1-hour small group study on Work-Life Balance
For more small group studies on workplace issues, go to the SMALL GROUPS STUDIES INDEX.
INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE:
A quick online search (Sept 2016) of some recent surveys that explore work and family issues demonstrate these results, which form some of the background to tonight’s discussion.
- The majority of America’s employees believe they don’t have enough time with their children, their spouses or for themselves.
- Each year, Americans spend more time working.
- 81% of respondents in a Work/Life Survey reported unhappiness with their work/life balance.
- 88% of employees say they have a hard time juggling work and life.
- More than 60% of married couples with children under 18 are both working.
- 40% of employees work overtime or bring work home with them at least once a week.
- The level of dissatisfaction for the current generation of parents is twice that of their parents.
Group Discussion: Do you see work as competing with life or part of life?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
A capable wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.
The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
She is like the ships of the merchant,
she brings her food from far away.
She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and tasks for her servant-girls.
She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds herself with strength,
and makes her arms strong.
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
She opens her hand to the poor,
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all her household are clothed in crimson.
She makes herself coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Her husband is known in the city gates,
taking his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her happy;
her husband too, and he praises her:
“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her a share in the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the city gates.
The impact of the industrial revolution has been to compartmentalise and to separate the different parts of our lives. Many of us struggle to gain a sense of integration among the roles and responsibilities we carry.
And yet, in Proverbs we see that juggling competing time demands and commitments is not new. The woman described in Proverbs was a wife and mother, managing the household, but also a businesswoman – buying and selling real estate, planting a vineyard, making and selling clothes. Then there was her service among the poor, and her reputation for being a wise counsellor. All-in-all this passage can serve as a model of work-life integration.
Group Discussion: According to Proverbs 31:10-31, which tasks does God value?
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
While the Proverbs 31 passage seems to give a day-in-the-life snapshot of an integrated life, Ecclesiastes reminds us that some seasons are more heavily weighted towards one activity or another. In real life there will always be some periods where one of our roles (worker, parent, caretaker) dominates our energy and time. As Gerald Sittser notes, “Short-term imbalance is inevitable; long-term imbalance is destructive.” Balance is something we bring to our lives not in each individual moment, but over the long-haul. We do it by recognising where we have been giving our energy recently, and then by compensating –giving our energy in the next season to the other important parts of our lives.
Group Discussion: What phrases in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 refer to work? Which refer to other aspects of life? Is there anything verse you identify with in your current circumstances?
OPTIONAL PERSONAL EXERCISE – THE JUGGLER
Draw a picture of yourself as a juggler on the bottom of a blank page. It may be just a stick figure or a picture of your head and shoulders. Don’t draw anything you are juggling just yet.
As you think about the different sorts of activities that take up your time and energy, picture these as balls or other objects in the air and draw them on your page in ways that identify the relative amount of time and energy each one consumes. Name them and think about the questions below:
- Which activities add more energy than they take from you?
- Which activities consume most of your energy?
- What balls are you worried you might drop?
- Is there anything important that you have neglected and that should be there?
- Which activities do you love to do and which do you feel obliged to do?
- How sustainable is the mix you are juggling now?
- What could you do to make it more sustainable?
- Is God making you aware of anything important as you do this exercise?
Discuss: In groups, talk about what you discovered doing the juggler exercise. How do you think you might improve work-life balance in your own life?