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How to Lead and Still Have a Life: The 8 Principles of Less is More

My wonderful Dutch friend Ian Borkent has launched a new ministry to help pastors and church leaders grow sustainable ministry lives.

Through his journey of burnout and recovery, Ian has embraced a new way of living. A sustainable and healthy way that produces a healthy soul.

His new ministry, Grow a Healthy Soul is making an impact in Europe and beyond

This article originally appeared on Ian’s website, Grow a Healthy Soul.

Leading from balance… I don’t think there is such a thing. 

However, there is the art of juggling. 

As a leader, it is often not about finding balance but about juggling multiple activities and responsibilities. 

How to juggle in such a way that you don’t drop the ball on your family or on your own health and happiness?

Here are 8 helpful insights on how to lead and still have a life. (Some of these are taken from Dale Burke’s book on this topic.)

#1 Guard your heart with all diligence

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23)

Everything that’s healthy grows from the inside out, not from the outside in.

You must start with guarding your heart above all else and focus on your inner health first.

That means two things: 

First, make sure you fill your heart with God’s words. 

Pay attention to everything God says, through the Scriptures and through the Holy Spirit. 

Then store up these words in your heart (Proverbs 4:20-21). 

You can do this by reading the words, whispering them, speaking them out loud, and meditating on them. 

The more you do this, the more the words will take root in your heart. 

Second, protect your heart. 

Because God’s words are stored in your heart, you want to protect it, like a bank protects its gold. 

Guarding your heart means not letting anything else take precedence over God’s words. 

It means to continually live out of the words that are stored up there. 

It means not going against your conscience or what your heart is telling you. 

God’s word in your heart, is like gold in the bank of your life.

#2 Practice the sabbath 

I wish I learned earlier that practicing the Sabbath is as important for my life as tithing is.

The Sabbath is the first day Adam walked this earth and it was given to God. 

The purpose of the Sabbath is so we pause, we pray and we play.

First, we pause. We press the pause button. Work can wait. 

We trust God that we need rest and that His blessing will be on the other 6 days as much as it is on this one.

Second, we play. We actively spend time recreating: enjoying God’s creation, time with our spouse and children, and a moment for our soul.

God delights in us enjoying ourselves.

Third, we pray. We spend time in meditation and prayer, delighting ourselves in God’s presence.

There is no rush or agenda. We walk with Him.

#3 Practice daily mini-sabbaths

Although practicing the weekly sabbath goes a long way in being rested for the week, do not burn the candle at both ends on the other 6 days.

Practicing daily mini-sabbaths ensures that you have breathing space throughout the day.

A mini-sabbath is a short break at the start, the mid, and the end of each day.

Whether this break is 5 minutes or 15 minutes, it helps you refocus the lens. 

Zoom in on God’s presence during this time.

Soak in the Word.

Breathe and be still.

Praise Him.

Take a short walk and pray.

Listen to God.

Thank Him.

This will fuel your spirit and keeps you going.

“Morning, noon and night I cry out and He hears my voice.” (Psalm 55:16)

#4 Invest in vital relationships

Invest in your spouse and your children. 

Life and marriage do not happen automatically. 

Only what is sown, will grow and bear fruit.

Become a 1 Timothy 3 father and leader.

This means that you realise that your most important disciples live in your own home.

Also, invest in vital friendships.

Like iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

You don’t just need the Word of God, you need a friend too.

These relationships will strengthen you.

Also, invest in those that can coach or mentor you.

A coach will help you see the blind spots and give you fresh vision and hope.

Remember, your input needs to exceed your output.

As you make these investments in the relationship bank, you will have credit for when you need it.

And you will be able to make withdrawals because have put ‘relationship money’ in the bank.

Which person do you want to invest in this week?

#5 Ask and include

Ask people to help you. 

Include people in projects.

Set someone free to do the task.

Give away responsibility.

That means: never lead alone.

When it all rests on you, it will take the best of you.

Mobilize the troops!

Let them do it.

Let them go.

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Together Everyone Achieves More!

Need help with this?

Contact Grow a Healthy Church for serious ways to ensure a significant change in this area.

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#6 Lead from your sweet spot

The sweet spot between your gifts, passions, and experiences is where the magic happens.

Do not keep doing what someone else can be doing.

Specialize, so that all can maximize.

Many leaders keep doing things they are not gifted for or that do not maximize their potential.

Some fear what others may think when they stop doing these things.

Others get stuck in a management rut, not realizing that if they keep managing today, they will not lead toward tomorrow.

Let others do the management.

Management is about organization, leadership is about vision.

Management deals with what is, leadership focuses on what could be.

Managers assign people for the task, leaders align people for the mission.

Management is highly needed, but leaders need to lead and managers need to manage.

Move from managing to leading.

The Great Commission is all about this principle. 

Jesus trusted His disciples: He gave them an assignment, and then He left!

You too, need to lead more and manage less.

Read Acts 6:1-7 for very practical, spiritual, proven advice on how to go about this.

#7 Emphasize mission over method

The founder of Starbucks delivered this mission focus to his team:

‘We are not in the coffee business serving people.

We are in the people business serving coffee.’

What is your mission focus?

As a leader, you need to constantly remind your people that methods should not direct us.

Methods will keep changing.

But make sure to keep pointing your team back to the mission.

And make that mission clear to all.

#8 Juggle one type of activity at a time

Your time can be divided into four types of activity:

1) Rest time

2) Results time

3) Response time

How to Lead and Still Have a Life The 8 Principles of Less is More (4)

4) Refocus time

Manage your time in large blocks, focusing on only one of these activities at a time.

 Rest time is time to recreate and not do anything else but relax, and regain energy. 

Doing a hobby.

Spending time with friends.

Enjoying a meal.

Block this time in advance as an ‘appointment’ in your calendar.

That means you are not going to do any work when you planned to relax.

You are not going to check your phone when you planned to rest.

You are not going to answer emails when you planned to take time off.

Block this time, because you prioritize this time.

– Results time is focussed time on important projects.

This is the time to work on what is really important to you.

Writing the book.

Making the podcast.

Preparing the message.

Developing the project plan.

Do not let anything else interfere with this time.

That means you cannot be disturbed.

Your phone is off or on silent.

Your office door is closed.

Your email notifications are switched off.

Your Netflix account is not open.

You are working on getting things done.

Doing this first thing in the morning, helps you to start with fresh energy and without any outside interference.

When you check your email first thing in the morning, your thoughts will be filled with other people’s priorities.

This can distract you from your main mission: getting results!

Start with rest, then move on to results.

And then answer emails and calls later in the day.

During another blocked time: response time.

– Response time is blocked time to respond to emails and calls.

Blocking this time in your agenda has all kinds of advantages.

First, it prevents you from responding all throughout the day and letting the urgent rule you.

Knowing you will respond, helps you not to respond when you are in results time or in rest time.

You want to let the important take precedence, not the urgent.

Second, it keeps you from responding too hastily or carelessly.

When you respond (or rather, react) to any email or text message immediately, you can later come to regret it.

But having a period between receiving a message and answering it, ensures you can look at the message with a clear mind during your response time.

You can then respond appropriately.

Third, it ensures you will not forget to respond to a message.

Blocking a time called ‘response time’ ensures that you actually respond to messages.

If you do not block this time, it is easy to forget a message.

Blocking time helps you to go through your messages, filter what you need to respond to now, and what you need to respond to later, and then take the time to send those responses.

Fourth, it helps you respond in the best way to any message.

Having a ‘response time’ blocked helps you determine how to respond. Is it a call? Setting up a meeting? A short reply? Or no reply at this time?

Because you have allocated adequate time for responding to messages, you will be able to respond appropriately.

– Lastly, Refocus time is scheduled time to evaluate your life and leadership.

This is about setting aside time in your calendar to evaluate how you are doing, and then refocus.

It helps to plan (block) this time months in advance, for example, three or four times a year.

Take two hours or even an entire day for this. 

Plan this in advance: ‘This summer I will take this particular Friday off and go to this place, to evaluate my life.’

Contact me for a list of evaluation questions you can ask yourself, and I will send it to you.

After evaluating, you refocus: on what needs to change. What do I need to stop doing? What do I need to start? Where do I need to make adjustments?

This will help you stay on track, in leading and having a life at the same time.

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Pastor, is your church positioned for growth?


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John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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