If you’re like most pastors, you are tired. Exhausted may be more like it. One survey said that 84 percent of all pastors say they are on call 24/7.
If that’s you, you need to know it is unsustainable. It’s also why I have urged pastors for years to create margin in their lives.
What is margin? Margin is the space between your load and your limits.
We all have limits. You may be a pastor—but you’re not God. You’re not invincible.
Sadly, as human beings we’re not very adept at recognizing those limits. We constantly overestimate our abilities and underestimate obstacles and how much time it will take to do something.
On top of that, we live in a culture that constantly tells pastors, “You can do it all! You can have it all! You can be whatever you want!”
But it’s not true. You can be all that God wants you to be, but you cannot be whatever you want to be. There are limits in your life.
Understanding those limits and building margin into your life has important ramifications for your life and ministry.
Here are four examples of how you can benefit from living with margin.
- You’ll have a healthier mind. When you have proper margin in your ministry, you won’t be hurried and worried all the time. You’ll have more peace of mind. Your thinking will improve because you’ll have much more time to do it.
- You’ll have a healthier body. Unrelenting stress harms your body. You need downtime for your body to repair itself. High performance race car drivers schedule pit stops for repairs. If you’re going to have a high performance ministry, you’ll need to schedule pit stops for repairs too. You can’t fix a car at 200 miles per hour. Neither can you repair your body when you are constantly on the go.
- You’ll have healthier relationships. Without margin, we tend to skimp on our relationships. Your family and friends no longer get the best of you; they get the leftovers. In fact, without margin, you’ll likely have more conflict in your relationships. Margin gives you more time to enjoy the people in your life. You’ll be able to talk, listen, have fun, and comfort one another, without worrying that you need to hurry off to your next event.
- You’ll be more available for God to use you. All you’re thinking about is survival when you’re overloaded. You have nothing more to give. You’re too busy to hear God. You’re too busy for the divine opportunities God gives you on a daily basis to be his hands and feet. Margin gives you the time and space you need to hear and serve God.
Do you want these four benefits of an unhurried life? Make pruning a regular part of your ministry calendar. It’s a critical part of an unhurried ministry life.
One of the things I do to relax is grow roses. I’ve learned that if I want to have any roses in the next season, I have to prune back my plants.
One year when I got ready to prune, there were still lots of branches with buds waiting to blossom. Do you know how difficult it was to cut off roses that hadn’t bloomed yet? It pained me to do that—but I knew I had to.
Why do gardeners prune plants? For the health of the plant and for fruitfulness in the next season. If there’s no pruning, there will be no fruitfulness in the next season.
What’s true of gardening is true of your ministry. Every year of your ministry, you add new activities. You’re likely doing some things now that you didn’t do a year ago.
But you can’t just keep adding to your schedule without cutting back. You need to prune your activities to be most effective with your time and life.
Don’t underestimate the potential of more margin in your life and ministry.