Life—and ministry—feels anything but simple these days.

I love going into model homes. But not for the reason you might think. I like them because they’re a clutter-free zone. No trash, no piles, no stacks. The kitchen counters aren’t littered with small appliances and week-old bananas. For neat freaks, model homes are utopia.

The problem with a model home is that it’s an illusion. Families create messes. Model homes aren’t real life.

team health

That’s the way I often feel about the topic of simplicity. The image of an uncluttered, ordered life sounds great, but it just doesn’t seem like real life.

Let’s face it. Life—and ministry—feels anything but simple these days. Click To Tweet

Maybe you can resonate with the words of Charles Wagner:

“Amid the confused restlessness of modern life, our wearied minds dream of simplicity.”

It’s mind-boggling that he wrote those words in Paris in 1895, before the invention of the car, the airplane, the TV, the computer or the internet.

The world is not going to slow down. Technology is not going away; 24/7 access to everything is here to stay. Life and ministry are more complex and challenging than ever.

Yet inside me is a quiet longing for something simpler.

“It’ll Get Better. This Is Only For a Season.”

For most of my life, simplicity has felt elusive to me. In fact, it’s rarely been on my radar. If I’m honest, I thought simplicity and margin were for navel-gazers and underachievers. There was a badge of honor in taking on too much, living too fast, and working unreasonable hours.

When I was exhausted and stressed, I’d often deceive myself with, “It’ll get better. This is only for a season.” But it didn’t get better. And when one season of ministry was finished, it was simply replaced with a new season of demands and pressures.

At least for me, the first step toward simplicity was taking full responsibility. I had to own my stuff and admit that when it comes to simplicity I am my own worst enemy. Most of the complexity and clutter was my own doing—saying yes to too many requests, not having healthy boundaries, not knowing my limits, and always trying to please everyone contributed to a cluttered life.

I was not the victim, I was the perpetrator.

No elder board or deacon group or staff member or spouse or friend was going to simplify my life for me.

Pursuing simplicity is like trying to keep the barnacles off a ship. These unseen, unwanted passengers clandestinely attach themselves to the hull and cause significant drag. Did you know barnacles cost the U.S. Navy about a billion dollars a year in extra fuel and maintenance?

Proactive and Preemptive

We must be proactive and preemptive in guarding our lives from complexity. So, how do you do this, practically?

You get crystal clear about your values and priorities.

As the German artist Hans Hofmann eloquently said,

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

By removing things that really aren’t a priority in my life, I will create space for the “necessary” to speak. I must trim the excess so there is room for the essential. Click To Tweet
  • Own your life. Take responsibility, and don’t play the victim card. The problem is internal, not environmental.
  • Get alone and determine your values and priorities. Write them down and regularly review them.
  • Make the hard decisions. The hardest part is having the courage to carry out the necessary decisions that will help you simplify.
  • Perform regular maintenance. Practice the discipline of planned neglect.

I’ve devised a formula that helps me in my pursuit of simplicity:

Clarity + Courage + Calendar = Simplicity

First, I must get clarity around what’s really important in my life. Because of our drift toward clutter and complexity, this must be revisited on a regular basis.

But it’s not enough to simply have clarity. I must also have the courage to execute based on clarity. I can have clarity around my priorities, but without the courage to make the necessary changes, I will not move toward simplicity. Finally, the courage to execute gets very practical when I calendarize my priorities.

This is an excerpt from Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul by Lance Witt. Get it here.

We’re in the process of developing new resources to help church leaders lead from healthier souls and build stronger, healthier, high performance teams.

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