Whether you are married or single, if you’ve been in Christian ministry for long, you’ve probably wrestled with this question: “How do I know when I’ve done enough?”
People who work at salaried jobs can start at a certain time and quit at a certain time. The rest of their time is their own. Ministries demand so much more because they are working with people, loving people, and sharing their lives. You’ve heard this old saying: “Man may work from sun to sun, but a women’s work is never done.” Here’s my new ministry saying: “Jobs may go from nine to five, but ministries aren’t done if you’re still alive.”
Satan can use guilt feelings to make women in ministry think it’s impossible to do enough. That idea leaves us bitter, exhausted, and without hope. He can also use our fear of neglecting family to neglect our ministry. Either extreme is out of balance.
Balancing life and ministry isn’t always easy, but I believe we can find a balance that pleases God and leaves us contented and happy in ministry.
Each ministry situation is unique. Family and marriage situations, health, abilities and gifts, living situations, and personality types all determine how much time and energy we can give to ministry. Each of us must ask God to show us good balance for our ministries.
In my next three articles I’ll talk about:
- Balancing family and ministry,
- Balancing busyness in ministry, and
- Balancing other interests and ministry.
Balancing Family and Ministry
Some people say God should come first, then family, then ministry. By that they usually mean that their personal relationship with God should come first, then their relationship with and needs of their family, then the needs of their ministry.
It sounds good, but raises some questions. Does that mean you should spend the most hours in your personal devotions and prayer, then less hours spending time with your family and meeting their needs, and the least hours in your ministry? Probably not, but if you don’t measure this in hours spent, how do you measure it?
Some pastors who put family before ministry say that family activities are more important than church activities. Subscribing to this idea, some pastors would skip a somewhat major event at their church to attend a practice soccer game for their third-grade child. Is that balance?
Others say ministry takes priority over the home. But how do you know when you’ve spent enough hours in ministry to enjoy time at home? I know of one full time minister with kids at home who travelled most of the time and only took one week of vacation a year. Is that balance?
Each woman needs to find the correct balance in her life and ministry. She has to consider what expectations her husband and ministry have, but ultimately she is responsible before God. Should home come first and the Lord’s work take second place? Or should the ministry have priority over the home?
I like Warren Wiersbe’s approach. He wrote this: “I disagree with both approaches for two reasons. I don’t think they’re biblical, and they automatically create conflict. If indeed “two become one,” home and ministry are united; they are one. What God has joined together, we must not put asunder. . . . The best thing my wife and I could do for the churches we served was to build a good home and raise children who were a credit to the Lord and to the church. And the best thing we could do for our home was to build good churches for our children to attend. The two became one. . . . When our children understand that everybody in the family is a part of the ministry, and that together we are all building the church and building our home, we have a common outlook to help us in making decisions. It isn’t an either/or situation; it’s both/and.”
My husband and I first served as missionaries in Taiwan. (1980-1996) In that Chinese ministry our daughters had limited opportunities to help with our ministry. But when we came to New Zealand in 1998, our teenage daughters were a great help to our ministry. When we spent time with the youth group, we spent time with them. They had a great time singing in choir, teaching classes, leading the puppet team, and interacting with our people. They became a vital part of our ministry and the ministry was good for them.
Wiersbe also pointed out an advantage pastors and missionaries often have the people in other vocations don’t have. He says, “The pastor makes his own schedule and has calendar privileges that other people in the church don’t have.”
As a missionary pastor and wife we could often work our schedule to accommodate what our daughters wanted to do within our ministry schedule. The exception came when school activities conflicted with church. In our family, church took priority.
Instead of thinking of priorities in terms of hours spent or which choice wins, I think of it like this. My relationship with God is most important and, above all, I need to take the time and effort to build this relationship and grow in Christlikeness. With God’s help I also need to make choices that ensure that the needs of my family are met and that I am doing all God wants me to do in ministry. I need to be flexible enough to work my schedule around the most important activities. I may not be able to do all I want to do, but I will be able to do all God wants me to do.
In this new year may the Lord help you to find balance in your ministry and family that will give you confidence and contentment in both roles.
Next month: How busy is too busy in ministry? How can I slow down when I get in over my head?
[The quotes were taken from chapter 20 of this excellent book: On Being a Servant of God, by Warren W. Wiersbe. Dr. Wiersbe is with the Lord now. I heartily recommend this book to anyone in ministry.]