Middle School | Simply Insider

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

balancemythMost of you have bought a lie.

You’ve been sold beachfront property in Idaho and now wonder why you’re frustrated. Many of you reading this article are in your 20’s and have listened to and bought into an approach to life and ministry presented by men and women who aren’t like you—people in their 40’s and 50’s at “mega” churches with lots of other people on their team. But you probably aren’t like that.

You’re probably much younger, and almost certainly the only paid youth worker at your church (if you are getting paid at all, that is). But you listen to guys like me at conferences or in books we write (remember, we have other paid people on our team so we have time to write books…), stressing the importance of “balance” and “margin” in the lives of youth workers. A lifestyle that is within reach for only a select few. OUCH! YIKES! DANG! What am I getting at, here? Here’s what I’m getting at here:

Balance is a myth. It doesn’t exist in the world of youth ministry. And deep down, you know that to be true, which is why the pursuit of it has caused you so much turmoil.

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Ministry is a messy, never-ending, “Put your hand to the plow and don’t look back,” type of endeavor and by its very nature doesn’t allow for balance, at least not as we have come to define it. So I propose something new. I propose the pursuit of health instead of balance.

Balance says there is a time and place for everything. Health says everything eventually gets time and place.

Balance says things need to fit nicely into the appropriate boxes. Health says things don’t usually fit in boxes so there must be another appropriate way.

Balance almost always leads with “no.” Health almost always leads with “let’s think about it.”

Balance tries to turn some things off while turning other things on. Health understands that most things never completely turn off and can find contentment regardless.

It’s possible that I am the most out-of-balance youth worker on the planet, despite my past efforts to put family, ministry, friendships and my personal pursuits in tidy little boxes that never infringe upon each other. And most of my frustration has been the result of having purchased my own beachfront property in Idaho.

But I’m healthy (mostly) and my family, ministry, friendships and personal pursuits would support that claim. And embracing an unbalanced, healthy approach to life and ministry has been the best decision I’ve ever made

Tired of chasing balance while serving in youth ministry? Maybe it’s because you are chasing something that doesn’t exist.

Thanks for loving students,




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  • Christianprincess says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It is very true and brings to light one of my many prayers to God on how to “balance” everything or have good health to minister and live well for the rest of my days. God bless you.

  • Tony Myles Tony Myles says:

    Well said. I’d be scared to see Jesus on the cross concerned about balance.

    Now… reconciliation? Finding Life in tension? That’s something I’m all over.

  • Nikomas says:

    Yes! I’ve learned that instead of figuring out how to “balance” life, it’s better to foresee the “flow of life” and prepare yourself/family/ministry for it ahead of time so you can stay healthy in the ups, downs, highs, lows, busy times and downtimes. Good word, Kurt!

  • Travis Trueblood says:

    Some friends and I were just discussing this myth of balance a few days ago; how, like so many things, even though we know it is not real, we have such a deep desire for it to be true, we continue to pursue the myth, knowing deep down we will never “catch” it. Since then, my thoughts have turned to the more practical, “If I give up on the illusion of balance, how does that impact the way I live” questions.

    Great post.

  • So true! Every year I fill out my “Ideal Week” where I break down how I want to spend every hour of each day of the week. It rarely EVER happens! Does this mean my schedule is unhealthy? Maybe…maybe not. But, somehow everything still seems to get done. Great post!

  • Ethel says:

    This article was SO refreshing to read. Thank you & Thank God!

  • Bobby Panni says:

    Light-bulb! (in my best Gru impression)

  • Adam says:

    Thanks for exposing this. I’m a year into my position and I fit your description perfectly. It’s been really disheartening feeling like I’m doing everything within my power to create balance while not actually having it. Now I just need to figure out how the idea of “health” will change my perspective.

  • Mark Forstrom says:

    If you define balance as a resting point that you reach in keeping all your competing responsibilities in their proper priority, then I agree balance is a myth.

    However, I look at balance as a place of continuous tension, such as the high wire artist who keeps adjusting his muscle movements to keep himself centered. In this sense balance is a good thing to strive for. Maybe it can be called a “healthy balance”.

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks so much! Words I so needed to hear right now. As a full-time paid youth & children’s director plus a mother & wife I get easily frustrated in the challenge of “balancing” the ministry a woman has to her family, maintaining my home, my personal time & worship with God, and the ministry God has called me to. It’s nice to read that balance probably isn’t going to happen and that’s ok.

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