It’s tough at the top. The struggles and pressures that come with being the “point person” in an organization or a church are, at times, overwhelming. These struggles tend to create doubts, distance and loneliness, but don’t worry, this is normal. How you decide to deal with these pressures, though, may be one of the defining factors in your career.
If you’re in leadership position it’s inevitable, you will experience loneliness. Sometimes it s more of a crowded loneliness—surrounded by others—but it’s still a deep and heavy feeling of being stranded, left vulnerable and abandoned. Maybe it’s after a tough decision that distances others and draws criticism, or during a personal struggle that no one else can understand. But you come to a point where you feel lost and alone. There’s a certain mystique to leadership that can lead to stress and frustration as tough decisions need to be made and weighty issues lay in the balance. And that’s not all. There are still the expectations and criticisms of others, hovering around you like a foggy mist—clouding your judgment. Finding out how to clear the fog and deal with the root issues of leadership is perhaps one of the most pivotal factors in letting the leader within emerge.
That’s not to say that leadership should be done alone. Every good leader knows the importance of being a team player, but when it comes to responsibility, the buck has to fall somewhere, and it usually fall on you, the fearless leader.
The path of leadership is filled with obstacles, vulnerable experiences, and steps of faith—it goes with the territory. That’s why the Bible is clear that someone has to desire the position of pastor—it’s not just a filler position. Anyone whose tried to make it a filler job—has found that out. Just check out the statistics of the longevity of youth pastors, it’s only eighteen months. Churches can be ruthless, and so can leaders. That’s not the case for every church—but it happens, in fact, even in healthy churches you’re bound to deal with constructive criticism, and decisions that will distance you from others. So, when you are faced with the insurmountable pressures of leadership—what will you do? What should you do? You have a choice, you can do one of two things:
1) You can crawl up in the fetal position and try to get in touch with your inner child, or…
2) You can seek God and look for ways to make changes and renew your passion.
Lets just say you choose number 2, you decide to face your fears and work through the obstacles in leadership. That means that you have to embrace change. Not just in your church or organization, but in your own life. Developing some healthy patterns that will renew your heart as a leader will go a long way in cultivating a heart that sticks around for the long haul. Here are some constructive ways to deal with the pressures of leadership:
Don’t go it alone.
Chances are—if you’re a leader in your twenties or early thirties—you are serving with people twice your age, people who think much differently about church and ministry. It will be wise to connect with others that will help you deal with these differences. One of the biggest mistakes in ministry is the lack of connecting and the lack of accountability. Here are some thoughts about gaining encouragement from others.
1) Join a network of like-minded leaders. Lets just say, committees are out, cohorts are in—they’re a great way to connect with others that have the same passions in leadership as you do. You need these relationships to let you know that you’re not alone—there are others out there that are dealing with similar things. Don’t get the Elijah complex and wallow in a cave with self-pity when there are thousands of others that are facing the same battles as you. I’ve met with many pastors who are dealing with difficult issues and difficult people in their churches, and it’s amazing what healing occurs when you have a listening ear. Sometimes just laying it all out with a friend who listens is all that needs to happen for healing to begin.
2) Participate in a conference. Here’s a warning, though: Don’t become a conference junkie. Just find one or two a year (can you say NOC!) that will deal with some of the issues that are relevant to your ministry. This will give you a chance to connect with others, get recharged, and see things from a different angle. But don’t put it off, either. It’s always easier to dismiss conferences because of the time and money involved, but if you can afford it (plan in advance) and you can open up your schedule (I know, you’re really important) make it happen.