By James Ross
Being on the cusp of two distinct generations with radical differences in experiences and views, pastors around my age have a unique vantage point for leadership. I was born in 1982, which means I’m a “Xennial”—a micro-generation consisting of those born between 1977 and 1983 who may be considered members of Generation X or millennials. Given the unique nature of their formative years, Xennials don’t quite fit the mold for either generation.
Growing up in between generations, we see the reactions, and in some cases over-corrections, millennials are making to the culture and practices of the generation before them. I’ve observed a radically different approach toward work by some that I believe is hurting them and the church. More than 4 in 10 Protestant pastors say they need to give attention to the balance in their ministry between work and home. Here are three thoughts, especially for younger pastors, about work/life balance.
1. We still need to work hard.
I appreciate the warnings from Boomer and Gen-X pastors to not neglect family for ministry. I believe this battle cry has been extremely helpful for my generation of pastors and our families. However, I see the tension and guilt that comes from going to the other extreme and not working hard or being productive.
I’ve heard several people express they don’t like the pressure that comes from the “job” of ministry, and I get that. In fact, I would suggest we need more small churches that aren’t as distracted by the “business” aspects of the church. There’s nothing wrong with pastors who primarily want to spend their time teaching and providing pastoral care. But if those responsibilities only take us 20-30 hours a week, why would we expect a full-time salary? Of course, we shouldn’t neglect to care for ourselves, practice Sabbath rest, and even take some vacations, but these things should be paired with hard work at the appropriate times.Pastors shouldn’t neglect to care for themselves, practice Sabbath rest, and even take vacations, but these things should be paired with hard work at the appropriate times. — @jamesaross Click To Tweet
We serve the Lord in all things (Colossians 3:23-24), and as paid church staff members, the generosity and stewardship of the people we serve is what enables us to do our jobs. Those committed members spend 40 hours or more a week in their vocations and then serve the church. So I consider Sundays my service to the Lord and try to put at least 40 hours into the job during the week. Sometimes it’s a little less, and sometimes it’s way more. That’s the life of a church staff member.
2. Leadership development is essential to our longevity.
Steve Bezner, lead pastor of Houston Northwest Church said he’s been “genuinely surprised to discover that things [he] learned between ages 19-25 have never been communicated to men who have been serving in churches for years, many of them in senior roles.” As a Generation X pastor, he says although those coming after him have a focus on spirituality that is “much higher than the previous generation, their practical leadership quotient is, generally speaking, woefully lower than it should be.”
We must be continually growing as leaders. Suffering is a major theme in the lives of effective believers throughout Scripture, but I believe we’ve begun to call a trial what’s actually a lack of intentionality and humility to learn. Almost every pastor has recently experienced conflict within the church and expects to face conflict soon. How many of those pastors are seeking to grow in their ability to manage conflict?Pastors who throw aside the need for education, equipping, networking, and genuine skill development will continually find themselves lacking and insufficiently prepared for the tasks at hand. — @jamesaross Click To Tweet
Pastors who throw aside the need for education, equipping, networking, and genuine skill development will continually find themselves lacking and insufficiently prepared for the tasks at hand. God has made the tools available for us to grow in our leadership capacity, but we must choose to utilize them.
3. We need to evaluate our effectiveness.
I welcome the pushback against church growth strategies and the unhealthy obsessions with attendance, baptisms, and giving numbers, which are often used to indicate successful organizational growth but not actual impact on people’s lives. It seems every week there’s a new article about someone who was considered a great success in ministry who has had moral indiscretions, revealing the unhealthiness of elevating talent over character. It is unhealthy, however, to react to these things by rejecting the need to evaluate our effectiveness and by ceasing to strive to grow as leaders. We should care about our fruitfulness.If we’re not willing to evaluate, we’re not truly willing to do what it takes to grow as leaders. — @jamesaross Click To Tweet
A helpful statement for me and those I serve alongside is: “Numbers start the conversation; they don’t end it.” We need to look at numbers and ask why they are what they are. They aren’t the measure of our success, but they do reveal trends and cause us to dig deeper and learn why our attendance numbers are what they are or why fewer people are engaged in a certain ministry. If we’re not willing to evaluate, we’re not truly willing to do what it takes to grow as leaders.
Work hard because of the grace of God.
I think Paul summed up this mentality well when he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10, CSB).
I hope younger pastors will continue to lead the church with a renewed passion for sound doctrine, handling the Word with humility and leading people to wonder at the glory of God. My challenge to all of us is that a leader who humbly handles the Word should not only teach it with passion, but also apply it with passion. Therefore, we must work hard as we shepherd God’s people and continually seek to grow in our effectiveness.
James is the pastor of First Baptist Church on BayShore. He and his wife Christie have five children—Cameron, Nathan, Lillian, Judah, and Steven—and also serve as a foster family.