Jenn Johnson: On Worship and Work-Life Balance

Taking ‘the big debate’ head-on: by God's grace, you can really have it all
Jenn Johnson: On Worship and Work-Life Balance

Jenn Johnson, senior worship pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California, has been leading worship with her husband, Brian, for 15 years. In addition to raising three children together, they currently lead worship for a congregation of more than 3,000 weekly, oversee a worship team of more than 100 members, and collectively direct Bethel Music. Their most recent album, Tides, is filled with songs celebrating God's presence, and the Bethel team will release a women's album next May. Here's what Jenn had to say about work-life balance, healthy communication in marriage, and the true meaning of happiness.

What have you learned about communication and work-life balance while working with your husband?

Being in full-time ministry with my husband is amazing, but also challenging. Our biggest struggle has been to separate home life from our marriage and our work. We have to think strategically and put up boundaries in our lives. For example, tonight we're going on a date, and we have rules: We will not talk about the kids, and we will not talk about work. Sometimes we will just sit there and stare at each other. Also, when Brian comes home from work every day, he turns off his phone so it doesn't create problems. I would love to say we've done it perfectly, but we haven't. Every day is a new opportunity to do it better.

My husband is amazing—he's such a good man. He loves God, and he loves people. He's so funny, he's such a good dad, and he keeps things very lighthearted. I can be mad about something, and he has this way of pulling me out of a funk. We've been married more than 13 years, and I'm still madly in love with him. He's such a good leader, and he sings all the time—there's constantly music in our house. Someone is always singing.

How do you do it all—mother three kids and do full-time ministry?

My kids are amazing, but balancing it all—being a good mom, working, and traveling—has been a major challenge for me as a woman. I love being a mom, but it's difficult. It's hard work no matter what age your kids are. Years ago, I'd just had my first daughter, was raising her, doing ministry, and recording a CD. I felt like my head was going to explode, and I wanted to pull my hair out. I was heading to church to lead worship at a conference. I was scrambling to get everything ready to go while my baby slept, and I looked like a mess. When I ran by the piano in the back room to grab something, I heard the Lord speak to me: just sit down and worship. I was running late to sound check, so frustrated, and I said, Lord, you know what I have to get done, I'm a mess, and I'm going to go worship you in like an hour—what in the world! So I kept doing what I was doing, trying to get ready, and when I walked back past the piano a second time, the Lord said, just sit down. I was so frustrated because I did not have time to sit down and worship like I'd done so many other times for hours and hours before I'd had babies. But I plopped down at the piano with a total attitude, played some minor chords, and starting singing, "What can I do for you, what can I bring to you, what kind of song would you like me to sing?" And the Lord spoke to me. He said, I didn't want anything, I just wanted to be with you.

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