In the 2000 movie, Castaway, Tom Hanks is marooned on a desert island with nothing but the clothes he’s wearing. After a few years he’s able to build a raft and heads out to the open sea with Wilson, a volleyball he found which has become his best friend. Whilst at sea, he falls asleep and wakes up to find Wilson floating away. He’s caught in a dilemma, does he leave his raft and risk losing it, or does he say goodbye to his best friend?
As a volunteer leader, we often see ministry / life balance as an either/or thing. You can’t have the raft and Wilson. It’s hard, I know. I too am a volunteer leader, with a family and a full time job. I haven’t found a perfect system for balancing these factors, but I’ve found some principles which may help.
Accentuate the positives
I’ll be real with you. I’d love to do my volunteer ministry as full-time role. I’d love the time to do more than I could in volunteer hours, but I know that God has me in this season of volunteering for a reason. Every season has good things and bad things, it’s our responsibility to ‘accentuate the positives’ (As Ol’ Blue Eyes put it) of those seasons. Whilst in volunteering I have the disadvantage of time, but I have the advantage in that my full time job gives me the ability to listen to whatever I like in my earphones, so I signed up to Audible and I’m currently on my 9th audiobook. I wouldn’t get that luxury in full time ministry. What are the positives in your season?
You are one person, not three. As much as possible plan your time with family, ministry and work in mind. This will help for different seasons, as sometimes one will take more of your time than another. I find that September to December requires more time for ministry, so I try and balance it out by having more family time in the summer and in the beginning of the year.
Time is precious. Especially as a volunteer, there are lots of things that will war for your attention. What I’ve found is that I can’t do everything, but I can do the most important things. It’s what I chose to prioritise.
Giving my 15 month old daughter a bath and putting her to bed is a priority for me, as is having a evening in the week with my wife. Everything else will have to fit around that. That’s not to say I’m dogmatic, like I said earlier, different seasons will mean this isn’t always possible 100% of the time, but it’s still a priority.
Ultimately, one thing needs to be our priority. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Shift to low urgency work
As a volunteer leader, I felt like I was spinning so many plates at one time, and before you know it I was going from one crisis to the next. And then that ate into other time. Stephen Covey, in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People calls this fire-fighting, working on highly important and highly urgent tasks. What Covey suggests is working on highly important but low urgency tasks. These are the things that make everything easier in the long run, such as planning, strategising and developing people. It certainly means some things get missed early on, but it’s worth it.
For me, this has meant spending my time working out the timeline for delivering events, working out the key roles that I can delegate out. I’ve also taken on an assistant to train up in everything I do. For you this could mean spending time training a new worship leader, but whatever you do, focus on the things that make the best long-term return.
We’re not castaway
Thankfully, we’re not stuck out at sea having to decide between a raft and a volleyball, and work/life balance need not be an either/or situation. If you feel out of balance, allow the grace of Jesus to cover you again, and allow Him to be your strength. What has God specifically asked you to do? It’s your responsibility to live in obedience to the call of God on your life.
Chris Bright lives in Gloucester with his wife, Amy, and their daughter, Indie. Chris serves as volunteer Creative Director at One Church and is co-writer of Under One Name from AOG Worship’s With One Voice EP. You can follow him on Twitter – @chrisbright85