When I began my journey in pastoral leadership, I believed that to be a good leader, I needed to be available all of the time. I would meet people or attend meetings on my day off. I'd keep my phone on and close by so I could answer every call. I would check my email every day, sometimes late at night, just in case. When I was in my office, in the spirit of openness and transparency, I would allow anyone to come in at any time. I never wanted to be off-limits.
It was exhausting.
Being "on-call" nonstop interfered with essential ministry functions like my preparation for sermons, bible study, and meetings, it compromised my relationships and my family time, and it chipped away at my sanity. I needed space and quiet to let ideas percolate. I wanted to be able to work out and spend time with the Lord that wasn't related to my job. I needed to pick up my son from school on time and have the chance to make a healthy dinner and eat at the table like a civilized human being before getting back to church. I didn't want to be at church every night of the week. I wanted to play, to watch a movie, to paint a room, to visit people that were my friends outside of the church. And sometimes...sometimes I needed a day where I wasn't in charge.
But I kept going. I knew that the pace was unsustainable, and I was becoming resentful that I had no time to nurture the other pieces of me, but I kept going because I thought that's what good leaders did. I was wrong!
One of the lies that propels us into busyness and burnout and keep us in the perpetual cycle of overwhelm is: Good leadership is being available 24/7, so I need to be accessible all of the time.
Let me repeat, it's a lie! Its design is to keep you occupied "in the name of Jesus" while making you so busy that you are scattered, ineffective, and barely treading water. As long as we believe this lie, the burden of ministry will always feel hard. (And if it's not hard now, just wait...give it time and it will be.) We will stay in a perpetual state of weariness and eventually give up, or perhaps worse, become indifferent to the mission that once lit our hearts on fire.
This is not the way God intended for us to do ministry. He created rhythms of work and rest. He wove them into the very fabric of our being to help us live fully as the women we are to be. Even Jesus did not live this way. He was not available 24/7. He wasn't always accessible even when people were craving something from Him, demanding His presence and provision (Mark 1:37).
Being a woman in ministry is part of who you are, but it isn't all of you! And it's ok, no, it's essential to your leadership that you live as your whole self.
It's hard, I know. We face feelings of guilt, the burden of the expectations of others, and the temptation to believe that 24/7 leadership is something that God requires. But we must not get swept up in the lie. Balance and boundaries make you a better leader.
What are some changes you need to make so that you can continue to do what you love in a way that honors God, fulfill the other roles He's given you, and allows you to nurture your entire being?