I recently went to a youth workers conference and like most conferences, there were keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and lots of people to network with and learn from. After one of the sessions, a few of us were chatting with a prominent youth pastor who is at a church with 15+ locations. He taught the breakout session and after, people were eager to ask him questions, and he shared about about how busy is he and how often he speaks around the country. Being busy is good, having influence is nice and I am in no way saying that this guy is doing anything wrong. But as he spoke about his work I got the sense that we are operating with slightly different scorecards and I needed to ask him about it. So I said, “How many hours a week do you work?”
This question appeared to catch him off guard and as he began to consider how he was going to answer. He seemed to recognize that this was one instance where bigger wasn’t going to equal better. I’m sure with most questions he is asked, whether it be about the number of campuses they have, how many staff he oversees, or how many students they took to camp last year; BIG answers play really well. But for this question, maybe not so much. Eventually he replied, “75” with a shrug and a grin. There was a mixed response in the room and then I asked him if the pace he was keeping was sustainable as he had already talked about his family back home. He said his current work load and travel schedule was actually a reduction from where it had been a year ago, so things were better than they had bee. We wrapped up and went our separate ways, continued to engage the conference content and after a few days headed home. But this quick interaction has stuck with me ever since.
Let me start with the idea that I believe it's incredibly important for every one, whether you are in vocational ministry or not, to work hard. We have a responsibility to do a good job and to pour our hearts into our work. So please know this isn't about trying to cut-corners or taking the easy way out. And, this is not even close to being a ministry specific issue. No matter your vocation, for many in our western culture, success is measured by bigger and better and more. So what are we talking about then? We are talking about the need for balance and health and we are talking about our individual scorecards.
It's been said you should break your day into thirds. 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of life. 8+8+8 = 24. Now remember, this is about moving towards greater balance. This isn’t just about figuring out how to work less, or sleep more. If either of those numbers is through the roof or buried in the basement, something is off and you’re not going to feel balance.
How long can you last sleeping 5 hours a night? Or working 70-80 hours a week? I use the word ‘sustainability’ because anybody can keep that pace for a season. You’ve got a deadline, or a big project, or need to make some extra cash, by all means. But seasons, inherently, come and go and this is about the long-game. If you red line for too long, you will burn out. And when you do, it will hurt.
What is your W? Is it more money? Is it a promotion? Landing a big client? Launching the next campus? Maybe it’s being able to buy a home and start a family? The ends determine the means and if you don’t know what you are seeking after you’re never gonna know if you’ve achieved it. The quest for bigger and better and more is insatiable and is relative. No matter who you are or what you have, there will always be bigger, better and more to achieve.
I’ve talked to a lot of people about their experiences growing up. And in those stories, Ive never heard someone say “As a kid, Mom/Dad worked all the time and they were never around, but it was cool because we were super rich.” But I have heard a lot of people say, “you know, we didn’t have a lot growing up, but mom/dad helped with my homework every night of the week.”
I don’t know about you, but my scorecard starts with relationships and my family. I want to do my absolute best and pour my heart and soul into my work and my ministry but my role as a husband, father and friend is at the top of the list. Even from the productivity side of the conversation, if your home life is off, work isn't going to go that well anyway. As I’ve thought about this guy’s 75 hour work week, why he does it and how long it can last, I pray he finds balance and health. This world will eat you up and spit you out if you drink the success kool-aid for too long. And study after study shows that more 'success' doesn’t lead to greater happiness. May we all find greater balance and health so that we can get the right W’s on our scorecards.
I should say, I don’t have this all figured out, but I think about it a lot which I think is half the battle, and I think Im making progress. All of our contexts are different and we all have people to provide for and bills to pay so there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the balance/health/scorecard question. But if you want to find the right answers, if have to start asking the right questions.
Do you feel like you have balance? By the end of the week have you been able to do the things you wanted to do? Truly life-giving things, or was it just squeezing bits and pieces into the gaps between work?
Do you feel healthy? Do you sleep enough? Do you eat well? Does everything revolve around doing MORE so taking care of your self falls through the cracks?
What is your scorecard? What does success look like for you? Does the path you are on actually lead to the destination you are hoping for?