15 years into being ministry leaders, we crashed. The elders of our church sat us down and said you need to sit on the sidelines for a season. We were worn out. exhausted. stressed. discouraged. Our souls felt numb. We went away to a friend’s mountain house and argued for 3 straight days because we were both broken and wanted the other to fix us.
That sideline season only lasted for a month. Little did we know, years later there would be a much longer one.
We care about you staying in the game with energy and effectiveness. Here are just a few of the essential practices that are helping us, and other leaders gain a thriving ministry without losing our souls.
- They watch over their soul more than their stats
Stats can be helpful but if you’re glued to them, the fluctuations can eat you up. Learn how to care about your work without being married to outcomes. Practicing this one thing has been a huge factor in our on-going peace of mind whatever the situation.
Stats are good when it comes to measuring quantity but misleading when it comes to actual effectiveness and life change. You are not your numbers. (We repeat.) You are not your numbers. And neither is your church or ministry.
For less anxiety and a better gauge at how you’re doing, start looking at your statistics monthly (or even quarterly) instead of weekly.
- They relax ambitious competitiveness.
You can still be passionate and productive without being territorial. The healthiest leaders have a true kingdom/abundance mindset that recognizes we are all in the same family, with the same Father and there will always be more work to do and enough people to serve and train.
These leaders see other local ministries as co-laborers, not competitors. They don’t allow an unchecked need for approval to unconsciously drive their ambition. Let go of the old concept that these are “my people.” A generous leader is more winsome and compelling to follow than one who hoards and worries about ‘sheep stealers.’
- They sit still
Learning how to practice silence in solitude has been life-changing for us. Christian meditation has been around for centuries but most evangelical churches aren’t that familiar with it.
Practicing silence in solitude reminds us ‘busy for God’ types that the work we do is God’s work and it’s not up to us. It allows our souls’ space to slow down so we can more clearly see through the noise that distorts our true self in God. And, it centers us in the presence of God without the distraction of words.
Start with just 5 minutes a day. We highly recommend the book Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Haley Barton for an easy primer to get started. You can take a look at it HERE.
- They let others lead
The best leaders use a team approach. It’s not that they have a team but, they function with a team. They put other leaders up front and hand them the microphone. They know it’s good for their ego and good for the ministry to experience a plurality of voices, strengths, and perspectives.
It gives the people they serve a well-rounded look at the body of Christ, keeps their need to be needed or need to be seen in check and gives them a natural way to work more rested and fresh. It’s sobering and humbling to know things really can (and one day will) go on without you. Always be championing, training and giving the floor to other leaders.
- They value relationships more than accomplishments
Serving in a church or not-for-profit means a lot of volunteers are needed all the time. And if you’re at this very long you can easily find yourself just filling slots, or using people up instead of actually serving people. The best leaders stay in touch with the stories of the people in their ministry.
They value people’s time. And they regularly and publicly thank them for their help and support. These leaders aren’t afraid to end a group or initiative if it has trouble sustaining itself. And it goes without saying, though it seems it must be said over and over, your family is a higher priority than your work. Let your schedule truly reflect that.
- They keep clear finish lines
We don’t have to tell you how the lines of work, play and family are blurrier than ever. But leaders who make it for the long haul know where their “off switch” is and they use it consistently. They know when to call it a day and they don’t take calls, or check emails or texts after work.
Because we needed help in this area we researched best practices that we now use every day and because they made such a difference for us, we created a free download to help you and your team get a better handle on this as well. It’s called Overcoming Leadership Weariness: How to Enjoy Your Life at a More Sustainable Pace. If you don’t already have it, HERE it is.
- They watch for ‘entitlement creep’
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to long term leadership success is an “I deserve better than this” mentality. David often tells people this was one of the issues that contributed to his failure. Most of us wouldn’t admit to feeling entitled or want to think of ourselves as “deserving” but when we serve long and hard in a church, a ministry or a family we are ripe for the seeds of resentment and entitlement.
This is a dangerous attitude that can have huge consequences if it’s not seen for what it is and dealt with well. Feeling long term exhaustion, or underappreciated or constantly putting out fires can leave you too depleted to think rationally. (This is why we spend so much time talking to people about #6.)
Learning how to exchange an ‘I deserve better’ mentality for ‘I get to be part of this’ thinking is critical. Healthy leaders have key people in their lives who help them see when entitlement or resentment is becoming an issue.
- They consistently engage with a mentor, counselor or peer support group
Leaders who lead well and long have at least one totally, safe space to talk about weary, discouraged or dangerous feelings and situations. Most leaders are confident problem solvers. People come to them for help and advice so it’s natural they think they can handle their own stuff.
But everyone has blind spots, and no one is objective about their own life. No one. We all need an outside ear, a sounding board and a safe place to unburden ourselves.
Where does a leader go when they need a counselor? They usually confide in their spouse.
But along with their spouse or if their spouse is unable or unwilling to hear difficult or overwhelming details (that sometimes includes them) healthy leaders make it a priority to talk, at minimum, monthly with a counselor or peer support group who can hold their struggles and conflicts in strict, grace-filled confidence.
We need spiritual partners (not spiritual police) to walk with us through our challenges.
If you don’t have someone like this, why not put a group together for yourself and several safe friends from other ministries? A local group is best but you can always use a video chat platform like Zoom if people aren’t nearby.
Here are the group rules: 1) Everyone shares equally and authentically 2) Everything is safe to talk about 3) Nothing leaves the confidence of the group.
If you ignore all the above 7 practices, we implore you, please do not put off or ignore #8. It’s the most selfless thing you can do for the ones you love and the people you serve. If it’s done right, it can save your sanity, your marriage, your ministry and keep you enjoying your work for years to come.
(* If you don’t have someone you trust in this area, both of us serve as confidential coaches for a number of ministry leaders. We might have some spots open in Jan. 2020. You can contact us for more details here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Caron@davidandcaron.com or go to our coaching page HERE. `