How do I balance life and ministry? Dr. Kevin DeYoung discusses the misconceptions we have about balancing various roles and shares his thoughts on how to avoid burnout in ministry. A lightly edited transcript is found below.
This question, “How do I balance life and ministry?”, is sort of curious to me because it presupposes that I am balancing life and ministry. But I think there’s a lot of things that I’ve learned and some things to do better and some things that by God’s grace maybe I’m doing well.
The first thing to say is that balance of course is not quite the right word in that we never are not doing ministry. We’re never setting aside, especially as a pastor I never can say, “Well, now I’m not a pastor,” and pretend that I’m not a pastor. So we’re always doing ministry and by the same token I never can set aside, “Well, now I’m not a husband. Now I’m not a father. Now I don’t have eight children.”
So all of those things are always going to be true; we can’t compartmentalize our lives. So we don’t want to think by balance it means, you know, maybe five days a week I can be one, two days another, or this many weeks out of the year, this many hours. No, I’m always a pastor, and I always have life beyond just being a pastor. So the question really then is, how do we do that? How do I do that? I think there’s a lot of things to keep in mind. One, we need to know our ourselves, we need to know our families, and we need to know the Scriptures.
We Need to Know Ourselves
Real quickly, we need to know ourselves. We need to understand that God makes us different, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves with someone who seems to have more capacity, and so we feel bad about ourselves, or who has less capacity, and we feel proud. We need to know ourselves well enough to know the sort of rhythms that work for us and one person’s rhythm that works perfectly–”You know I always take Mondays off” or “I always take Saturdays off” or “I take Wednesday morning and Friday morning”–we just need to allow that there’s going to be differences in how we try to balance that. The sort of things that are draining for one person can be invigorating for another.In the end, we don’t do anyone any favors if we sprint in ministry for five years and just burn ourselves out.
We Need to Know Our Families
So know ourselves, know our families. Especially if if a man is married he needs to know his wife and know her strengths, know the things that would be difficult for her, not take advantage of strengths or weaknesses. And some wives will excel in order and discipline and perhaps are less flexible, and others are maybe more easygoing and less ordered, and we just need to love the wives that we have and understand that that is going to profoundly shape what we can do in ministry: sometimes to do more, sometimes to do less, the way we can do it. We really have to be mindful.
We Need to Know the Scriptures
Then we need to know the Scriptures, and by that I mean we need to know that the Bible commands us in fact to rest. That God didn’t make us to go-go-go-go-go. We need to take time to be alone with the Lord in the Word and prayer. We need to understand that if it’s all output with no input that that well is going to dry up. We need to find the ways to be refreshed physically, emotionally, spiritually and find that “balance,” using the word in the right way. Because in the end we don’t do anyone any favors if we sprint in ministry for five years and just burn ourselves out or even worse wreck a church or wreck our marriage because we didn’t learn how to do this over the long haul.