Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finding balance in bivocational ministry

This is a topic you'll find addressed in more than one of my books.  Balance is absolutely essential for the bivocational (and fully-funded) pastor.  There are so many different demands on a minister's time each one screaming that it is a priority that the minister has to decide for himself or herself which ones are actually a priority and which ones can wait.  The danger is that we keep responding to the urgent issues and neglect the more important ones.

For the bivocational minister there are five areas of life that must be kept in balance:  our relationship with God, our relationship with our family, our church work, our other job, and self-care.  If we focus on one or two of these and neglect the others we will find our lives out of balance, and we will soon be in trouble in the neglected areas.  For me, the best way for me to ensure that I keep all five in proper balance is to establish priorities in each area and intentionally focus on those priorities.

This does not mean that at every given moment each of these will receive equal time and attention.  For instance, there may be times when time spent with the family receives a little less attention because of ministry-related needs.  For example, your family may have planned a Saturday picnic at a nearby park, and a member of your church passes away and the funeral is set for that Saturday.  As we all know, people die at inconvenient times, but as ministers we have a responsibility to minister to the family during those times and conduct the funeral if asked.  Sometimes our plans get changed, but when that happens we have to set aside time to focus on the areas that have been neglected.

Another good example for many smaller churches is the annual Vacation Bible School.  That is not a week where the minister's family gets a lot of quality family time.  Meals are often eaten on the run or consists of a hot dog at the church before VBS begins.  By the end of the week everyone is exhausted (would anyone like to return to the two week VBS I attended as a child?), Little League games have been missed, and there has been little family interaction.  So what do we do with such imbalance?

Knowing that this will be a hectic week with little family time available, you schedule the following week with minimal activity.  Schedule appointments with your family each day so you will have a good reason why you can't meet with some group.  Avoid scheduling committee meetings and non-emergency pastoral activities so you can reconnect with the family.  As soon as your church sets the week for VBS you immediately block off the next week for your family.

Ministry is never set up in a neat schedule like a job where you punch a time clock, but with some good planning and a commitment to do so, any bivocational minister can enjoy a balanced life that keeps all five areas in balance.  Doing so will lead to a much more productive ministry, better family relations, and personal growth and enjoyment in life.

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