule impossible. It is important for me to make sure I make family time and time for myself a priority too. Sometimes I have to miss something special in my family for something in the church, and that’s okay, but other times I have to miss something at the church because of my family or private life. I have learned that both of those things is okay.
These strategies were what helped me find balance between life and pastoral ministry. Some of them may work for you and some of them may not. Either way it’s important to find those practices that help you and to make those things a part of your life. When you are able to find balance, it makes a world of difference. Life is more enjoyable and a lot less stressful!