Is Your Work and Life in Balance? The BAM Balancing Act

by Patrick Lai

Ideally, every BAMer or B4Ter wants a perfect work-life balance. But as you’ve probably already experienced, this mythical balance is rarely achievable. Striving for balance can lead to more ‘stress over being stressed’ than work itself.

To help you manage the work-life balance debate, tune out the opinions of others and start checking in with what the Lord is saying to you. Ultimately it’s up to you to figure out what balance works best for your own situation, but if you need some help finding that equilibrium point, there are others who have gone before you who can help.

Starting Out

When you are first starting you’re your job overseas or your business, you may need to abandon any idea of balance. That’s a serious statement that warrants strong consideration before moving into the B4T/BAM world. You will need to get family, friends, loved ones and especially your leaders on board with your full-court push and be prepared for some backlash at the drive you’ll need to settle into your job or to get your business going.

In starting out, the work-life balance you achieve may be more like 90/10 than 50/50. Know your own contentment level. Strive to understand what that balance is for you personally and be prepared to make the commitment act upon your decision.

Evaluation and Adjustment

As you settle into your job, that balance will change and you’ll be able to invest more time at things and with people away from the office. So recognize that the fulcrum of balance will be a sliding point on the bar of life.

Sometimes the decisions around balancing life and work will be easy, other times they’ll be more difficult. The important thing is that you know yourself. It’s essential to have in place ways to relieve some of the internal pressure you place on yourself. Build in some mechanisms for evaluation and reassessment. Use the quick check tool below as a start.

Finding Meaning in the Right Place

Regardless of how much your B4T/BAM life requires you to devote to your work, knowing your position in Christ and finding meaning in your days is what will ultimately contribute to the best work-life balance. This is why the advice to, “do what you have a passion for,” is so incredibly important.

When you are walking with God in His will, He will give you a love for your work and a passion for the people you work with – His joy for what you’re doing every day. To achieve balance, keep Jesus front and center in all areas of your life and work, then intertwine Him into your passions and your profession. Realize, everyone is different, so get comfortable with the balance point that works personally for you.

Too Busy Not to Pray?

I was talking with two B4Ters recently, one was struggling with his prayer life, and another stated “God seems far away.” When I asked both how much time do you spend alone with God each day”, they both answered “I don’t have time, I’m too busy.” Too busy for God?  Why are we overseas if not because of Jesus? Look at our Lord, in the midst of busyness we find Jesus regularly taking time to get away to be with the Father

Busyness can be self-assuring, a protection against emptiness. But our emptiness is not to be filled with tasks, it’s to be filled with Jesus. I like to question those we mentor, “Are your frantic days really just a hedge against emptiness?” “Are we drawing our self-worth – finding our identity in Jesus, or in our productivity?”

As someone who travels constantly, I recognize that life can feel busy; but to be honest it’s not. Too busy is when we don’t have time to send a birthday card to a loved one, or linger on a call with a friend, or spend time with our first love – Jesus, or our second love – our spouse. Busyness is not the result of too much to do, it is the product of an unmanaged life. Too busy? Likely your priorities are out of whack, and likely no one is helping you to stay on track.

Is Your Life and Work in Balance?

When you entered the BAM arena you had a vision of what your life and work would look like. So how’s it going? Is the business working for you? Are you working for the business? Are you in control? Or is the business running or should I say, ruining your life?

Here are some short questions to help you understand if your life and work is in balance:


Number a piece of paper 1 to 9 and write your answer next to the number. Wives if you are working, please answer for yourself. If you are not working, answer for your husband as you perceive things; husbands need your perspective too.

1) I’m clear that my job/business supports and allows me to accomplish my personal goals.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


2) My job/business relies on my expertise for day-to-day technical work. Without me, everything would fall apart.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


3) I believe I am reflecting God’s plan and His values in my workplace.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


4) My work often feels overwhelming and out of my control – I can’t get away from it, even at home.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


5) When I come to work, I’m energized by knowing exactly what I’m personally getting out of work and how my work is positively impacting others.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


6) I struggle with the thought that my job/business is not assisting me in accomplishing my EV/discipleship/CP goals.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


7) I have time and space for strategic thinking at work.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


8) Three or more days a week, when I wake up in the morning, I abhor thinking about going to work.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


9) I trust my employees/direct reports and I am confident about delegating responsibilities to key people.

1        2        3        4        5        6        7        8        9

Strongly Disagree     Neutral        Strongly Agree


Total the scores for questions 1,3,5,7,9  =  ______  Score A

Total the scores for questions, 2,4,6,8    =  ______  Score B

If your A score is 34 or greater, and your B score is 20 or less, you are in a good place.  If either score is not in the “good” range, I’d suggest you get a coach and/or a mentor to walk you through your life and work.

Join us for our BAM Endurance series on The BAM Review Blog, looking at principles and habits for long-term fruitfulness. Have your say on social media on this topic by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

Patrick Lai first and foremost describes himself as a slave of Jesus Christ. During his thirty-one years in Asia, the Lord enabled his team to gather four groups of Muslim believers and start several small businesses. He authored Tentmaking: The Life and Work of Business as Missions, as well as numerous articles on BAM. He founded the OPEN Network, a network of over 700 B4Ters, BAMers, and tentmakers. Currently Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach B4T workers in unreached areas and teach extensively around the world on this new paradigm for doing mission in a changing world.

Material first published on Patrick Lai’s blog here, here and here. Reposted with kind permission.


Read more from Patrick in his book:

B4T Patrick LaiBusiness for Transformation focuses on answering the question: “How do you start a business that transforms communities of unreached peoples?” Starting a business cross-culturally involves thousands of decisions. Until now, BAM and B4T practitioners have been lacking a tool that explains how to start a business that engages unreached people for Jesus’ sake. This book draws on years of experience from scores of OPEN workers who are BAM/B4T practitioners. BAM/B4T are among the faster growing segments of the worldwide mission movement. It is written for new workers and coaches who need practical guidance in setting up and doing business in hard, church-less areas.

BAM is about shaping business for God and the common good; bringing solutions to global issues like human trafficking, poverty, creation care, and unreached peoples. Patrick Lai’s book is an important guide for those who are serious about transformational business, especially in areas where the name of Jesus is rarely heard. This book is very practical with tools, stories and resources. Read it, use it!

Mats Tunehag – Co-Chair, BAM Global Think Tank and Senior Associate of BAM, The Lausanne Movement

Available from Amazon