What is Balance?



Ministers often seek a balance between life and work issues. Some ministers get so caught up in doing ministry that they neglect everything but ministry goals. However, balance cannot occur if the minister neglects to develop goals across the domains that make life worthwhile.  In this context, balance starts with the development of specific plans and goals associated with the full range of Life issues and Work issues. Developing “Balance” includes three steps:

Peterson. (2006, 92) reports the following correlations between life conditions and life satisfaction.

0 to Small Correlation Moderate Correlation Large Correlation
Age Number of friends Gratitude
Gender Being married Optimism
Education Religiousness Being employed
Social class Level of leisure activity Frequency of sexual intercourse
Income Physical health % of time with positive affect
Having children Conscientiousness Happiness of identical twins
Ethnicity Extraversion Self-esteem
Intelligence Neuroticism (a negative correlation)
Physical attractiveness Internal locus of control

Reflecting on the correlations in the Moderate and Large Correlation columns above, many of the factors correlated to happiness and life satisfaction represent individual choices for relationships. That is, factors in the right two columns represent conditions about which you exercise some degree of control. Unfortunately, the Christian culture in many countries (especially North America) fails to value these choices as much as the choices in the “0 to small” column.

Other factors that bring life satisfaction include physical health, leisure activity, religiousness (spiritual goals), being married (intimacy), and internal locus of control. Internal locus of control includes the ability to pursue personal goals as well as the ability to engage in goal planning.

Reflection:  In what ways have ministers in your present culture syncretized their lifestyle to value things in the left-hand column more than those in the other columns?

The importance of goals

Robert Emmons (1999, 15) states, “Human beings are by nature goal oriented,” and their “behavior is organized around the pursuit of goals.” Emmons notes that one’s goals “are potent contributors to their overall levels of happiness.”

In the Handbook of Hope (1994), C. R. Snyder shows that hopeful thinking doesn’t happen automatically—it requires intentional choices and planning. While many pre-industrialized societies inherently promote factors that increase hopeful thinking, individuals in modern cultures often need to intentionally choose goal planning across nine specific domains to increase hopeful thinking.

Consider for a moment: Without goals across all of life’s domains, pastors and missionaries often feel hopeless when their church—or denominational leader—suddenly asks them to leave or when they find their work goals blocked. That is, when a work-related goal provides the minister with his or her sole meaningful goal, anything blocking that single goal tends to devastate the minister’s hope and self-worth. Sir Francis Bacon said, “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” Indeed, a wise minister will make a variety of goals for almost all areas of his or her life.

Intentional planning builds hope

In the Handbook of Hope (Ibid.), Snyder shows that hopeful thinking grows as an individual builds goals across each of nine broad domains of life (shown as Relationship Balance Goals and Personal Balance Goals, above). If you build meaningful goals in each domain, you can retain a positive hopeful outlook even when (not if) some event firmly blocks one of the goals.

For instance, language school commonly blocks missionary goals toward a meaningful ministry for a year or so. Missionaries report frustration and even some degree of depression during the time that language study blocks their direct pursuit of ministry. However, those with goals across the remaining domains seem to persist much better.

Similarly, those who must leave one church to transition to another commonly report frustration with the amount of time and effort required to set up a new house and ministry. Their ministry goals remain firmly blocked by the logistics of the move and the grief of leaving their previous assignment. Those with clear goals across the remaining domains of life, however, seem resistant to burnout during their transition. They still retain a meaningful life by pursuing meaningful goals in all the remaining domains of life.

We invite you to design your goals using the acrostic: SMART. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-lined. Please see the YouTube playlist at

and select the video titled “Setting SMART Objectives” to help you with this process.

In the Handbook of Hope (Ibid.), Snyder shows that a resilient and hopeful individual forms goals not only for their job and occupation, but they develop goals across the following two areas that include twelve domains of life:

  • Life Issue Goals, including
    • spiritual goals
    • leisure goals
    • physical health and fitness goals
    • family goals
    • friendship goals
    • marriage and goals of intimacy with a significant other
    • personal growth goals
  • Work Issue Goals, including
    • transitions
    • burnout
    • church conflict
    • academic goals
    • ministry goals


Emmons, R.A. The Psychology of Ultimate Concerns. New York: Guilford Press, 1999.

Peterson, C. A primer in positive psychology. Oxford University Press: New York, 2006.

Snyder, C. R. Handbook of Hope: Theory, Measures, & Applications. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2000.

© 2013 Nathan Davis

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