Balance is Bunk

By Mike Glenn, Senior Pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, Tennessee

From time to time, someone will drop by my office and begin to talk about how out of balance their life has become. They’re staying too long at work, their spouse and children are frustrated, they’re not taking care of themselves, and they’re more tired by the day. They’ve tried all of the time management tricks. But nothing seems to work, and they want me to help them get their life back in balance.

But, I can’t. And here’s why: balance is bunk.

There is no such thing as a balanced life. It’s a false goal, a mirage propagated by a culture that doesn’t recognize a blunt fact of life. Some things are just more important than other things in life. Everything is not equal and no, everyone and everything doesn’t deserve a few moments of your time.

Multiple Priorities

Here’s the hard reality. All of us have multiple priorities. Each of these priorities has multiple and competing demands. Not only that, but most of these demands are mutually exclusive. That is, if you choose to do one thing, you’re also choosing not to do something else. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to do all of the things being demanded of you. We all know this to be true. One of your church members is having surgery, the sermon’s not done, your child is receiving an award at school and your doctor has said if you don’t lose 25 pounds, you’re going to be put on medication.

What do you attend to first? Well, that depends.

Depends? On what? On which situation needs you the most.

I can make a case from the facts of the previous scenario where any decision you made would be right and conversely, any decision you made would be wrong. You see, it just depends.

When I talk to my team about time, I don’t talk about living a balanced life. I talk about spending time “appropriately.” The question I would ask any of us as pastors is this: “Are we making appropriate decisions about our time concerning the demands and circumstances of our lives?” Are we responding to our spouses appropriately? To our children? To our ministries? To our own needs?

To make an “appropriate” decision means looking at each situation, weighing each demand and from those facts, determining which action is most important to this moment.

You ask, “How do I determine what is appropriate?”

It’s Your Choice

It is a decision only you can make and you make it from your values, your understanding of your relationships and your own personal priorities.

Here’s the point I want to emphasize. We have to make the choice about where we spend our time out of our own values, not out of fear of disappointing someone else. Here’s why that’s important. You and you alone will live with the consequences of the decisions you make. Personally, I have too many regrets, and I’ve talked with too many pastors who have made a decision to put off time with their families to fulfill unrealistic demands of their churches. This pain is hard to live with.

Of course, this means you’re going to make someone mad. So, ask yourself this: Who do you want to make mad? Whose anger can you live with? I’ve learned that when I make decisions about my time that flow out of my personal values and priorities, I can live with the frustrations of those who might have been disappointed in the moment. Sure, I care about people’s feelings, but not everyone’s opinion or need has the same weight in my life.

God, through His Son, has granted us freedom to live our lives for those things that matter. Living from our values means making choices – lots of choices. Freedom means responsibility, and we’re responsible for our lives and how we use our time. We can never abdicate, or give away, this responsibility.

Life Will Never Be Balanced

You simply can’t divide your day into precise allocations of time for ministry, family and yourself. Life doesn’t work that way. Perhaps that’s why the Bible speaks about seasons—appropriate moments—to act rather than demanding precise times.

And as for wisdom, I’ll leave you with a little from the well-known psychologist Henry Cloud. In his book 9 Things You Simply Must Do, he writes: “You may not keep everyone around you happy. . .just be sure you’re upsetting the right ones.”

Pray God will grant you the discernment to know how to most appropriately spend your time and, if needed, the courage to upset the right ones.

In addition to serving as the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church, Mike is a frequent speaker and prolific author. His latest book is The Gospel of Yes. You can read his blog at

Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.


  1. Steve Drake says

    Thanks to Pastor Glenn for this very helpful advice. I probably needed to read this more than others. There have been many times when I have knowingly stayed in a conversation or a hospital room or at a meeting too long while a personal matter or another responsibility needed my attention. I’ve never heard it put so bluntly, but blunt helps; it got through and for that I am truly thankful.

  2. joe holman says

    Great article. I always say two things. Is Christ the passion of your life and therefore the center? If He is the center, then everything else will be in sync. The second is that we say, in our family and minstry, ‘all things considered.’
    For example, while in seminary I worked on the assembly line at GM nights (50 hours/week), had a youth pastor position at a church, and did landscaping…and took 15 hours/semester. I had three kids and my wife was a full time mom. I would do the best that I could on my school work, ‘all things considered’. I would not make an A on a paper and flunk being a husband.
    I still, 25 years later and on the mission field, try to maintain the ‘all things considered’ approach. I try to maintain priorities based on what needs my attention the most, what is in the moment the most important/urgent, and ‘all things considered’ what makes the difference in the long run. Good article, thank you!

  3. says

    This is a great word, especially when the last paragraph is put into practice BEFORE you decide where to spend your time. If we’re going to respond appropriately out of our personal values, we need to seek God’s wisdom to make sure those values and priorities aren’t out of balance, either. We’ve got to ask ourselves, “How effective am I going to be in ministry if my family is falling apart or I’m spread so thin I have nothing to offer.” Personally, the ministry benefits so much more when my personal priorities have my family and myself at the top and I’m valuing my wife and kids like I should be.

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