Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “out of sorts”? Although nothing catastrophic happened, there were a few insignificant events that ruined the day? As a result, you weren’t in the best of moods. The bumps along the way felt worse than they really were, and by the end of the day, you were exhausted and frustrated. 

I had one of those days recently. When I recognized what was going on, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day feeling crummy or as I say, “grousing around”. It wasn’t fair to my family, to the people around me, or to me. The last thing I wanted was to feel badly because I was a jerk. So, I took a few minutes for myself and focused on the things that had gone well and on the people with whom I had interacted. As I named each one, I gave God thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and for the people who enrich my life. 

Gratitude Can Transform Us

I know it might sound strange, but I have learned that gratitude has the power to transform. It is one of the most effective ways to become not only a better leader but also a better person. Gratitude is such a powerful behavior, it can and will enhance your leadership. Almost always, people respond positively to an expression of gratitude. 

What we know is this: A grateful leader is: 

Respected

Gratitude takes people seriously. When you express your gratitude to someone for his/her work, you are showing them respect and appreciation.  When people know you respect them, and take them seriously, you not only gain their respect, but you plant within them the desire to be grateful as well. 

Trusted

Gratitude is an expression of authentic care and compassion.  It cannot be faked. Think for a minute about a time you heard words like, “Thank you for visiting my mother,” or “Thank you for your sermon,” or “Thank you for your leadership with the committee.” How did you feel when you heard those words? Words of gratitude create a feeling of trust. Now, imagine how the people you lead feel when you express your gratitude to and for them. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude creates the trust followers need from their leader.   

Appreciated

Gratitude is always received positively.  Every person you know needs and wants encouragement and affirmation. So, when you say, “Thanks, that was awesome!” you are meeting a deep need. Grateful people are seldom angry people. When you express gratitude to and for someone, you not only gain their appreciation but create a positive culture of gratitude. 

Exercising Gratitude

Again, I know it sounds strange, maybe even too good to be true. But being a grateful leader is not easy. It requires a change of heart and persistent attention. So, how do you exercise gratitude?

Gratitude has an object.

To be truly grateful, your gratitude is focused upon a person or an event. Biblical writers are clear about the object of this gratitude:

o   “Oh, give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 105:1)

o   “Thanks be to God” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

You can’t express gratitude in a vacuum. Gratitude, by its very nature, has an objective.

Gratitude is genuine. 

You can’t fake thankfulness. You may be able to pretend you are grateful for a while, but unless you are deeply and truly thankful, it’s not going to work. The good news is, by intentionally exercising gratitude on a daily basis, you can build up your gratitude muscle, and cultivate genuine gratitude.

Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Thanksgiving is more than one day a year.  A family gathering, with turkey, once a year is okay. But what is needed is a daily reminder to be thankful or a daily pattern of gratitude. To build your gratitude muscle, you will have to express it not annually, not monthly, not even weekly. Gratitude is a daily effort. When you think about it, there are a lot of things for which to be grateful, but the one thing to remember is: Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Gratitude is specific. 

Gratitude is not generic. As previously mentioned, gratitude has an objective, but it also has an immediate cause. Try these words of gratitude: “I’m really thankful for the way you handled that tense situation in the board meeting. You spoke softly, in a controlled way, but you also showed them why we need to move forward. Thanks for doing that.” Or “Thank you for that email last night. I know you stayed up to write it, and it was exactly the information needed for the meeting. Thank you for your hard work, and the detailed information.” You get the point. Be specific. 

If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all you, my friends and colleagues, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask God to make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, or vengeful. 

Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

During the month of November and into the month of December, Sara Thomas and I are inviting you to strengthen your gratitude muscle by participating in two things: 

Daily 8:46 Prayers

Every evening at 8:46, Sara will post a prayer of gratitude for the evening on the Transforming Mission Facebook page and Instagam account. These prayers are short sentence prayers designed to assist you in developing a pattern of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Podcast Mini-Series

Every Thursday, from November 5 – December 10,  Sara and I will provide a podcast focused upon gratitude for the week. Each podcast is designed to give thanks for the way God has gifted you to lead through these days of uncertainty and chaos. This is one way we want to thank you for your leadership.

Thank You

Every list of the characteristics of leaders different. Gratitude doesn’t make many of those lists. I think it is time to change that. I challenge you to put a little gratitude into your leadership. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sara Thomas and I are grateful for you and your leadership. In gratitude for you, we are making ourselves available to assist you in your work of leading, serving, and caring. When Sara or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

How are you doing today? To say the least, you have been through a lot this year. I don’t need to rehash all the events that have changed your ways of living over the past several months, I know that each of us has struggled in our own ways. Whether it has been with the changes in worship, gathering in groups, learning new technology, caring for family while balancing work, illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of other changes, we have each had our challenges.  

Today, I want us to shift our perspective.  

Because we use so much of our brain space worrying about what is coming next, grieving over what once was, and struggling with anxiety in the present, we often forget how much we have accomplished. Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, you have had a tremendous impact upon the people entrusted to you. Even when it didn’t feel like you were making a difference, you were successfully navigating some huge obstacles.

So, give me a few minutes of your time today. If you are willing, I want you to stop and focus upon yourself.  You have given much of yourself, as well as time, looking after and caring for others. Now it is time for a little self-care.    

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Think about something you have accomplished over the past seven months? Take a deep breath and be honest with yourself. 

Feels good doesn’t it? What challenges did you have to overcome? What have you learned that can be used in the future or is helpful now?  

It is okay to feel good about it. You have made some substantial accomplishments, but it doesn’t have to be anything big. Just think about what you have done. Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or take up water coloring? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. When you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

So be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished, because when you build on those things, you can put your life and leadership into perspective. Some days it is easy to forget just how strong and impactful you have been.  

What Does Love Look Like?

Are you willing to give me a few more minutes? If you are, consider these things: 

Reflect upon times when you experienced love over the past seven months. When were you vulnerable and empathetic? Where did you take people seriously, even when you felt it was difficult to do? When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagree? Whether it was with family, friends, church members, or strangers, where did you provide a caring and safe place for people to become who God had created them to be? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for loving people through me and thank you for loving me through those same people. Amen” 

Reflect on Joy

Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

Over the past seven months, what has made you stop to remember God’s goodness and to give God thanks? What was taking place when you realized your interaction with people was a response of gratitude for God’s grace? When did you feel at one with God and the people around you? 

Think about a time when you laughed so hard you cried, a time you were amazed by God’s presence, and a moment you wanted to capture and to hold. Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. 

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for the deep joy you have planted in my heart. Help me be so joyful that the people around me experience your joy in and through me. Amen.” 

You’re Generous

Reflect upon the moments you experienced generosity.

When did you give someone the benefit of your doubt? When did you show God’s kindness and goodness to people entrusted to your care whether they deserved it or not? When did you say to yourself, “I know he is doing the best he can.” Or “How can I help her take the next step?” 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen”

Courageous Action

 Reflect upon the situations where you experienced courage. 

What risks did you take? When did you have to be vulnerable? What empowered you to make decisions and lead through difficult situations? Who were the people that came alongside you to encourage you? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for giving me the strengths and skills to lead with courage. By your grace, give me the courage to assist others to live and lead courageously. Amen.” 

Look at What You’ve Done!

As a leader, you have accomplished more than you have given yourself credit for accomplishing. You have been gifted to lead at this time in history. People are looking to you to be the leader they can trust, a leader of compassion, a leader who is stable, and a leader who offers genuine hope.

You can and will lead through this present crisis. At the moment, we are in the middle of a mess. But because you have taken the time to reflect upon what God has done in and through you, you are able to step and out to lead with courage and grace.

Take Action

Are you still with me? Here is the last thing I’m asking you to do.

Call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague and tell them what you have accomplished. Give them the opportunity to celebrate with you. At your best, you cannot be who God created you to be alone.  Remember, it is okay to feel good, so celebrate.

If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing, then call, text, or email me.  It would be my pleasure to celebrate your accomplishments with you.

Grateful for You

I am grateful for you and your leadership. You have accomplished much. Now is the time to stop and catch your breath before stepping back into the mess. 

Just remember, you will get through this by staying focused upon the God who has gifted you. Keep focused on how God has already used you to make a significant difference in the lives of the people entrusted to your care.

Don’t forget, when Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

O God, thank you for my friends and colleagues. Thank you for the ways you have enriched my life in and through them.  By your grace, embrace them through me so we can be the leaders you need us to be at this time in history. I offer them to you in the name of Jesus. Amen

Where are you experiencing joy in your leadership? You might think, that is a strange question. Do leadership and joy even go together? Why not? Joy is about being connected to meaning and purpose and to feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment. So, why wouldn’t joy and leadership be connected? 

There is no way to be a courageous and effective leader if you are not a happy leader. It is hard to be happy if you are tangled up in doing things that you don’t truly enjoy. Take leading through the past several months for example.

Where has leadership been a joy? 

It is not easy. In fact, for the most part, it has been discouraging. At the end of some days, you sighed as said to yourself, “I’m glad that is over,” and on other days you said, “I didn’t sign up for this.”  

There have been times when you did not have a clear vision of your purpose. Your mind was distracted by frustration and your heart covered in negativity. Yet, you have continued to move forward. 

Having joy in your work is not all about your satisfaction. As a leader, your joy affects the attitudes and motivations of the people entrusted to your care. It affects how you reach out and receive people, how you invite others to join you in the movement of God, how you practice your faith, and how you engage others in your community.

How to Bring Joy

It is easy for any leader, especially those in the church, to focus on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. It is during this time of multiple pandemics and of chaos and confusion, you have the opportunity to refocus upon the meaning and purpose of leadership. 

How do you bring joy into the lives of the people who are tired, acting out of frustration, and ready to go back to the way things were?

Psalm 30 gives us insight into the source of joy needed for effective and courageous leadership. David writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,so that my soul may praise you and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11-12). 

David on Joy

When we meet David in this Psalm, he is no longer popular. He is facing opposition. He has lost his health and his emotional well-being.  He speaks of his soul being in Sheol, a dead place of deep darkness. He is weeping all night long. Today we might say he was depressed. It is like he is living in the midst of a pandemic, facing the opposition of racism, trying to make sense of family and work, and feels like he wants to give up. 

But there is one thing he has not lost: his praise of God. When he feels he can’t go on any longer, he turns to God in praise, 

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning

-Psalm 30:4-5

David is so caught up in praising God that his depressed situation becomes a demonstration of joy. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.”

Joy-filled Leadership

Could it be that joy-filled leadership is rooted in praising God? I don’t know how you define it, but I think of praise as remembering God’s goodness and reciting God’s greatness.  What would happen, if in the midst of what you are facing right now at this moment, you stopped, remembered God’s goodness, and gave God thanks? What would happen, if in your leadership, you remembered God’s goodness, and acted in gratitude as you engaged and interacted with the people entrusted to you? 

Joy is built into the fabric of all creation. Genesis says that joy was first in line when God created everything. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God saw that it was good.”  The writer of Job says, The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy.” Joy couldn’t watch God’s creation and keep silent. From the beginning, God intended joy to be fundamental in your life. If this is true, then it is time to lead with joy. 

Joy-filled Questions

So, let’s try something. The following questions are just for you and your reflection.  This is not a test but a reminder of the roots of your joy that feeds your leadership. Here are the questions:

When was the last time you…

  • gave God the gift of your laughter?
  • experienced the sheer beauty of God?
  • were amazed speechless in God’s presence?
  • prayed a song instead of singing it?
  • sang your prayer instead of praying it? 

Joy is energized by the praise of God. So, as you face the unprecedented demands of leadership, what have you lost? Have you lost your joy, or have you lost your sense of praise? Without praise, your joy at best, is incomplete. 

Five Behaviors for Joy-Filled Leaders

Because joy is rooted in praise and praise is directly related to God, then you will understand and focus upon these five behaviors:   

1. Strengths

Joy-filled leaders know their strengths.  

Although they do not ignore their weaknesses, they primarily focus upon their strengths and the strengths of the people entrusted to their care. Are people around you involved in ministry that match their abilities and interests? What would bring them joy in their work in and through your church? Know the strengths of people in your congregation and let them experience the joy of becoming who God has gifted them to be.

2. Health 

Joy-filled leaders know how to care for themselves as well as others. 

They know their limitations and understand that stress is a part of life. They give themselves time and space to replenish the energy needed to stay focused upon their goal and the health of the people entrusted to their care. Healthiness is contagious. I remember a children’s book titled, “How Full Is Your Bucket?” This little book lays out this concept of health very well. You can choose to fill other’s “buckets” with positive energy, or you can choose to take energy from their buckets. Your healthiness and the healthiness of others will fuel the joy needed to be effective in ministry.  

3. Presence

Joy-filled leaders are engaged in the lives of the people entrusted to them. 

They are authentic and hopeful as they assist others to be engaged with one another and with the community. One way to become more present or engaged is to ask, the people with whom you are in ministry, these questions: What do you like about the church? What needs to change?  What makes you proud about your church? What does it look like when we are at our best as a church? Being present by listening to others and by taking their responses seriously will bring a sense of joy to you and to them.

4. Relationships

Joy-filled leaders develop relationships with the people entrusted to them and the community in which they serve. 

At the same time, they are looking for the connections with the systems needed to help the people around them become all God has created them to be. People experience joy in their connection with others. So, developing trust and respect, in the midst of differences, provides a healthy environment for relationships.

5. Purpose

Joy-filled leaders know their purpose. 

Your sense of purpose is an important element of their resilience, happiness, and faithfulness. Because you are focused upon your purpose, you learn to adapt as you navigate the obstacles and barriers in the way of accomplishing your purpose. 

Plant Seeds of Joy

Where are you finding joy in your leadership? Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in harmony.” 

So, where will you plant the seed of joy this week? Why not take a few minutes at the end of this day, reflect upon God’s goodness through the day, and then offer words of praise and thanksgiving? Then, tomorrow, invite someone, family member, friend, or colleague to reflect with you upon God’s goodness and together offer words of praise and thanksgiving. You cannot command joy, but you can plant praise. “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.” 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

When you think about leadership, what comes to mind? Trust? Compassion? Stability? Hope? Honestly, when I think of leadership, I think of you.

Over the past several months, you have discovered new ways of leading. Through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, you have led people through protocols, live streaming, and Zoom meetings. You have learned to depend more and more upon the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. Whether you have liked it or not, you have done your best to respond with grace and compassion. 

Through the causes of the racial pandemic, you have learned more about the situations and circumstances of racist ideas and policies. You have discovered how these ideas and policies are intertwined with the systems and actions of everyday living. As painful as it is to confront the truth of racism, you have found your voice. You now yearn to speak up in the places you have been silent.   

Even in the midst of a political climate that is divisive, you have listened to opposing ideas, helped to keep people informed, and assisted in bringing people together. As time-consuming as it has been, you have worked to put your prayers into action, bringing hope and stability in the midst of complex and passionate conversations. You are to be commended. Thanks! 

The Most Important Characteristic of Leaders

As a leader, you have been a compassionate presence of stability as you have developed trust and offered hope. Trust, compassion, stability, and hope are the characteristics people look for in their leaders. 

These characteristics are, without a doubt, fundamental to good leadership. But there is one characteristic that is sometimes missing. I believe that the most important characteristic of leadership, especially in the times we are now living, is love. 

Yes, love. 

Love in Leadership

Now, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings centered on romance or friendship. Both romance and friendship are extremely important, but the kind of love I’m referring to is not centered on feelings. 

It is centered in action. It takes others seriously. It makes a place for relationships with people with whom we disagree. It is vulnerable and empathetic.  It listens without agendas and it works for the good of others even in the midst of misunderstanding. It provides a caring and safe place for people to become who God has created them to be. 

Love in Scripture

Paul described this love in his letter to the Corinthians: 

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

-1 Corinthians 13 

Who is the Focus of Love?

These words are rooted in God’s action on our behalf.  The problem is, we have made love more about ourselves than about God’s action and more about our preferences than the people given to us to love. 

We have limited the use of love by making it more about sentimentality, pushing it in the direction of weddings, babies, family, and friends. Each is important, but this is not the love referred to by Paul.  When he wrote those words, he wasn’t at a wedding. Although his advice would be good for a couple of young lovers, he was not writing a romantic road map. He was upset. 

Paul’s Reminder on Love

He wrote those words in a letter to the Christians in a little Greek seaport in the middle of the first century. He had started the congregation there around the teachings of Jesus, and now he was hearing stories of bickering, broken relationships, and bad behavior. The members of the church had forgotten the values that he had brought to them. 

They were fighting, splitting into factions according to who baptized them. They were suing each other. Sleeping with each other’s spouses. Some of them were demanding special treatment regarding Holy Communion, while others were just getting drunk at fellowship dinners. Paul wrote this letter and sent it into the midst of their dysfunction. He wrote emphasizing the characteristics and actions of love. 

Echoes of Paul’s Frustrations

When you listen closely, you hear some of the same sounds in our world today. The sounds are coming from political leaders, as well as some people in our congregations. Sometimes it even sounds like the conversations around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The very situation that moved Paul to write to the church in Corinth sounds a lot like many of the situations and circumstances in which you have been leading. 

Paul wrote because the Christians in Corinth had forgotten that at the center of being a follower of Jesus is love. Paul offered them the only way he knew to redeem the mess they had gotten into. They had stopped loving one another, so he wrote about leading with love. 

To Lead with Love is to…

1. Know the love Paul is describing. 

Most languages have several words that capture the different dimensions of love. In the language of the New Testament, there are three frequently used words to describe love: Eros, philia, and agape. Eros is romantic or sexual love. Our English word erotic comes from Eros. This was not the word used by Paul in his letter. Philia is fraternal, brotherly, or family love. The city of Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love. As good as it is, this is not the word used by Paul in his letter. Finally, there is agape, which is love for others beyond ourselves. It is a sacrificial love that seeks the good and well-being of others, whether family, friend, stranger or enemy. This is the word used by Paul. 

2. Live with a firm commitment to act for the well-being of others.

It can be personal or political, individual or communal, intimate, or public. But it will never be segregated or shaped by personal preference. Because agape is rooted in God’s dream for each of us and for all creation, it is experienced and expressed in acts of care and compassion. Because its source is Jesus, it is the love that holds us together in the midst of disagreements, conflicts, and turmoil as well as the love that transforms us into the people God has created us to be.   

3. Model a life of humility.

You are patient and kind; not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. You are not concerned about getting your way but are working to make a way for everyone. You are not irritable or resentful. You rejoice in the truth. You are authentic and transparent. You are focused upon people, listening for the purpose of developing relationships, without pushing agendas.

4. Help others stay grounded in the midst of the chaos that has invaded lives today. 

It is to stay decent in indecent times. When selfishness excludes, love makes room and includes.  When selfishness puts down, love lifts up. When selfishness hurts and harms, love helps and heals.  When selfishness enslaves, love sets free and liberates. 

Lead with Love

You might lead through a pandemic, keeping people safe and healthy, but if you don’t lead with love, you do nothing more than irritate the people entrusted to your care. 

You might find your voice to speak up in advocacy of others, but if you don’t lead with love, you create more racism and participate unknowingly in the ideas and policies that perpetuate discrimination.   

You might know the qualities of trust, compassion, stability, and hope, but if you don’t lead with love, you have missed the point of becoming who you were created to be. 

Lead with love. It will not be easy but you will get stronger with practice. 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community

Leadership is about inspiring and empowering people to become who they were created to be.  It is about relating and connecting in such a way that the world is impacted and changed for good. 

You have what it takes to be a leader! Facing the reality of the pandemic, you continue to stepping in, create strategies, and lead. You are engaging the people entrusted to your care in new ways of being and doing, and you are using your God-given talents, what you have learned, and the resources on hand to get face what you feel you are not equipped to do. 

Let me remind you what I have seen over the past several months. I have seen you as:

A compassionate leader. 

You are providing for the well-being of the people you are leading. It has not always been easy, but you are nurturing them to their full potential. You are intentionally developing authentic relationships for the purpose of helping people become who they were created to be. 

A hope-filled leader. 

You are holding before the people a picture of what is next. You’re empowering them to look beyond the darkness of today’s challenges and to see the light, God’s light, shining brightly upon a new day. You are leading them toward the future, adjusting and adapting to the changing landscape.  

A stabilizing leader. 

You are modeling integrity and consistency. You are addressing the fears of the people by leading with confidence and humility.  With competence, you are helping people name and understand the challenges of the future. You are using insight and wisdom from past experiences to show people how they can and will be part of the future.  

Leading with Self-Doubt

You have what it takes to be a leader, yet you are filled with self-doubt.  Because this is not what you were trained to, you are feeling tentative and a bit insecure. And because you don’t feel you are living up to expectations, you are lonely and somewhat isolated. This is not what you envisioned ministry to be and, at the very least, what you would be doing.  

What Do You Have Left?

I recently read a story of Itzhak Perlman. At age 75, he is known as one of the finest violists of our time. You might already know that as a child, he contracted polio. Today, he wears braces on both legs, and walks with the aid of two crutches.

Several years ago, while he was playing at the Lincoln Center in Washington, D.C., one of his violin strings broke. A gasp could be heard throughout the Center. The conductor as well as the audience knew that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. But Perlman refused to stop and signaled the conductor to continue.

People reported that they could see him changing and recomposing the piece in his head. When he finished, there was absolute silence in the room.  And then, the audience and the orchestra jumped to their feet, cheering and applauding. They had experienced an artist at work, and they were appreciative.

Perlman smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, and raised his bow to quiet the audience.  And then he said, You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

You Are Gifted to Lead

You have been created and gifted to lead for this very time and place in history. If I may continue with this metaphor, God has put this incredible score in front of you. It is a masterpiece titled “Your Life.” You have what it takes to be a leader. Sometimes you feel a few strings short, but how much music can you make with what you have left?  If God has gifted you, what are doing with what you have been given?  

What Will You Do With What You’ve Been Given?

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells of three servants who are given responsibility for the master’s property. Each is given a different responsibility. In other words, no one was given a complete set of strings.

When the master returned, two of the servants said, “We played the best we could with what we had.” The master says, “Well done, good and faithful servants, you’ve been faithful in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

The third servant, who had convinced himself that he was “just a one string fiddler,” said to the master, “Look! I didn’t break any more strings.”

The problem is the music doesn’t depend on what you have. The music depends on what you do with what you have. And if you do nothing…?

Use your Gifts

God has gifted you and wants you to use your gifts, talents, strengths to lead God’s people through the confusion and chaos of the days in which we live. You have what it takes to lead.

Even though you might not in the best situation or have a lot of resources. Even though the work might be hard and exhausting, and the people are unkind and hurtful, you are gifted for this time. The question is “what will you do with what you have been given?”

As a leader, gifted for this time, focus upon the following:  

1. Mission

Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, the mission remains the same. With the mission in mind, lead with conviction. Be clear about where you are going. When you are clear regarding your direction, you can focus upon the people entrusted to your care. It is your focus that helps instill confidence and brings stability.  

2. Opportunity

Now is the time to deepen your relationship with God and to understand yourself. When you are in tune with God and with yourself, you can touch people in beautiful ways.

Let’s use one more violin illustration. A violin is a musical instrument that is both sensitive and strong.  It is sensitive in that it is affected by the slightest touch, and it is strong because its strings can withstand a good deal of pressure  A violin must be continually and properly tuned to be played well, for if it is not, even the finest violinist cannot call forth beautiful music from it. It is when you are in tune with yourself that God makes the greatest music.   

3. People

Build relationships with the people entrusted to your care. Be genuinely interested in them. Help them to discover how God has gifted them. As you develop your relationships, you will create a healthy environment of trust where everyone is supported, encouraged, and celebrated. I know you don’t have to be reminded, but you are in the people business. The best out who and what you have.

4. Being generous

Extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others. Assume the best of others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. When you are generous with others, they will be generous with you.

When in doubt, seek to understand and be slow to judge. Remember, people can only act upon what they know. Don’t hold them responsible for what they don’t know.

Brene Brown writes, “Our relationship is only trusting if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intentions, and behaviors and then check in with me.” Be generous. Assume people are doing the best they can with what they know. 

5. Navigating the challenges

With your eyes on the mission, deepening your relationship with God, focusing upon the gifts of others, and being generous with those who seem slow coming around, move forward with confidence and grace.

Adapt to unexpected changes, face the unanticipated obstacles, and depend upon the strengths and gifts of others to follow through to reach the goal. Because you have developed your relationships upon trust and credibility, you have what is needed to complete the journey.

Your Next Step

In the words of Perlman, “Sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” You have everything needed to make the impact people want and need in their lives and in the world. So, what are you going to do about it?

Take a moment to think of the people entrusted to your care. Every day this week, get one or two of them in mind and ask yourself “What is one thing I can do today to let this person know how much I appreciate being their leader?

When you start sharing your appreciation, listen closely. You will begin to hear that you have what it takes to be a leader. 

When you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. We will assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

Do you remember those old-world maps in textbooks? They were created when a lot of the world was still unexplored. When the mapmakers reached the edge of what had been explored, they drew a line and showed dragons and monsters beyond it. This was their way of identifying uncharted territory. 

There is a story of a first century Roman commander who had to lead his troops beyond the line on the map and into “dragon” territory. He sent a messenger back to Rome with the message, “Send new orders! We have marched off the map!”

Have You Marched Off the Map?

As a leader, you might be feeling you have marched off the map. 

You are leading where you have not led before. The people entrusted to your care are looking for peace and security as you are looking for direction in the midst of change and chaos. You might very well be thinking, “Send new orders! We have marched off the map!”

I understand your anxiety.  I have been there several times over my ministry.  Whether it was in the uncertainty of leading a congregation through the anxiety and fear of 9/11 or in forming a new ministry team, experiencing the rockiness of new relationships and the storminess of change. When I was able to adapt to the changes and normalize the new ways of relating and living, I was able to be the leader I needed to be for that time and place.

The Messy Middle 

Brene Brown says, “The middle is messy but it is where the magic happens.” Friends, we are in the middle of converging pandemics. It is like you have entered a cave.  It is dark.  So dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  You want to turn around and go back, but you are too far to turn around, but you are not close enough to the end to see the light.  You feel as if you are at the point of no return. You hear voices, conflicting voices, calling out advice, direction, opinions, hope, and despair. All you want is to get through and to the end of the cave. “Send new orders.  We have marched off the map.”

Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, we do not know how long it will last or how far we must go get to the end. We are six months into this weird way of living. Every day we experience attempts to go back to what we say is normal, whether it is with schools opening, work outside of home, looking for work, playing football, childcare, worshipping in the sanctuary, singing hymns, shaking hands, the list goes on.


In the Messiness, We Learn New Ways

The people around us are trying to override what we know we need to do to contain the virus. We are in the midst of some messiness. If we are not careful, we will make bad decisions because we lack the willpower to stay the course. 

We want things the way they were. Yet, it is in this messiness that we learn new ways, adapt to new situations, discover new relationships, and different ways of living. Regardless of how long it takes, there will be an end to the pandemic.  It is how we adapt and what we learn in the middle that is important today. “Send new orders. We have marched off the map.”

There is No Turning Back

Regarding the racial reckoning pandemic, there is no turning back. We don’t know what it will look like, but we do know that it is long overdue, and it is the right thing to do. It has taken us too long to name and recognize the pain and injustice of racism. 

It has taken us too long to admit our participation in the racist ideas and policies from which we benefit. We are in the midst of some messiness. 

If we are not careful, we will convince ourselves not to talk about our racism, not to not learn about our biases, not recognize our privilege, and again, do nothing about it. We want things the way they were.

Yet, to go back is not acceptable. How long we have yearned for and imagined love and justice. And how many times have we failed to make it a reality. It is messy and hard work, but it is necessary work.  In the messiness we will become the people God created us to be. “Send new orders. We have marched off the map.”  

We Are Resurrection People

We are experiencing the messiness in our own denomination. We don’t know what the future holds, yet the one thing we all have in common is the resurrection.

As people of the resurrection, people of hope, our life together does not depend upon agreement.  It depends upon love and forgiveness. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we must be saved by love.” 

The writer of 1 John wrote, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. (1 John 3:1-2 CEB).  

Navigate Uncharted Territory

We are in the messiness of becoming who God has created us to be. We don’t know how we will turn out, but we do know that as God’s children, we will be far more wonderful than we can imagine. 

Even though you are in uncharted territory, there are some things that have not changed. You can depend upon these things to get you through to the end. Even though you might feel you need new orders, as a leader, you need the following:   

1. Trust in God

A deep and abiding faith that shapes your relationships, assumptions, attitudes, and actions. This trust has nothing to do with politics or positions on issues.  This trust is experienced and anchored in the love of God and is expressed and demonstrated in loving others, just as God in Christ has loved you.

2. Focus upon Purpose

A clear and intentional focus upon getting through the messiness. You might not know how long you are in this middle, but you do know there is an end to the messiness. Your focus upon purpose will allow you to adapt to what you can’t change and learn to change what you can.

3. Vulnerability

You have not been this way before.  To lead through the messiness, you will stumble and make mistakes. When that happens, you get back up, dust yourself off, and continue through to the end. Your trust in God and focus on purpose will keep you moving toward what God has is store for you.

4. Authentic Relationships

You are not alone in this messiness. You are surrounded by people who are not only depending upon you but who love you. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to have your life enriched by the people God puts into your life. Each person has something to offer to you, as well you to them, to help you become more who God created you to be. So, join hands, lock arms (both strange images in a time of social distancing), and become a force of love and justice. Experience God’s love and acceptance in and through those relationships.

5. Generosity

This generosity is to love others as you have been loved. In these times of anxiety and stress, give people the benefit of the doubt, even if they are not doing the same to you.  You don’t love people because they love you.  You love because God loves you. Be as generous with people as God has been with you. 

You Will Persevere

No matter how messy life becomes, if you live into these five things, you will persevere to the end. So, what are your new orders? Keep going! Don’t give up! You are not alone! You are a beloved child of God. Keep going. God is not finished with you or your leadership. Don’t give up!

Sonya Renee Taylor writes, “We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalize greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate, and lack. We should not long to return my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.”   

Don’t Give Up! Keep Going!

You might feel like you have marched off the map, but you are about to discover a whole new life of love and justice. Don’t give up! Keep going! Perfect love cast out fear! Don’t give up! 

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation in the midst of the messiness. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

All leaders experience moments of frustration. Whether it is from not knowing how to handle a certain crisis or from unreasonable expectations, we all experience frustration from time to time. When perspectives clash, conversations grow tense, and people become annoyed, frustration levels rise. 

As a leader, you don’t want to be the source of frustration, but the political climate, differing opinions, and general weariness can lead you to wish you could lash out and say exactly what you are thinking.

Frustrations are a Part of Life

As you know, frustration is a part of life.  There are simple frustrations. I can get frustrated when I go to the grocery store, pull into the parking lot, and several spaces have grocery carts in them. I immediately say to myself, “How tough is it to return a grocery cart to the place it belongs? How rude to push the cart into an empty parking space and drive off.” Through my frustration I have learned that I do not like to be inconvenienced.

There are more complicated frustrations. I get frustrated when, during a pandemic, people want to politicize wearing a mask, or during a time for learning and conversation about racism, people get defensive and dismissive. How difficult is it to “love your neighbor as yourself?” It is frustrating to think that people who call themselves followers of Jesus have difficulty showing their love and care for the people around them. Through my frustration I have learned I have little tolerance for those who have little tolerance.

What Frustrates You? 

You might think my examples are silly, but it is important as a leader to know what frustrates you and what you do to frustrate others. When you experience frustration, it is a time to stop and ask yourself “why am I frustrated?”. Once you understand your frustrations, you can gain a greater understanding of your frustrating behavior. It is only in facing your frustrations that you can begin to change your behavior.

I’m sure you don’t frustrate people intentionally, but here are several behaviors that frustrate the people you love and serve:

Lack of integrity 

It can be as simple as not following through on what you say you will do. You are only as good as your word. There is nothing more frustrating than someone saying one thing and doing another. A sure path to frustration, mistrust, and disrespect is not backing up your promises with action.

Indecisive decision making

People thrive on action and progress. They are frustrated when they can’t move forward because you can’t make a decision. Trust your judgement. You have the education and experience to make the necessary decisions. You frustrate people when you can’t make up your mind.

Lack of vulnerability

You frustrate people when you have the attitude that you know more than anyone else. When you have to be right by making other people wrong, you shut down conversations and damage relationships. The people avoid discussing anything important with you. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Keep an open mind and heart. Take the ideas, thoughts and perspective of others as seriously as you want them to take yours. 

Blaming others for your mistakes

You are also frustrating when you refuse to be accountable or responsible for your mistakes. You damage relationships, undermine trust, and make people angry. People become fearful of being blamed. They stay in the background and often refuse to participate. Learn to take the blame and give the credit.

Self-preservation

When you are looking out only for yourself, you are not only a source of frustration, but you are perceived as self-centered and untrustworthy. You are in leadership to love and serve the people entrusted to your care.

Constant complaining

It is frustrating to work with people who are always complaining. Things do go wrong, and everyone complains occasionally, but non stop griping sucks all the energy and enthusiasm out of any group. Keep in mind that people follow your lead. Your attitude is contagious.

Now that you know how you might frustrate others, let’s look at how you can lead with courage and confidence. All leaders experience frustration, but you can lead by being a calm presence and by responding with care and kindness. Below are five characteristics of effective leaders in regard to controlling frustration. I am sure you already use some of these ideas and techniques.

Attributes of Effective Leaders

As an effective leader, you control your frustration, because you are:

Self-aware

You pause and reflect. You are aware of your emotions as well as the emotions of others. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind, you think through what needs to be said. Then, even if you need to express anger, you can do so calmly and reasonably. Controlling your emotions is a part of effective leadership, especially in the midst of change.

Aware of others

Things never happen in a vacuum. When you know the context of a frustrating behavior or a frustrating situation, you can resolve it. The more closely you observe the people around you and their intentions, the more you understand them and the bigger picture.

Curious

You ask questions for clarity and dig deeper for understanding. You know that you can find a solution to any frustration by tracing it back to its source. You don’t settle for superficial explanations but keep digging to find the underlying cause.

Listening

You know how to let people speak without letting your emotions get in the way. You give the other person the opportunity to say what they need to say. It can be hard to do when you want to interrupt, to defend yourself or just walk away. You stop and listen. You let them vent and get it out of their system so, together, you can start working toward a solution.

Responding and not reacting

It is easy to make a “mountain out of a molehill.” You control your own frustrations so that you don’t add to an already rising frustration level. Once you have responded with calm and coolness, it is easier to keep frustrations under control. You are vulnerable and transparent. You focus on the parts of the frustration that are in your control or influence. You don’t make false promises of change. 

Managing Frustration

Controlling frustration is a demanding skill. We admire the people who can keep their cool in tense situations. It takes practice. And sometimes it feels more like on the job training.

So, this week, try an experiment. 

Connect with a trusted friend and talk about what frustrates you. Then ask this question, “What do I do that is annoying or frustrating to others?” Practice listening. Don’t be defensive. This is not an easy exercise. Even if you get frustrated you will become a better person and a more effective leader.

Remember, Sara Thomas and I (Tom Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation in the midst of your frustration. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

I’ll be frustrated if you don’t!

How are you doing this week? As you know, I have asked that question several times regarding your focus on leadership, your personal health, and your overall attitude. I have asked because I am interested in you, your community, your church, and your impact upon the people entrusted to your care. As I have said several times in different ways, you were created to lead at this time in history. I am grateful for you and your ministry.

How Am I Doing?

As we have had conversations, several of you have asked how I am doing. Thanks for asking. 

Most of you have heard me say, “I miss seeing you face to face”, or “I miss our lunches together,” or “I miss our general interaction of just being in the presence of each other.”  Again, thanks for asking. I truly value our relationships and look forward to the time we are face to face again. So, today, I am ready to tell you how I really feel.  

How am I doing, you ask? This week I am weary. There is a heaviness in my heart and spirit like I have felt only a few times in my life. Another black man, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by a police officer in front of his three sons this week. He is paralyzed from the waist down and unable to move. Yet, for a little over 24 hours, he was handcuffed to his hospital bed. Even as he fought to stay alive, he was considered to be a threat. 

Why Am I Weary?

I know that not all of you feel as I do. I’m not trying to make you feel differently, but I do what you know how I feel. I am weary of all the racial hatred. I am weary of human beings, my brothers and sisters, being treated as prey just because of the color of their skin. I am weary of people of good character being quiet, unwilling to name the sin of racism, not acknowledging their participation in it, and then pleading ignorance instead of stepping up and out to resist it and eradicate it.   

Please hear me.  I am weary because I am hurting. My heart and spirit are broken. So, I know you will understand when I say that I don’t want to hear there were circumstances the media didn’t report and we don’t know all the facts. A 29-year-old father of three small boys was shot in the back. In what world is it okay for a human being to be shot seven times at point blank range because of the color of his skin? 

How many more people?

I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear about black on black crime.  To me, that is a naive distraction. How many more unarmed black men and women will be murdered before we face reality?

Listen, another unarmed black man was shot by a police officer, a person in power. Don’t tell me that the police officer felt threatened and he reacted as he was taught to react. If that is true, then we have been wrong in how we have been training our law enforcement officers.

Don’t tell me that most police officers are good, and we just need to get rid of a “few bad apples.” I know most law enforcement officers are good people and that their work is hard and dangerous, but police officers are required to respect and protect human lives, all human lives, regardless of skin color. Please don’t tell me about protecting property, every human being is infinitely more valuable than property.

Please hear me. I am not saying we need to “defund” the police.  But is it too much to expect police officers to be taught and trained that every human being, regardless of color, is a person of infinite worth and is worthy of ultimate respect, care, and grace? 

What I Don’t Want to Hear About

I know you will understand when I say I don’t want to hear that talking about this only perpetuates the problem.  It is precisely because we have not talked about racism that the sin persists to overtake us.

Racism is woven and embedded into the fabric of each of our lives.  Whether we like it or not or do so intentionally or not, each of us participates in and perpetuates racism. Just the simple idea that black people are more violent than white people is a racist idea that perpetuates an unrealistic fear and suspicion.

Just the simple idea that black people are inferior to white people is a racist idea perpetuated by centuries of laws and policies based upon black people being less than human. Is it too much to ask that we learn our history, face it honestly, and take the responsibility to put an end to racism? 

If we are to face it, name it, and put an end to it, we will have to talk about it. 

Why I Am Weary

I am weary because I am afraid. I’m not afraid of men and women of darker skin color.

I am afraid because my wife and I, along with my children and my granddaughters live in a country where a 17-year-old radicalized white supremacist, an agent of racial terror, can travel across state lines, carry an assault rifle, shoot and kill two people during a protest march.

A 17-year-old.

Now it is illegal for someone under 18 years-of-age to carry a gun in Wisconsin, but because of the color of his skin, he is privileged. He carries the gun, an assault rifle, down the middle of the street, in the presence of law enforcement officers, but because of the color of skin, he is not considered a threat.  In fact, by some people, he is considered a hero. 

Will You Understand?

I know you will understand when I say that I do not want to hear about our Second Amendment Right to bear arms.  I am not questioning your right or any one’s right to bear arms. But, in what civilized culture is it acceptable for a teenager to carry an assault rifle down the middle of the street? In fact, in what Christian environment of care and compassion is it acceptable to carry loaded weapons in public? 

I know you will understand when I say, “Black Lives Matter.” I am not making a political statement. So, I don’t want to hear how it is a Marxist movement or it is designed to undermine our American culture. When I say, “Black Lives Matter,” I am making a statement of Christian love, hospitality, and hope. I know that all lives matter and blue lives matter, but until you and I take Black lives seriously, we will not face, name, and overcome the evil of racism. 

A Word of Hope

When I decided to write this blog, I was not only weary, I was sad. If you are still reading, thank you. Because you have taken my feelings seriously, I want to offer a word of hope. There are several places to start to address the evil of racism.  I want to offer four, based upon the love and acceptance each of us have experienced and received in and through Jesus Christ. 

As a leader of Jesus followers, who seeks to deepen your relationship with Christ, your church, and your community, here is what I want you to do: 

Reach out and receive the people around you.

You might feel uncomfortable developing relationships with strangers and people who think and feel differently than you, but “welcome one another just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Romans 15:7). Welcoming people into your life is who you are as a follower of Jesus. Every person you meet is a gift from God. To reach out and receive others is to be who God created you to be. Anything less than being open and receptive to all people is to miss the point of God’s purpose and desire for your living. Because this is true, you take each human life seriously, regardless of skin color.

Offer love and acceptance to all people.

As a follower of Jesus, you “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Loving your neighbor is so important, Jesus taught, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). As a follower of Jesus, you love people as you have been loved by God in and through Jesus. It is by the way you love people that you reveal your true character. Your love is an invitation to others to love. Your greatest witness is to love each human being as God has loved you, regardless of skin color.

Practice loving others.

John, in his letter, tells us, “We know love by this, that he (Christ) laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 John 3:16).

It might seem simplistic, but this is where you learn to lay down your life by having conversations about race and racial injustice. This is where you learn to be empathetic. Try to understand what it is like to live each day aware of your race, to always be on guard, and to feel like you must give up and keep the peace.

Then, try to imagine what it is like to live with trauma in your bones. Where you must remind your children to get home safely by following certain unwritten rules when stopped by the police. Try to imagine the anxiety in your heart when your son or daughter does not come home on time and you worry whether he or she is still alive. This is where you lay aside your agenda and have serious conversations about Black Lives Matter.

This is not a political conversation about an organization.  This is a conversation about putting the love of God into action in everyday situations. If you do a good job here, you will be modeling the values that our law enforcement officers need to respect and protect all people, regardless of skin color.

Invite others to engage in loving people.

As a follower of Jesus, this is where you put your love into action and invite others to join you in loving as they, too, have been loved. Jesus said, “You study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life.

These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). In other words, the study of scripture leads you to Jesus. In the love you have received in and through him, you stand up, speak out, and work for justice.

It is important that you do not miss this action. The whole purpose and point of the scripture are to lead you to Jesus and to follow him into the world so that the world might be who and what God created it to be. Truly, this is not up for debate or negotiation.

The Bible can give you truth, wisdom, guidance, hope, encouragement, inspiration, warning, correction, and so on, but it does not give you life. Only Jesus gives you life.  And Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

This is the place for action. This where you and your church can make a public statement against racism and for anti-racism.  This is where you can boldly proclaim “Black Lives Matter” because you are loved, regardless of skin color. 

What’s Your Next Step?

Lesslie Newbigin wrote, “It is a terrible misunderstanding of the Gospel to think that it offers us salvation while relieving us of responsibility for the life of the world, for the sin and sorrow and pain with which our human life and that of our fellow men and women are so deeply interwoven.” 

With that in mind, what one step will you take to address racism. I know it can be confusing, but you must start somewhere. So, as a Jesus follower, seeking to grow in your relationship with Christ, with your church, and with the community, what one step will you take to address racism? 

There are books to read, conversations to have, and relationships to develop. There are lessons to learn, habits to unlearn, and people to encounter. Not everyone is in the same place in their understanding and participation in racism. But it is past time to begin. What one step will you take to address racism in your life, your church, and your community? 

Please know that you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you and your congregation to deepen your relationships as you face the evil of racism.  

If you are reading this sentence, know that I am praying for you and your ministry.  Now, pray for me that I will become more the person God has created me to be for this time in history. I may be weary, but I have not lost hope.   

How are you feeling today? How are you caring for yourself and for the people entrusted to your care? You don’t need me to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a variety of unprecedented health-related, financial, and emotional difficulties. There were enough stressors and anxiety before the pandemic, but fear and anxiety about the virus and what might happen are being multiplied several times over. 

As a leader, amid the stress, you are expected to assist people to find some normalcy. 

Lead with Courage & Compassion

Here are some things to keep in mind as you lead with courage and compassion:

  • Personal stress is created by feeling disconnected and isolated, as well as by a fear of getting sick during the pandemic.
  • Financial stress is driven from a loss of income due to reduced hours or being laid off from work, as well as from not receiving offerings on Sunday mornings.
  • Family stress is generated by the need to balance learning how to work at home while caring for children 24 hours a day, assisting with educational needs and household responsibilities, as well as trying to go back to work while the children are at home.
  • Cultural stress is fueled by a concern over the changes occurring in local communities and as well as in the church. Will our favorite restaurants survive the pandemic? Will I be able to return to my gym? Will my church bounce back from the financial hardships created by the pandemic?
  • Cumulative stress encompasses all the above as well as social media and other media experiences. 

Acknowledge Current Reality

Keep in mind, whether real or perceived, these stressors can make living through the time of a pandemic a traumatic event. Your awareness of these stressors will help you respond appropriately to the actions and reactions of the people around you.         

As a leader, as well as for yourself personally, it’s important that you keep yourself healthy. When you are healthy, you are more self-aware and better able to respond with care and compassion. During these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to model for others as you care for yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind for your own health. 

Focus on What You Can Control

During times of uncertainty, you might feel you have no control over what is happening. Keep focused upon the things you can control. Things like:

  • Having a positive attitude.
  • Following CDC health recommendations.
  • Washing your hands
  • Wearing a mask
  • Maintaining social distancing practices in your daily life.
  • Turning off the news before it increases your level of stress and anxiety.
  • Limiting your social media consumption.
  • Acting with kindness and grace (be Christian)
  • Having fun and experiencing joy
  • Focusing your energy on these items instead of factors that are out of your control will help you regain a sense of empowerment. 

Encourage the People Entrusted to Your Care

As a leader, your to-do list is already long. Consider how you might incorporate one of the following in your daily or weekly rhythm as a way to encourage the people entrusted to your care. These things will help people shift their focus from themselves to the people they love and care for.

Practice Gratitude

  • Start each day with a reflection of thankfulness. It will help you stay aware of the good things that are happening in your life during the pandemic. Use the Read, Reflect, Respond, Return pattern.

Establish a Routine

  • The pandemic has disrupted most daily routines and has made it harder to remain productive. Setting a routine is important. It is not too late to set one. It will take some initiative, but once you have started, stick with it as much as you can. Allow yourself flexibility to adjust as needed based on things that come up during your day. This will help you stay productive, even if your productivity level doesn’t remain consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Give Yourself A Break

  • Literally, breaks are a way to help be more productive. Active breaks continue to stimulate your brain. They also help you stay focused when you are tired or losing interest in what you are doing.

Exercise

  •  Times of high stress and anxiety can negatively impact your motivation to be active. Brief physical exercise can boost your energy, stimulate your thinking, and lower your emotional stress levels.

Stay Connected

  • Social distancing can make you feel more disconnected to the people in your life. Look for ways to stay connected to friends and family. It is just as important to Zoom with people who bring you joy as it is to Zoom those important meetings. 

What’s Your Next Step?

As you read through that list, was there one action that you found yourself saying, “I can do that.” or “I want to do that.” Start with one small step. Along the way, remember that you’re modeling for others what it means to be a healthy leader. An all or nothing approach will lead to failure. Take one step.

So, to get started, what one activity or practice will you start this week? If you are already doing some of these things, which one will you continue and invite others to join? As you continue to nurture your body and soul, you’re becoming the leader God has created you to be for this time and place in history.

If you need and want help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are ready to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, strengthening your relationships within your congregation, increasing your connections to the surrounding community as you lead a movement of Jesus followers.

How are you doing this week? As you have navigated a pandemic, balanced family and work responsibilities, and continued to lead prophetically through recurring acts of racism, how are you feeling? How are you doing? 

If you are weary of the false promises, disillusioned with artificial relationships, and disheartened with the political bantering and conflicting opinions, you are ready for an encouraging word. As a leader, created to lead for such as time as this, a word of hope would be good. 

The Meaning of Hope

As you know, hope means different things to different people. To some, it has religious connotations. To others, it’s a strong feeling that motivates them to do great things. Some people think of hope as wishful thinking where they wish for something but have no control over the outcome. Still, others see hope as a genuine possibility of making dreams reality by reaching goals. 

So, what will lift your spirits and keep you looking beyond the obstacles you are facing at the moment? What will keep you believing and expecting that out of today’s darkness, God’s light will shine brightly? 

Hope Keeps You Focused

What we know is this, when there is a clear vision and a defined direction, hope is more than wishful thinking. It is the driving force of being able to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be. Hope keeps you focused on the direction you are moving in the midst of the challenges. 

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Even hope-filled leaders need a word of hope. I know it will sound strange, but you already know what is needed to move forward. Even though you might feel weary, anxious, and exhausted, you have it within you to lead others through the days we are living. 

Hope Abounds

Even with that in mind, I know that when you are weary, you are more open to doing anything other than what you are doing to get out of the weariness. So, here is what I want you to do: 

Keep your eyes on Jesus 

  • Jesus said, “If you believe in God, you believe in me.” God created you to lead through this time. As much as you want to please people, keep Jesus at the center of your life. Feeling anxious is normal. Following Jesus is transformational.

Trust your instincts

God has put within you the desire to trust God’s leading. You are who you are for a reason. There will be times that you will doubt yourself. Trust who God has created you to be and lead out of who we are.

Be generous with the people you are leading.

Love people the way God, in Jesus, has loved you. People are only trying to live into what they know. You are the leader and you know the mission and goal that is to be accomplished. People trust who and what they know. Give them the benefit of your doubt and love them into the future.

Don’t give up. 

The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Continue to hold before those entrusted to your care the picture of what’s next. Empower them to look beyond today’s challenges to tomorrow’s answers. 

Remember that you are surrounded by those who have gone before you. They are cheering you on. Listen closely when you are weary. You will hear family members, mentors, saints throughout the ages saying, “Don’t give up. Keep going. We are with you! Hang in there! Don’t give up.”

Don’t be afraid to move forward.

You are a leader.  You know there will be times of disapproval and pressure to conform. But you also know how to evaluate the current situation, navigate discouragement, adapt to new realities, and renew the vision of what can and will be.

Be the hope-filled leader you feel you need to face the challenges of today. 

I know it is easier said than done. But the bottom line, in the midst of your weariness, is not to be afraid. When you are weary it is easier to be motivated by fear and by hope.  

Fear prompts you to stay with the status quo. It is easier to stay with what you know rather than what you don’t know. There is a level of fear that is reasonable. But, when you let your fears take control, you often become paralyzed and do nothing.

Hope, on the other hand, gently steers you toward making a difference. By keeping your eyes upon your goal, hope helps you manage your fears. You move from weariness to expectation. 

Slow Down for Hope

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winning historian, writes, 

“The opposite of fear is hope, defined as the expectation of good fortune not only for ourselves but for a group to which we belong. Fear feeds anxiety and produces anger; hope breeds optimism and feelings of well-being. Fear is about limits; hope is about growth. Fear casts its eyes warily, even shiftily, across the landscape; hope looks forward, toward the horizon. Fear points at others, assigning blame; hope points ahead, working for a common good. Fear pushes away; hope pulls others closer. Fear divides; hope unifies.” 

When you move forward with hope, you:

  • Let trust be the basis for your relationships,
  • Offer opportunities for improvement,
  • Test your assumptions with those entrusted to your care,
  • Think more about what you stand for and less about what you oppose,
  • Are curious about possibilities.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, embrace the risks, and move forward.

Move Forward with Hope

So, slow down for a moment and get some fresh air. Stop what you are doing and read your favorite verse of scripture. Let the God who created you for this time give you a different perspective. Call, text, email a friend or colleague, and let them give you a fresh perspective on your leadership.

Remember, in the midst of weariness, hope is a gift. Don’t throw it away. 

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, fresh as the morning and as sure as the sunrise. The Lord is all I have, in him I will place my hope” (Lamentations 3:22-24). 

When you need and want encouragement, Sara Thomas and I (Tim Bias) are available to assist you in the ways you might need it the most. Know how much you are appreciated. 

Don’t give up! Move forward with hope. We need you and want you! Don’t give up!