Recently while reading another blog a person asked the question of how a bivocational minister can maintain balance in his life. This is one of the most frequent questions I'm asked and thought it was time to touch on it again in a post. For a more thorough answer please read my book, The Healthy Pastor: Easing the Stresses of Ministry. Here I just want to give a couple of quick responses.
Bivocational ministers need to stop trying to be the Lone Ranger. There is too much to do for you to try to do ministry by yourself. You need to surround yourself with a good team of mature Christian leaders who can help carry the load. The best resource available today to help you develop such a team is Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church written by Terry Dorsett, a pastor and church planter in Vermont. This is by far the best book I know about that will help you develop the teams you need to effectively pastor a smaller church and have any life outside the church.
John Maxwell says that if you can accomplish your dream on your own, your dream is too small. What I tried to do early in my pastorate was to accomplish dreams that were too small because I was always reluctant to ask for help, and sometimes too stupid to accept help when it was offered! Just trying to be honest here. With a quality team you can dare to dream bigger, accomplish much more, and still have a life that you and your family can enjoy.
The second thing that is essential for a balanced life is the setting of priorities and goals. A bivocational minister does not have the time to run around in circles. It is vital that you and your church leaders have agreed on priorities and goals for your ministry so you can pursue those while allowing other people to handle the other things that come up. As an example, our church began seeing a number of first-time guests in our morning services. At our next deacon meeting I told the deacons that I simply could not visit these first-time guests and handle the visitation needs of our congregation. I asked them to tell me which one they wanted me to focus on and they would be responsible for the other one. After some discussion they agreed that I should focus on visiting our first-time guests and they would handle the normal visitation needs of our congregation. They would contact me if it became obvious to them that a pastor visit was needed, but they would at least make the initial visits to our church members.
Do you see how freeing that became? I knew what my priority was in the area of visitation and knew what my focus was to be. Yes, it took some time to educate the congregation but not as long as one might think. It also took some time to train some of our deacons on how to do a good visit in the home, in the hospital, or elsewhere, but again it didn't take that much time. Most of them were already gifted in such ministry and the others learned quickly and did a wonderful job. Whatever time I spent in educating the congregation and training our deacons was an investment that resulted in a much more balanced ministry and life for me.
Just doing these two things will help you enjoy much more balance in your life and make your ministry more enjoyable and effective. I do recommend you purchase the two resources mentioned above. You'll find them in most Christian bookstores and on amazon.com. I would also suggest you read Margin by Richard Swenson. I've often said that is the one book I wish I had read early in my ministry because he explains why maintaining margin in one's life is so important. I might have avoided a lot of problems if I had only read his book and followed the recommendations he made.