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Balance and the Busy Pastor

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How are pastors and church leaders to approach the idea of balance when their schedules are already packed with all the priorities of pastoral ministry?

Every Pastor I have ever met is busy – some more than others. In spite of this, I’ve also met a few who hardly ever seem hurried. This is a remarkable phenomenon. How is it that so many appear to be so hurried while only a few rarely do? In pondering this question, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s equal parts art, science, and discipline.

Like the rest of you, I have a huge desire to be productive, effective, and yet unhurried. I may have a long way to go, but I think I have also come a long way.

As I look at the life of Jesus, I get the impression that His life was busier than most. The demands placed on Him by the many needy people around Him were greater than most of us will ever have to face. On top of these immediate people-needs, He also carried the burden of training His disciples to become effective leaders. You and I have as many hours in a day as Jesus did. We also have the advantage of being far more mobile than He was (He had to walk or take a donkey). Yet, unlike many of us, He never seemed to be in a hurry, and we can be sure that the impact of His ministry will outlast ours. His secret? Scripture makes it clear that He often slipped away to be alone with His Father, while it was still dark, and after a long and heavy day of ministry (Mark 1:35).

After long days of ministry demands there are times when all I want to do is hide away from people – especially church people. I’m sure you’ve never felt that way! (Of course you have.) In the midst of the challenges we’re facing, the question we need to answer is, how do we live an unhurried life in the midst of a very hurried society and still be effective in the ministry God has granted to us?

As you read my thoughts on this subject, ask God to bring someone to mind who is effective in ministry but who does not seem hurried. Perhaps that person would be willing to spend some time with you. You may think that he would never say yes to your request for mentoring in this discipline, but there’s a good chance that this individual would be flattered and honored to pass along to you what he has learned. It may be that someone did the same thing for him at a desperate point in the past.

Here are my practices:

  1. Morning time in the Word and prayer. Keep it daily and creative. Make sure it’s a “want to,” not a “have to,” because it’s definitely a “need to!”
  2. You cannot give what you don’t have, so make sure you are getting lots of good input from iron-sharpeners, encouragers, books, articles, seminars, etc. Schedule this consistently into your weekly routine.
  3. Don’t overbook your schedule. This is the biggest drain. You are in charge of your schedule, no one else is. Some things can wait, others can be delegated, and there are probably some that just don’t need to be done. Push back, take a look at your regular tasks and appointments, and cut what needs cutting. Believe me, it will bring freedom!
  4. Make sure to schedule time with the people and activities that deposit something positive to your life and soul. There will always be plenty of time for those people and activities that make withdrawals. I especially am mindful of this when I am entering a big withdrawal season with people and activities. Don’t let your tank get too close to empty.
  5. Schedule extended times away for prayer and reflection. This may sound like pie in the sky, but as I study the lives of great people of God, I consistently read how they made time for sabbaticals. When we slow down and get away for a few days or even a few hours, we can hear from God so much better. Incorporate these times into your schedule and keep them. You should also put some effort into finding a good place to do this. Go where no one can interrupt you.
  6. Family time. I realize this should have landed further up the list, but I leave it as the last suggestion so you will remember the importance of spending time with those you love the most, who matter the most, and who need you the most.

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