“I don’t know how you find time to write.” On the rare occasions I hear this statement I sometimes cringe. The person who says it may just mean, “Isn’t it great that you’re able to do this?” But in my mind I hear them saying, “You must be neglecting your ministry if you have time to publish books.”
As I said in part 1, “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.” But ministry is never-ending. You can always think of more that could be done, maybe should be done. Does that mean you should never be able to pursue other interests?
Side ministries, hobbies, sports, and other interests can be a healthy part of ministry for a number of reasons.
- Participating in groups in the community may help you develop relationships that can be helpful in ministry. My husband worked for many years in the local community patrol for this reason.
- Pursuing side interests give you a needed break from constantly obsessing about ministry.
- People in ministry often give out continually, focusing on the needs and interests of others. In time this may drain them of needed emotional energy. Pursuing side interests often help you care for your own needs and can keep you more contented in ministry.
- God may want you to take part in a side ministry.
In my case, I felt God calling me to write for Christian publication before I felt his call to missions. For more than 40 years I have done both. Both in Taiwan and New Zealand, my missions ministry has always taken precedence over my writing ministry. During the years I was in language school and had two small children at home, I didn’t do much writing. Other years also left little time for this. But during most of that time I’ve been able to carve out time to write as well as work in our church-planting ministry. If I had waited for leftover time to write, I would never have done much. If I had put my writing first, my church ministry could have suffered. So each year I had to go before the Lord and figure out how to balance the two.
On the one hand I felt God had gifted and called me to writing. I felt I would be disobedient if I didn’t serve the Lord in this way. On the other hand, it’s easy to feel guilty about the time spent writing because it could look like I’m neglecting my missions ministry. How do I balance that?
As I said in part two, our life situations often determine how much time we can spend in ministry as well as side pursuits. A missionary wife who home schools five kids at once will have to tackle ministry in a different way that a single missionary. In my case, my current ministry situation allows me opportunity to write for several reasons.
- Much of my ministry work is done out of my home and I have great flexibility in my schedule.
- My nest has been empty for 22 years. While I would like to spend more time with family, on the field I don’t need much time for family events and expectations.
- Most of our national holidays on the field fall on Sundays, and since my husband is the pastor, we always work on these holidays. For 24 years we haven’t had American co-workers and most of the American holidays don’t seem worth celebrating on our own.
- While we are technically allowed 2-4 weeks for vacations, much of the time we’ve been on this field we haven’t had anyone to fill in for us on Sundays. As a result we do well to take 3 or 4 days vacation once or twice a year, often not including Sundays.
- We live on an island and have seen most of the things close to us. We don’t really have access to a “cheap” vacation, like visiting families or friends, so we haven’t always been able to afford to take our full vacation time, even if we could schedule it.
- During January, many of our ministries break for the summer, so my ministry demands are lightened considerably. The same thing happens on school term breaks.
- I don’t do much gardening and keep other hobbies to a minimum.
- Though I consider myself a fulltime missionary, I feel I can take time throughout the year that would be used by many people for days off, family time, holidays, and vacations for pursuing my writing ministry. Instead of using this time in chunks, I work time for writing into my schedule throughout the year.
I know I am responsible before God to give myself fully to my missions ministry as well as pursuing my writing ministry as he leads. I’m responsible to our church, our mission board, and supporting churches for the time I spend in missions ministry. My New Zealand tax status makes me a full-time worker which means I need to do at least 30 hours of church ministry a week. Of course, the hours spent can fluctuate greatly from month to month or week to week. But I have to satisfy my conscience that I am not neglecting my main ministry. At the same time, I need freedom to pursue my writing without feeling guilty. Generally speaking, no one questions me about this, but I want to do right before the Lord.
If you are working to balance ministry with other pursuits, here are some questions you might find helpful to ask about that extra thing you want to pursue.
Is this something God wants me to take time to do?
- Is this the right time in my life to pursue this interest or ministry?
- How much time can I afford to use in this pursuit?
- Does this pursuit hinder my ministry?
- Does this pursuit make me resent my main ministry, or does it help me appreciate it?
Generally speaking, a side interest outside of ministry can be healthy and prolong your years of ministry—as long as you keep it in balance. May the Lord help you to find balance in your ministry this year.
Next month: Maynard Belt shares his perspective on taking time off in his article, “Days Off Vs. Off Days.”