I can’t dance. Notice I didn’t say that I am a poor dancer. I don’t have the rhythm even to start dancing! Sad.
Like my inherent lack of musical rhythm, I often struggle to realize the natural rhythms in ministry. Finding and knowing your ministry rhythm is crucial to maintaining your health to succeed as a leader.
I have written about why trying to find balance as a leader is the wrong approach. A much better plan is to try to identify the natural rhythms in your ministry and life.
I believe that God created us to live in natural rhythms. Our heart beats in rhythm. We breathe in, then we breath out. We sleep, then we wake.
You know the scripture:
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, 11 (NIV)
In Leviticus 25, God tells his people to avoid planting crops on their land every seventh year. Even dirt has a rhythm and needs to rest!
There is a rhythm to our interaction with our family, personal time, and our work in ministry. It looks like this:
Rest then work.
Go slow then run hard.
Fuel up then step on the gas.
Reflect then create.
Restore then produce.
Rhythm allows you to maintain a successful ministry and a healthy life at the same time.
Balance is not possible.
Rhythm is possible, but challenging.
When you run fast for an extended period without resting or refueling, you will collapse.
When you lead ministry on empty, you will burn out. You are not an exception.
You need to find and maintain a healthy rhythm in your life.
Full disclosure: I am not awesome at this. I am an Enneagram #3 (High Achiever). I am a go-getter. My preferred state of ministry leadership is to work hard, then work harder. I expect those around me to do the same. To be in rhythm and maintain ministry and personal health, I have to be intentional. For most of us, a healthy work/life rhythm is not a natural tendency; it is a choice.
Think of your time an energy as a bucket filling and being emptied with life giving water.
To intentionally honor rhythm in my life, I have to do these 3 things:
1. Identify what fills and empties my bucket.
There is power in reflecting and realizing what your natural rhythms are.
Here is what I’ve found fills my bucket:
- short nature walks
- family travel
- Netflix with my wife
- reading for fun
Here’s what I’ve found empties my bucket:
- long, poorly organized meetings
- parties and social events (I’m an introvert, and this drains me!)
- business travel
- dealing with conflict
What fills and drains your bucket?
2. Intentionally Organize My Schedule Around My Bucket.
A mentor in ministry has a saying: “Work from rest.” Set your calendar so you can schedule a rhythm between things that drain you and things that fill you.
If I have an upcoming week full of things that drain me, I try to schedule something that fills me directly ahead of it. Maybe it’s a short fishing trip on my Friday day off. Perhaps a short nature walk a few hours before a board meeting. Maybe an evening of Netflix before a long day full of meetings.
Whatever works for you is great - you will have to experiment for a while before you find a rhythm that works for you. For now, the most important thing is to be intentional and schedule it.
3. Invite someone to hold me accountable.
Much like a diet, when left on my own, I will cheat. I will naturally sacrifice some things that fill me for things that I think are more urgent. I need someone to make sure I am scheduling life in a positive rhythm and sticking to it. Who is that for you? A spouse? A boss? A coworker?
Finding and maintaining a healthy rhythm in your life is crucial to your success as a ministry leader. Please do not overlook this. Spend time on this. Reflect on it. Make an intentional plan. Take a few concrete steps that put you on a path to a healthy rhythm.
Let me know how it goes.