Practicing Balance

Ahhh, let’s talk about this little thing called balance, shall we?

Full disclosure: I suck at it.

Sorry to put it so bluntly, but it’s true!  I rarely take a full day off, I work 60+ hour weeks, I check my email before I get out of bed in the morning, I obsess over the altar late on Saturday nights, I try to be all things to all people and my brain is constantly thinking of ways I can improve.

I’m working on it.

My mom sent me an article that Alban put out a few weeks ago, which linked to this book that was published last year.

Practicing Balance

Practicing Balance: How Congregations Can Support Harmony in Work and Life
David Edman Gray

Truthfully, I went into this book not really sure how I was going to feel about it.  Self-care is kind of a hot topic in ministry circles and I feel like I am always on the defensive saying, “But I actually enjoy working this much!”  I also do not buy into the notion that it is the church’s responsibility to make sure clergy take care of themselves (I know I am in the minority with this opinion) – I firmly believe I need to take responsibility for my health and well-being – both in life and in ministry.

All that being said … this book surprised me.  It wasn’t all about how clergy need to find balance – it was also a lot about how churches need to help their congregations find balance.  THIS I can get on board with!  I think it is all well and good if clergy want to focus on their own balance and self-care – but if they aren’t finding ways to promote this same lifestyle among the people they are in ministry with, they are setting themselves up for disaster.

This really struck a chord with me …

The church has both a responsibility and an opportunity to help. Our pews are full of stressed, overworked families who are harming their health and relationships with imbalance. Many come to worship and to adult-education classes looking for help with problems and questions they face. Most congregations talk annually about financial stewardship. However, very few congregations provide resources to help congregants deal with the stewardship of their time or assist them in coping with work-life imbalance from a faith perspective.

Gray not only identifies the problem in this book, but also addresses ways of finding a solution.  He talks about changing our way of thinking, our habits and our societal structures.  He gives tangible advice that congregations can use as they address the issue of balance both inside and outside the walls of their church.

I posted this on Twitter after I finished the book …


But in all honesty, my journey is not over with this book.  I took a lot of what it said to heart and I am going to try to cut back a little bit in terms of my own working habits.  I’m going to prioritize and be realistic.  In terms of RCC, I’m toying with the idea of some sort of adult education book discussion / forum that just starts the conversation.  I really do feel as though most people that I talk to in my church are feeling overwhelmed and a bit off balance.  If the church is going to be relevant, we need to find a way to address this!

I’m curious to hear other thoughts.  Has anyone else read the book?

3 thoughts on “Practicing Balance

  1. Hi Sarah,
    Just discovered you yesterday – love your blog, your heart (from what I’ve seen so far), your passion for your community. I haven’t read this book, but recently wrote a paper for my master’s degree about the idea of balance – which I reject. Rather, I believe rhythm is a better approach. Spiritual rhythm – which includes following the church calendar, reflective practices, reading, prayer…all those things which move us forward in spiritual formation. Physical rhythm – sleep, exercise, fasting, feasting. Emotional rhythm – laughter, lament, sorrow, we must allow ourselves to feel it all. Work rhythm – visioning, strategizing, implementing, debriefing. Family rhythm – courting, marrying, birthing, parenting, letting go, empty nesting – not a one of these feels like balance sometimes! And so on. The sum total of these things would look like a balanced life, yes? When we ignore these, or one is distorted, we are out of balance. But the deal is, we are in constant correction or re-direction in any one of these areas, all the time. It’s when we stop reflecting, stop moving…. that’s where there’s trouble.

    1. I LOVE that! I used have a healthy living blog that I called “The Strength of Faith: Finding Balance In My Life” and it was always a constant battle to actually FIND that balance. I suppose that was the journey of it all – you never really found it! It was the journey and not the destination that was important. But I have never really thought of using the word “rhythm” – it’s almost like a dance!

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