I always thought the most important thing I’d learn in my first year of ministry would be ministry related. And it is. But I thought I’d learn a skill, method or truth that would make me a better pastor, preacher, teacher or writer. Looking back, I did learn a lot in my first year out of seminary, but nothing came close to the single greatest thing I learned.

Ready?

The calling to be a pastor is not the most important calling in my life.

Still with me?

I’ve always considered ministry the be the most important thing in my life. My highest calling. So, I graduated from seminary, got married, moved to a new town, new church and started ministry. I prioritized my job; the responsibilities I had as a pastor, over and above my responsibilities as a husband to my new wife.

And it was unsustainable.

Not only did I feel unfulfilled at work, because I wasn’t accomplishing what I thought I would out of the gate, but I was largely unhappy at home as well.

I was giving my best energy at work and as a result, my family suffered.

Somewhere inside of that first year I was hit with a simple truth:

My calling to be a husband is greater than my calling to be a pastor.

 

Now, I realize that not all of you are husbands or pastors and those specifics aren’t universally important. What I realized I was doing was prioritizing my work as a pastor over other more important commitments in my life.

At the end of the day I think we all make a common mistake when thinking about our identity as pastors.

It’s this: that what we do is who we are.

Where does it lead? Burnout. Unfulfillment. And that’s not what we want for you.

We want you to lead well at work and at home. We want you to find fulfillment in all relationships in your life. But it does take time and effort. It requires work. Apart from realizing where I’d failed and needed to step up, here is the single greatest thing I did to change my home/work life balance and gain back time in my weekly schedule.

Move to a fixed schedule

Moving to a fixed schedule gave me back time that I didn’t know I had. Nowadays I don’t just schedule in my work days, I schedule in most home time as well. I’ve moved to a calendar where I commit to doing certain things on certain days and don’t deviate from that plan (mostly…there are exceptions).

I’ve got time with my family scheduled in so that I’m certain I won’t accidentally over book or double book myself. I have exercise and dates with my wife scheduled in so that I know I’m taking care of my body and my marriage. It means I’m giving better energy at work and at home.

Careers, jobs, doing what you love passionately, providing for your family is important, but don’t save your best energy for something that won’t ultimately last. Give your best energy to the things and people you love most.

 

What about you? How do you guarantee that you’re giving your best energy to the most important people in your life?