Over the next few days I’m going to post some teaching that I’ve recently written and led our staff through at LifePoint. The subject is one that is important for me personally. It is an area that I have struggled with in the past and that I have seen numerous other individuals in full-time vocational ministry wrestle with as well. I think the scope of this topic is applicable outside the “church staff” world though, and that’s why I’m posting it here.
The topic is what I’m calling “Rhythms,” and it deals with how we spend our time and energy. Full-time vocational ministry is an interesting beast. The urgency within which you fulfill your calling is directly proportional to your understanding of its magnitude. When you think about church work, and the reality that “eternity hangs in the balance,” you can easily develop into a workaholic, fall into unhealthy patterns, and hit the wall time and again. Facing these things over the years has led me to the thoughts below. Hopefully you’ll find them useful and applicable to your context in some way.
Your time and your energy are not unlike your money.
- You possess a certain quantity of time and energy, as you do money.
- The amount of time and energy that you possess is finite, like your money.
- We all use our time and energy differently, like our money.
- You can handle your time and energy intentionally or unintentionally.
- Like your money, you can either control your time/energy or they will control you.
- Time and energy, like money, must operate on a budget.
- If you spend your time and energy on the basis of “what is left” or “what is in the account,” instead of on a closely tracked budget, you will constantly face deficits.
The budget, by which you operate in regards to your time and energy, could be called your “rhythms.”
Establishing intentional and healthy rhythms in your life (the time and energy budgetary process) is vital for your spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.
Neglecting to establish intentional and healthy rhythms leads to two negative patterns in our lives:
1) Reactive living:
- You approach each day from a reactive standpoint.
- You give attention to what you perceive to be the most “immediate” needs, regardless of whether they are or not.
- You get stuck in the hamster wheel of ministry (or your work responsibilities), constantly battling frustration and guilt, as time gets “wasted” on tasks and issues that suck the life out of you.
- You begin to drop the ball because sometimes the ball isn’t the “most pressing need” that day or week, so you just forget to react to it.
- You operate out of a deficit of time and energy, instead of a surplus.
- Your task list sits on the edge of your brain like a mountain of papers on your desk, and you buckle under its weight.
- You manage to get enough adrenaline rolling for the big things (weekly preaching or major events), but as these things pass you continue to struggle with feeling more spent.
- Your “down time,” “days off,” and “vacations” are spent recovering, vegetating, and generally peeling yourself off the floor every few months when you mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically hit the wall.
- Day by day you operate “in the red” as the deficits continue to grow.
- What was once vision and passion that motivated your calling begins to develop into “ideals” that you eventually despise, because you begin to realize that you possess neither the time nor energy to get there.
- Massive amounts of deficit-spending eventually bring you to the point of bankruptcy, known as burnout.
(How do you know if your rhythms are off?)
1) Your prayer life suffers.
- How is your prayer life?
- Does it exist?
- What does it look like?
2) Your relationships suffer.
- Burnout from deficit-spending sucks the life out of your relationships.
- How are your relationships with your family?
- Do you have friends?
- Do you care to have friends?
3) Your identity gets swallowed by your “calling” or “job.”
- You have no hobbies, and you exhibit workaholic tendencies.
- What do you like to do for fun in your down time?
- Do you have down-time?
- Are you always accessible to everyone and everything?
- Can you unplug? If not, why not?
4) You lose the joy of your calling as it gets swallowed by the frustrations of maintaining your “ministry.”
- Have you grown cynical?
- Do you secretly despise aspects of your ministry context?
- If money wasn’t an issue, would you be doing what you’re doing vocationally?
(If you notice any of the above features in your life, it is time to establish healthy rhythms. It is time to put your time and energy on a budget.)
Check-in for part 2 tomorrow…