In my early to mid-twenties, I had just started a new job as a sales manager for a large fitness center located near my home town. I was eager to prove myself and willing to do whatever it took to succeed in this new position. For the next 8 months, I worked over 70+ hours a week without taking a day off. In society, we tend to label someone like this a “workaholic”. Fortunately, I woke up and realized this was not the life I wanted to live. Sadly, this seems all too familiar for many.
I admit there can be building seasons where it seems necessary to work longer hours and sacrifice family time, but if those seasons turn into years, then, “Houston, we have a problem!” We've all heard the stories of successful CEOs that have built multi-million dollar empires after years and years of hard work and major sacrifice. Unfortunately, their business success and work addiction are often at the price of a broken marriage, resentful kids, and low levels of fulfillment.
We have to watch out too though - workaholic tendencies still creep into the church and ministry, often with the same results. We just like to use other labels: “faithful” and “dedicated”.
The busier we are with Kingdom business, the more faithful or dedicated we are perceived to be. And we try to justify the toll on families, relationships, and overall well-being by convincing ourselves that there will be a point of time soon when we’re finally big enough, stable enough, well-off enough to do everything we’ve been putting off. But Jesus said if you are not faithful with little, you will not be faithful with much (Luke 16:10). If you are not learning to prioritize your family now, then when the ministry and your responsibilities grow, it is doubtful that you will prioritize your family then.
As a missionary, I know first hand the pressure that ministry can bring to a family. This is why I want to give you a practical step that has totally been a game-changer for me. At the end of 2020, my wife and I took the time to write out a personal life plan. Following the framework of this life plan, we started by writing out our own obituary - what we desire our closest friends and family members to remember about us at our funerals. We wrote down not just what we have already done, but what we want to have done by that time. I know this could sound morbid but, it was actually very profound. It helped us narrow down what things in life were really important to us and our legacy.
When you have the end in mind, it helps you determine what you will say “yes” to and what you will say “no” to. Keep in mind, every time you say “yes” to something, you are also saying “no” to something else. Doing this life plan and reviewing it weekly has helped me remove some things in my life that, on the surface, looked very good, but ultimately were not leading me to where I wanted to go. While this is still a work-in-progress within my life, it has enabled me to start investing more time into the relationships I value most.
If you are someone in ministry who is caught in the endless cycle of being a workaholic masked by the labels of “faithful” and “dedicated”, then I would encourage you to take the time to write out your obituary. Reflect on what you would like shared and remembered about you when you die. Then take the time to pray and strategically look for ways that you can begin to prioritize your first and most important ministry — your beautiful family.