Balance / Health / Scorecards

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? 

"New Year"

Well, it's the first week of January and you have undoubtably been inundated with conversations and questions around what this “new year” is going to mean for you.

A better diet?
A new fitness regiment?
Being more disciplined about reading your bible and prayer? 
The stereotypical list goes on and on…

I reflected these past few days on what the new year means, I realized, the changing of the calendar year never feels like a new year for me. In actuality, the majority of my life just so happens to run, far more, on the school year calendar. 

My wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary in June, which means the years of our marriage change in the summer. Both of my boys were born in July, so the years of their lives are counted in summers. And as a youth pastor, the entirety of my vocational rhythm is based on the school year.  Fall Kick-Off in August, Winter Retreat in January to graduation and move-up for 5th graders in May right before my new year begins.  

I’ll admit, in years past, I actually carried some guilt around the idea that the new year never meant resolutions or positive change. That I never decided what new thing I was going to start (or stop) doing. The fact is, I don’t have the margin to assess everything in my life and take a mental inventory of how Im going to better improve myself right now! Ive got Winter Retreat in 3 weeks! Ive got plenty to do!  

Maybe you’ve felt this way before. If so, know that you don’t have to make the passing of another calendar year the arbitrary time to start or stop that thing that is going to improve your life. And sure, better habits, healthier rhythms, new disciplines are great things to aspire to. But as they say in real estate, “Location, location, location.”  

Where in your year is a better time to look at your life and make the changes you’d like to see? It’s been said that only 8% of the people who made a new years resolution actually stick to it.  And most people give up by week two. If this isn’t a model for success, I don’t know what is :) 

This year, Im planning to stay the course. Im sticking with what worked in 2017. Getting done and focusing on what needs to happen in January and this Spring semester and then when MY year ends in May, I’ll change what I need to.  Before I put together my new volunteer team for the year.  Before I make plans for the Fall, I’ll take an honest look at my life, my ministry and even my marriage. Until then, Im going to stop feeling bad that the new year didn’t mean a new me and be ok with that… until Summer. 

Do the feel the pressure to change or improve in the new year only to find it difficult or unrealistic to do so? 

Does your life seem to run on the school year calendar so nothing about this new year seems new? 

What can you do to play ahead for May, or this summer when our years really do change to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow?

Thursday Mornings

If you have your mid-week youth event on Wednesday nights like me, you know what I am talking about. Thursday morning is always the most volatile time of the week for me. Things at youth group last night could have gone great. Maybe a ton of students showed up; good reports back from my small group leaders + super fun game = great night.  

Or it could easily have be the opposite of that. Low numbers because everyone had “homework.” Students all over the place in small group so nothing got accomplished + game bombed = :(

No matter what happened at youth group last night, the sun rises again on another Thursday and it is time to get back to work. A lot of times Thursdays can be invigorating in the sense that I feel I get a lot of life and energy and direction from my time on Wednesday nights. It’s one thing to plan something in your office by yourself, but when it comes together on a Wednesday, it breathes new life into Thursday. Or on a morning like today, I’m a bit more pensive. A bit more unsure about what is next and questioning every facet of our ministry model. Do you ever feel that way? Ready to burn the whole thing down just so you can start over?  

Ok, lets be real, it’s never really that bad. It’s just a feeling of wanting more.  Thursday is always my deconstruction day where I dissect and analyze every thing about the night before.  

What worked? What didn’t? What was good? What could have been better? 

That’s a volatile place to be when you’re putting everything on the table.  But I think that is our job right? 
If we are not constantly assessing, critiquing our own ministries and processes, how will we know if what we are doing is working? Or if it even matters? It’s certainly not our volunteer leaders job to spend extra time and energy processing and trying to improve our ministries, especially if we aren’t already doing that.  I don’t want someone in church leadership above me to start critiquing my ministry because I haven’t.  

I try to live in between two ideas. The first is to “not fix what’s not broken” and the second is the reason we do things is because “this is how we always do it.”  I don’t want to exist in a ministry that is constantly trying to reinvent itself so much that we never gain any traction and end up in an identity crisis every 9 months. But I also don’t want to get 3 years down the road and have missed the writing on the wall (in the lives of our students, or in our faith community, or even in culture) that things needed to be tweaked and changed. 

Living in the tension of those two ideas on Thursday mornings is my sweet spot. If you find yourself in the same place, you are not alone.  

How do you assess and critique your ministry along the way? What process do you have?

Is it more easy for you to leave things as they are or are you constantly changing your ministry?