Many of us in leadership work outside the home. We are juggling the various priorities with which we are faced, praying we can keep the balls in the air long enough for just a few of them to disappear. In addition to the ministry responsibilities entrusted to us, some of us are also raising our children, going to soccer practice and ballet, and tucking our most precious blessing in each night, in addition to working outside the home. We can face time limitations, priority conflicts, sleepless nights, feelings of inadequacy, and even guilt.
How can we navigate through the maze of conflicts that block us at each turn so that we know we are following our divine navigator down the right path? It is important to first set our priorities straight, God and then family.
God does not equal ministry, God equals God. It is your relationship with Him, praying and growing in knowledge of Him through the study of scripture, and not allowing anything, including ministry, to have a priority that is above God and His will that is key. If we seek Him first, everything else will come into balance. Sometimes we are so passionate about our ministry and the good we are trying to accomplish in His name, we forget that it is not our ministry at all, it is His. We must remember not to neglect our relationship with Him because we are too busy doing His work. If we do this, we are guaranteed to fail.
One of the best ways to begin to put God first is to start each day with Him. I call the concept my First Fruits based on Genesis and the Mosaic Law. God honors obedience, and out of obedience comes blessing. In Genesis Chapter 4 we read about Cain and Abel, and what is most striking is that Able didn’t give to God his left overs, he gave his best from the firstborn of the flock. God gave Cain a stern warning when he failed to give God his best that sin was crouching at his door. The concept of giving to God our best or our First Fruits is carried over into the Mosaic Law in Exodus 23. Carve out time for God every day, your best time, and make it your first priority. This is the foundation for success in everything we do, and it must take precedence over everything else. I work from my home in the software industry. I carve out the start of my day for prayer, devotion, and reading God’s Word. I have ignored calls from clients that occurred during my time with God, yet God has greatly blessed me in my job beyond what I ever asked or expected.
Be diligent about delegating responsibility so that you are not overwhelmed and you do not rob yourself of precious time. One of the biggest reasons many of us don’t delegate is that we think we can do it better. That may be true, but the truth may only be in our subjective opinions. Sometimes almost perfect is good enough. We also need to get past the concept that we can do it faster ourselves. Although you may have a small initial investment of time, you should never withhold opportunities for others to learn and function as valued and trusted members of the ministry. We will always remain in crisis mode if we continue to grip ministry responsibilities for ourselves. Eventually, God may pry our fingers loose, it is better to cooperate with a willing spirit.
Get organized in order to make the most efficient use of your time. Lack of organization increases stress, leads to forgetfulness, and costs us precious time. First, get in the habit of writing everything down. It can be as easy as keeping a checklist or using a daily planning system. I like to use my online calendar to schedule and track my day to day tasks. I have reminders popup when I need to begin working on a task. For larger projects such as ministry events, you can use project planning systems or even spreadsheets such as Google Sheets to track the tasks that need to be accomplished, to whom it is assigned, and when it is due.
Do your best to reduce interruptions. You don’t have to check your email or respond to text messages the minute you receive them. Establish firm boundaries around what interruptions you allow when you are working. It is Ok to mute your phone and let people know that you don’t answer texts, emails, or voice mail immediately. It is rare that there is a crisis that cannot wait until you are at a good stopping point.
Stay on task and resist the urge to interrupt yourself because you’ve thought of something else that needs to be done. Paul says to the Corinthians “…everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” Flitting from one task to another without finishing the former is not orderly and establishes poor working habits.
It is important to be disciplined in whatever you do. Be careful to monitor time wasters such as chatty conversations, web surfing, etc. Part of being disciplined is keeping a good work ethic, whether it is in your job or it is work you do for the ministry. Avoid chronic tardiness which communicates to everyone that you’re your time and responsibilities are more important than everyone else’s, it is undisciplined and disrespectful. Be honest about your work day, do not rob your employer of time and think that because it was time spent on ministry that it’s Ok.
We also cannot allow our ministry to cause us to neglect our families or treat them in a way that would leave them feeling insignificant or marginalized. I believe that this type of neglect can cause some children to rebel against the church, because they blame the church when their needs are not met. God has entrusted us with these blessings, it would be a sad thing if we pulled off the most fabulous retreat anyone has ever attended and our son or daughter rebelled against us and against God and His church. We should never be the cause of our children looking for love and acceptance in the wrong places. The same is true for our husbands, we can’t trade our accomplishments in the ministry for our marriages. That is also a way to place a stumbling block before our husbands, and instead of encouraging them in their faith, it can cause them to turn away from their faith.
For the working women in our church, we set and example on how to balance our personal faith walk, as well as our commitments to church, home, and work. There are ways as women’s ministry we can reach out to, or encourage our working women.
* Post daily devotions on your Women’s Ministry blog or website. Use gifted writers from within your own church or access resources like Proverbs31.org
* Encourage a few women to step up and lead lunch time bible study groups in different areas of your city. They can get lunch, talk bible, and fellowship during their lunch hour in a convenient location. Due to time constraints consider a expository study that you can build on each week, or select a prewritten study that doesn’t require a long video before discussion.
*Embrace technology and have a Skype or FaceTime group style bible study where women in the church can join in directly from their office.
* Occasionally offer women’s events that start later in the evening, that can accommodate for working women to navigate rush hour traffic, change out of their work clothes, and don’t require potluck meals she may not have had time to prepare.