By Dr. Franklin Dumond
The following is the fourth and final part of a series dealing with “4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education.” These four areas are:
- Communication Skills
- Personal Evangelism
- Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture
- Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance
An ongoing struggle for many church leaders is the struggle to maintain an appropriate balance between ministry tasks and obligations, and personal or family life. Three particular groups of church leaders often face this as THE paramount struggle in their ministry settings.
- Bi-vocational pastors must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of livelihood and working a ‘real’ job.
- Pastors with younger children must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of child rearing, especially in two-income households.
- High capacity volunteers who serve ably as teachers, task force leaders, ministry organizers, board members and in dozens of other necessary roles in the church also struggle to maintain balance in their endeavors.
While every ministry leader must wrestle with and solve this problem of balance, a few leading questions may point toward meaningful solutions.
1. How much time is actually being used? A simple time log can assist the church leader to analyze how much time is being spent on what particular task. A time log should be maintained for 2-3 weeks to provide a broad enough overview for analysis. The time log should identify time usage by using easily understood labels and descriptions.
Analysis of time used should also lead to an evaluation of “How much time should be used for…?”
2. Are time wasters built into your day? The ready availability of internet connections allows many well intended workers to drift into meaningless searches or time-consuming online chatter. E-mail alerts, text messages and social media posts have replaced the persistent ringing of the phone as one of the most intrusive time wasters.
Simple organization can easily reduce the time wasters that so easily interrupt the day. For example, by setting a time for returning phone calls or responding to e-mail I no longer have to be interrupted if I am in the middle of an important, tedious or get-this-done-the-deadline-is-approaching task. Returning calls and e-mails just before lunch and just before going home in the afternoon can give you a couple of significant time blocks for productive work.
3. Do you have a plan for how your day will unfold? Writing down a to do list or a schedule of activity for the day/week/month can go a long way toward getting done what needs to get done and then moving on the next task or even going home on time. An intentional plan to say “Yes” to certain tasks means that I must say “No” to other tasks. Appropriate “Yes” and “No” is the key to work/life balance.
Everything cannot be done in a day but many pastors would do well to add a few more tasks to their days rather than to always be on call and thus to only have a schedule of time use that is controlled by others and by circumstances rather than by advance planning.
Maintaining regular and adequate office hours is an important feature for the vocational pastor. This means showing up on time but it also means going home on time. Advice given to a young pastor who lived next door to the church in a parsonage is still sound:
“Leave your house on time to drop the kids off at school. Circle back to the church and park outside the building so everyone will know you are in the office today. At the close of the day drive back home and park inside the garage. Close the garage door. You’re home now; act like it.”
When it comes to maintaining balance here are some strategic questions to explore.
- Do I have a regular day off? Do I use it as it should be used? Regular office hours are important because they not only define the time I spend at work they also define the time I do not spend at work.
- How do the hours I spend in ministry compare with the hours other professionals spend in their vocations? Many pastors would do well to compare schedules with a successful real estate agent or the managing partner in an accounting firm or a building principal in the local school system.
- Is my current busyness due to a season of ministry or is it chronic workaholism that is destructive? A friend who was setting up his medical practice intentionally scheduled his clinic to be open one evening each week and every Saturday morning. This schedule, however, lasted only for a year or so until he had gathered enough patients to fill his regular appointment schedule. Now, several years later, his office is closed two afternoons a week and he shares his on-call weekend responsibilities with others. There are seasons of ministry in the local church that are much busier than other seasons. The special programs of summer, the holiday frenzy of November-December and the period around Easter are sure to be busier-than-usual times that come but then go.
- Is my current schedule working for me, my family and my church? When it comes right down to it this answer really defines work/life balance.