Balancing Life and Ministry

 

I long for simplicity. For a life marked by grace and peace. But the reality is, mountain after mountain, wave after wave, there is nothing simple about ministry. When your eyes are opened to a world of people who don’t yet know their Savior — seeing identities unrealized, myths believed, fears won, courage unused, faith untouched — the weight of the task we have been called to is tremendous.

We put our faith to the test daily, trusting God to order our steps. But in the midst of our faithfulness to God’s call on our lives and the churches we lead, we have our own marriages and children to nurture. We have houses to keep, groceries to buy, sports and school schedules to juggle. We have friends, neighbors, and co-workers to love. Not to mention navigating the whole realm of social media, where the fire hydrant of opinion never seems to diminish. Our lives accumulate layer upon layer, and over time, the balance scale plummets in favor of exhaustion and depletion instead of life-giving and whole.

Shauna Niequist says this: “The twin undercurrents of being a woman and being a Christian is sort of a set-up for getting off track with this stuff – women are raised to give and give and give, to pour themselves out indiscriminately and tirelessly. And Christians, or some anyway, are raised to ignore their own bodies, their own pain, their own screaming souls, on behalf of the other, the kingdom, the church.”

This was exactly where I found myself a year and a half ago. I was working full-time in our local elementary school as an aid in the significant support needs (SSN) special education classroom which required enormous amounts of physical and mental energy, all the while serving as children’s ministry director and worship leader for our church plant. I poured every ounce of myself into my work both in and outside of the church reserving what fumes I had left for my family. My personal balance scale had plummeted in favor of exhaustion and depletion. I think sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that if we simplify our lives enough, if we cut the fat, we will find balance. Balance isn’t the absence of chaos or a lack of struggle. It is peace in the midst of both the simple and the overwhelming.

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG): “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew wrote these words long before our world operated as chaotically as it does today. Yet somehow it’s a thread of truth that remains ever true. We continue to find ourselves in moments where we are tired, out of sync, and unbalanced. So where’s the hope?

As hard as we try, we will never eliminate all of the factors that make our lives unbalanced. But, we can take a close look at the areas of our lives that may be out of sync. Matthew reminds us to yoke ourselves to Jesus and learn His unforced rhythms of grace. The rhythms I experienced in that season were geared toward survival. When you’re in survival mode, you don’t think about things like rest, freedom, or peace. We may not be able to control all of the things that create an imbalance in our lives, but we can be intentional about establishing rhythms where we’re leaning into God as He speaks into our hearts and minds, listening as we’re yoked to Him.

Two tools that I have found helpful in establishing healthy, unforced, rhythms in this season of ministry are found in Sacred Ordinary Days. (You can learn more on their website at www.sacredordinarydays.com). Sacred Ordinary Days is a planning system that follows the liturgical calendar (the life of Christ), anchoring everyday tasks and activities in a framework rooted in God’s story fostering spiritual formation. Two spiritual practices built into each week, the Rule of Life and the Examen, have been incredibly helpful for me in establishing an awareness of what may be out of sync as I go about my days.

When establishing a Rule of Life, you consider how God has uniquely wired you and together with God set a guideline of values and priorities of how to live your days, focusing on seven key areas: spirit, body, mind, relationships, home, work, and resources. Once you set your values, you have a benchmark to use in your weekly Examen to reflect and reset for the coming week. I have found this resource to be a life-giving rhythm that God uses to pour out His grace over my days. It has been so freeing to look back at the week that is closing and ask some hard questions and answer honestly! What can you celebrate? What needs tending? You start to see progress and experience a more balanced existence when revisiting key areas of your life through the weekly Examen.

I am in a season now where I work alongside my husband in ministry full-time. We work from home, because we are still a portable church meeting in our local elementary school each Sunday. Home is where we work and where we dwell. Home is where we meet with our staff, and host families for dinner. It’s where we retreat and enjoy family time. So finding balance in this season is a new challenge. The lines continue to remain blurry between ministry and family life, but being yoked to Jesus and keeping company with Him, I am learning to live freely and lightly through His unforced rhythms of grace.

 

Julie Lamb is a church planter’s spouse, worship pastor, and mom. She spends her days creating safe worship environments for people to take their next step toward Jesus. She loves encouraging and investing in pastors’ spouses as they navigate the joys and challenges of ministry, especially those in church planting. She enjoys cappuccinos, hiking, and the ocean breeze. She is married to Nate, and they live in Colorado with their daughters Emily, Lauren, and Olivia.