11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Ah, the workaholic’s life verse. At Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2006, I remember Andy Stanley sharing about the toughest decision he’d ever made. He compared two verses and realized that it was his job to love his wife while it was God’s job to love His church. He came to the conclusion then that he was going to give God 45 hours a week to build whatever church God wanted to build, and he was going to focus on loving his wife — specifically by being home for what my wife calls “the witching hour,” when she’s trying to cook dinner while the kids are hungry and cranky.
He dealt with all kinds of flack as he left his staff working in the office as he walked out and as he skipped hospital visits. But the results have been incredible. The church has moved away from being staff-driven. He said a volunteer told him as she mobilized dozens to help her, “Well, someone has to provide congregational care.” They’ve made very intentional decisions for the church, including shutting their doors the last Sunday of every year, as a gift to the staff. Over time, he has attracted a healthy, motivated staff who work hard… and then go home. He tells each one on their first day of work that they can cheat the church, but never cheat their family.
Here’s the thing that caught me by surprise. The very next speaker got up and talked as if he hadn’t heard a thing Andy said. This boomer pastor — who has had some fairly public battles with workaholism and burnout — started talking about the many hours you have to put in as a leader. The juxtaposition was stark.
So, who was right? Everything in me wants to scream, “Andy!” Like many of my colleagues under 45, I want it all. I want to help support my wife, help raise my kids and go to every event with them. I also want to be successful at my job and continue to get opportunities to advance and grow. But is it possible to do both? I think it is possible to have both, but neither to the extent you want it. I’m constantly torn: when I’m at work, I feel like that’s the most important thing I can be doing. And when I’m spending time with my family, I feel like that’s the most important thing. I wish I could spend more time doing both, but God in his wisdom decided on 24 hours in a day. I’m okay with both/and, and I’m okay with healthy tension. I pray that I make the right choices with my compromises so that neither side pays too much when I can’t be there.
Here’s my theory on busyness, based purely on my own life experiences. When I was single, I thought I was busy. I had lots of social engagements and often wished I could pull back a bit from my commitments. When I got married, I added a whole new set of commitments and found I didn’t have as much freedom with my time. Then along came baby #1 and a whole new layer of busyness. Some things I thought were critical to my life had to fall away. Babies #2 and 3 repeated the pattern. Increases in responsibility at work and church have only added more busyness to my life than I could have ever imagined even three years ago, let alone when I was 22 and single.
The trick is to be busy and still serve the Lord enthusiastically.
Here’s my question for all you readers out there: Is work-life balance a generational thing, or does every generation switch to workaholism as their naivite and idealism fade?