Let me start this blog with an obvious statement. We are living in some uncertain times. Whether it be in the politics of our government, of our employment, or our church, we are living in a time that is crying out for leaders who are trustworthy, compassionate, stable, and hope-filled. As a leader, you have the opportunity and responsibility to model the character and action needed to come through such a time as this. 

Your Words

One of the tools you have, as you step into this leadership opportunity, is your word(s). 

I know that sounds strange, but you are only as good as your word.  Your followers need a leader they can trust. They are looking for a leader who speaks with hope and compassion as well as a leader who puts words into action. This very day, you have the opportunity to model the character and action needed not only by what you say but how you say it. 

Your Words Shape Worlds

Whether you believe it or not, words create images and assumptions that shape the way people view one another, your community, and even God. You can use words to encourage and build up as well as discourage and tear down. Words feed prejudices, cultivate relationships, and set the course for decision-making. You have a powerful tool in your toolbox.

So, just as you think about your words when giving a speech or delivering a sermon, and you weigh your words when writing an article or a letter, it is important to pick your words wisely when leading a group, teaching a class, or in casual conversation. 

Do Not Use Harmful Words

In Ephesians 4:29, Paul wrote, “Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that builds up and provides what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” (TEV)

The church in Ephesus was a diverse church. 

Because of its diversity, there was a conflict of values. The Jews, who had a deep ethical background, were people who lived with religious values. The Gentiles, who did not have the same background or heritage, had a different set of values. I can imagine there were times when the two sets of values clashed and created tension. 

In a time of conflict, Paul was instructing the church to say kind, supportive, encouraging words. When you open your mouth, do not let evil talk come out. Don’t diss one another. Say only what is useful for building up as there is need so that your words may give grace to those who hear. The teaching is like Jesus saying, “it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles…”

Conflict and Words

Although she is writing about more than words, Brene Brown writes, “In times of uncertainty, it is common for leaders to leverage fear and weaponize it to their advantage…If you can keep people afraid and give them an enemy who is responsible for their fear, you can get people to do just about anything.”

Brown also says, “…when we are managing during times of scarcity or deep uncertainty, it is imperative that we embrace the uncertainty…We need to be available to fact-check the stories that team members may be making up, because in scarcity we invent worse case scenarios.”

Your words are powerful. Simply by what you say and how you say it, you can create fear and uncertainty. By what you say and how you say it, you can also reflect the love you have experienced in and through Jesus. 

God’s Word of Love

I think of this way: God’s word of love and grace was made real in Jesus.  So, Jesus is God’s encouraging word to us. As a Jesus follower, it makes sense to me that our words would reflect that same love and grace. That our words would be words of kindness, compassion, and encouragement. 

So, just as in Jesus, we find the embodiment of God’s love and grace, the people we lead should have the same love and grace in us. Remember, it is Jesus who said, “it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles…” 

Your Next Step

This week take the time to do the following:

1. Allow God’s Word, Jesus, to take up residence in your life. 

2. Think of someone who needs a good word. A word of encouragement. A word of care and support.

3. Then, either through email, text, phone call, etc. become a word of love and grace, a word of encouragement and care through the words you speak. When you do, it will be Jesus who comes out.

You Are Only As Good as Your Word

Remember, you are only as good as your word. Who you are is how you lead. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

Check out LeaderCast. This week Sara Thomas and I are 71 Ways to Add Play to Your Day. We don’t discuss all 71.  We don’t even read them to you. But we do have fun discussing several of them as a way of adding play to your daily living. Tune in and listen to Episode 188: 71 Ways to Add Play to Your Day.  To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

We all experience times of uncertainty and anxiety. To whom do you turn when you experience those moments? Who is your go-to person? Is it a mentor, a coach, a counselor, a colleague, or a friend? To whom do you turn when you need someone to journey with you through the difficult moments of life? 

Hope for the Future

In the past two months, I have received phone calls from persons I have not seen in years. Each person needed someone to walk with them through a particular crisis.  

One confessed a long-time battle with depression and needed someone to listen. Another was facing life-changing surgery and needed assurance to step into whatever the future might be.  And still, another was experiencing grief in the unexpected death of a family member. 

In listening, I discovered that each person needed someone to come alongside them. They were looking to be lifted above the anxiety of the moment. Each one needed assistance navigating the barriers of uncertainty. They needed someone to journey with them to the place they felt they could take their next step with confidence, trusting whatever was ahead.  In my thinking, each person was seeking some hope for the future. 

Walking in Hope

I am in contact with each of them weekly. Out of love and appreciation for each of them, I continue to walk with them. I have the opportunity to ask about therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, and a grieving process. My questions are based upon what each person has said they would do to get to a place of stability. I have the privilege of walking with them, offering what care and support I can, to assist them to reach a place of hope. 

Friends Who Carry You

In the second chapter of Mark, there is a story of a man who was paralyzed. His friends were convinced if they could get him to Jesus, he could be healed of his paralysis. When they arrived at the place where Jesus was teaching, so many people had gathered, they couldn’t even get close to Jesus. How could they carry him through the crowd? 

Did they give up? Not according to the story. Can you imagine the conversation? One of the friends says, “Let’s lower him from the ceiling.” Another says, “We would have to go up on the roof to do that.” And another says, “I like it. Let’s do it.” 

If it was like most houses in that part of the world, the roof was flat. It might have even been a place where people could sit during the day or in the evening. I can see them carrying their friend to the roof and beginning to remove the roof floor. Their goal was to get him to Jesus. So, when they made an opening large enough, they lowered their friend on his mat to the feet of Jesus. It is when Jesus saw their faith that the healing began. 

Filled with Hope

Wow! A man who could not move on his own had friends who came alongside him. The goal was to get him to Jesus who could help him move on his own again. So, they pick him up and carry him to Jesus.  On their way, they faced several obstacles. The first obstacle was the crowd was so big they could not get to Jesus. 

They did not give up and sit the man down. They found a way around the crowd. They lifted their friend above the obstacle of the crowd and carried him to the roof.  It was there they faced their second obstacle. They would have to make a hole in the roof. So, they did.   

They reached their goal by lowering their friend, on his mat, to the feet of Jesus. When Jesus saw that they lived out their faith by coming alongside and assisting the man who could not move on his own, healing and hope came to the man. He was able to move on his own again. 

Times of Uncertainty

We all experience times of uncertainty and anxiety. Times when we feel paralyzed. We don’t know what to do. At times, even afraid to make a move because we are so uncertain. My question is, “to whom do you turn when you experience those moments? Who is your go-to person? To whom do you turn when you need someone to journey with you through the difficult moments of life? 

Your One Person

To be an effective and courageous leader, you need at least one person you can trust to walk with you through the moments when you are paralyzed, and you can’t make a move on your own. Moments when you are:

  • So totally preoccupied with your own uncertainty, pain, and anxiety that you can’t see beyond what you are facing.   
  • So weary that you want to do anything other than what you are doing.
  • Feeling like there is no future and that things are not going to get any better.
  • So overwhelmed that you want someone to care but no one is there.
  • Feeling like you have lost control of your life, your work, or your family.
  • Feeling your prayers are going nowhere
  • Thinking that your experience does not match what you have been taught about God. 

Who is Your Person?

To some of you, the above sounds overly dramatic. To others of you, you have been hanging on, hoping (wishful thinking) to get through today and that tomorrow might be better. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  As a leader, you need at least one person you can trust to walk with you through these moments of uncertainty and anxiety. You might have had different persons for different stages of your life.  Today, who is your go-to person? 

Embody Grace

Several years ago, I faced a time of uncertainty so great that I could not see beyond myself or the moment of pain I was experiencing. I was uncertain about the future. I felt hurt, confused, and alone. It was at the moment of my greatest distress, a colleague and friend stepped in to help me face my future. I was not offered a lot of sympathy or unrealistic platitudes. I don’t ever remember hearing the words, “Call me if you need me.” What I do remember hearing was, “You know where to find me.” 

What I got was a person of faith, a Jesus follower, who allowed me to be me at the moment of my greatest need. She created a space for me to talk about my anxiety, disappointments, pain, and fear.  Although there were times she did not agree with my assessments, she never passed judgment. She listened compassionately and at appropriate times would ask me the questions I needed to answer for clarity and healing.  She offered Christ to me by becoming the embodiment of God’s grace.  I began to trust that I was not alone in my uncertainty. 

A New Story

The space created and the grace offered allowed me to move beyond the moments of my anxiety to see new possibilities.  I began to look beyond what I had experienced and to create a new story for myself.

I began to heal.  My friend provided several ways for me to put into practice the new possibilities that began to emerge.  Plans for reflection, prayer, and conversation.  She challenged me to look beyond myself to see what new things God might be doing in my life and in the lives of the people around me.  I was invited to put my faith into action by looking beyond myself. 

I believe it was at that point that I began to rediscover God’s desire to use me to make a difference in the places I encountered the people God wanted me to love.  It was through the engagement of this colleague and friend in my life, this Jesus follower, that helped me see the hope in the midst of my uncertainty. There were no easy answers.  In fact, there were no answers at all. 

She came alongside me at the moment of great anxiety, embodied God’s love, and journeyed with me through difficult moments. She helped me see what God might have in store for the future.  She was an instrument of God’s hope in the midst of my uncertainty. 

Who is Your Go-To Person?

So, who is your go-to person in the midst of uncertainty and anxiety? 

This week, contact that person. Have an informal conversation about how you are feeling and thinking about things. At the very least, let them know how much you appreciate them and their caring support. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

Check out LeaderCast. This week Sara Thomas and I have a conversation with Sam Heaton about his experience of leading, loving, and living as a follower of Jesus in the midst of seasons filled with change. Tune in and listen to Episode 187: Sabbath, Technology, and Fun in Ministry. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

What Happened to Play?

Do you remember the days when you stayed outside all day to play? Whether it was riding your bike or swimming, playing hide and seek, kick the can, wiffle ball, or other games with neighborhood friends, there was plenty to do and not enough hours to get it all done. You only came in when it was time to eat supper or to get a big drink of water.  

Do you remember staying out after dark on those late summer evenings? Lying on the grass, looking at the stars, and telling scary stories? Those times usually came a few days before going back to school where you would join another set of friends for learning and play.  

What happened to those days? The days when it was normal to play. When we made up games and used our imaginations to experience worlds limited only by what we could invent in our minds.

Shifting from Play to Work

Honestly, I think those days are still with us. But something happens when we become adults. We shift our priorities into organized, competitive, goal-directed activities. If an activity doesn’t teach us a skill, make us money, or further our social connections, we see it as frivolous or nonproductive.

Even the demands of daily living and family responsibilities seem to rob us of the ability to play.  Yet, it is often members of the family who desire our play more than anyone else. 

Maybe it is time to renew ourselves as leaders and start playing more.  Maybe the time has come to incorporate play into everything we do.  Now, my intention is not to add play to an overcrowded schedule of activities, but to integrate play into those activities. 

Stuart Brown in his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, writes, “I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.

Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, writes, “Play is an absorbing, apparently purposeless activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of self-consciousness and sense of time. It is also self-motivating and makes you want to do it again.”

What Happens Without Play

We tend to underestimate the power of play. Imagine a world without it. There would be no games or sports. No movies, music, jokes, or dramatic stories. No daydreaming, no teasing, no flirting. We would be without the one thing that lifts us out of the routine of the mundane and offers a means of joy in the little things.

According to Brown, adults who continue to explore and learn throughout life, who engage in an intentional cognitive activity like puzzles, word games, reading, etc., are less susceptible to dementia and less likely to get heart disease. The people who stay sharp and interesting as they age are the ones who continue to play at work.

Integrating Play and Work

When we stop playing, we stop growing, and our energy for life and for leadership vanishes. So, what are we to do? To help you become the leader you have been created to be, reflect on the following:  

  • Play and work are mutually supportive. Play is neither the opposite of work nor is playing the enemy of work. One cannot thrive without the other. 
  • As important as your work is, play is just as important. You have learned to be serious when it comes to work. But the sense of flow, imagination, and energy of being in the moment is often time provided by play. Don’t squelch the fun of work. 
  • The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both, you are creating new relationships, skills, and situations. Too often, an overwhelming sense of responsibility and competitiveness buries your need for variety and challenge. Recognizing your need for play will transform your work life.
  • Play helps you deal with difficulties, handle challenges, and tolerate routines and emotions such as boredom or frustration. Play provides what is needed for the creative process.

Ideas to Integrate Play and Work

Here are a few ideas for incorporating play into your leadership. You’ll notice none of them require having a pool table, workout room, or playing silly games. It’s simply about recognizing what is enjoyable, interesting, and part of your team culture.

  • When someone has a birthday, splurge and buy party hats. Or, make it a habit to sing happy birthday to a different tune for each birthday.
  • Leave an encouraging note on a colleague’s desk written on fun paper.
  • Decorate a cubicle with diapers and containers of baby wipes for the new parent on your team.
  • Ask someone what made them laugh in the last 24 hours. You’ll likely be laughing right along with them.
  • Host a themed potluck lunch (Mexican, Italian, dessert only, etc)
  • Take a 15-minute stress break – go outside for a walk together, toss a football or baseball on the green space, challenge teams to a water balloon toss, stand up & stretch and share a win for the day without saying the project you’re working on.
  • Pass a card around that says “High Five.” When it arrives on your desk, it’s your turn to celebrate the good work you’ve witnessed in someone else.
  • Turn on music and dance.

As you can see, there are things you can do to have fun that do not cost money. Obviously, that list isn’t exhaustive. Add to the list by reflecting on the culture, interests, and passions of the people you’re leading. Laugh, relax, and have fun together. Most of all, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be – it will ruin the fun!

Why Play?

I think most of us would agree that play outside of work is essential.  That is why some of you would say, “I work hard, and I play hard.” Whether it be sports, games, family activities, or community functions, we give it our all. What we might not agree upon is our need to integrate play into our work. Play, as a part of work, energizes, helps us to see new patterns, sparks curiosity, and encourages new directions.

Play also:

•Helps us deal with work problems. A playful attitude gives people emotional distance to see the reality of situations and issues and the space to respond appropriately.  

•Brings us closer to one another. It provides an opportunity to be authentic, to accept others for who they are, and to act fairly. When our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, we learn to work for the good of others. 

•Facilitates cooperative socialization and nourishes trust, empathy, caring, and sharing.  Playfulness leads to imagination, inventiveness, and dreams. It is in the midst of playfulness we often discover new solutions to problems.

Stuart Brown writes, “Play is what allows us to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination, and culture. When we play right, all areas of our lives go better. When we ignore play, we start having problems.”

Play and Work

If the only image that’s coming into your mind is a pool table, workout room, or silly games, let me

Your Turn

What might you do to incorporate a little play into your leadership? In whatever form play might take for you, become the courageous and effective leader you are created to be. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week Sara Thomas and I talk about “play.” Tune in and listen to Episode 186: Why Play? To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

What do you do to relax? When you disconnect from work, what helps refresh your mind, renew your spirit, and refocus your attitude?  Do you engage in certain relaxation exercises? Do you participate in specific activities? How do you relax?

When I was asked that question recently, I thought of a long-time friend who says, “I work hard, and I play hard.” I have often compared myself to him when it comes to rest, relaxation, and play. He has been an effective leader and fruitful pastor, as well as an avid golfer and successful hunter. I have admired both his work and his play. Although I believe I have worked as hard as he has, I confess I have not played as hard. What I have learned is what my friend says is true for him but not necessarily for me.  

What do you do to relax?

As I thought of the question, I responded to the person asking, “I don’t have a hobby. I don’t hunt, fish, or golf. I really don’t do anything to relax.” Then the person challenged me by saying, “When you think about it, you might find you do more than you realize to rest and relax.”

At that point, I began to take a little inventory. I discovered that even though I don’t engage in some of the activities enjoyed by others, I do have several relaxation practices that work well for me. 

What does time off look like?

As I write this blog, I am preparing for a vacation. When I am asked where I’m going or what I’m doing on my vacation, I usually respond by saying, “I’m not going anywhere, and I hope to do nothing.” Again, I have compared myself to colleagues and friends when it comes to vacations. I know that there are places to go and monuments to see, but when I disconnect from work, I don’t want to replace work activities with another set of activities. Unless I am going to a beach or sitting by a pool, I am satisfied to sit on my patio. For me, I don’t have to have an elaborate itinerary to be on vacation and to relax. 

Questions to consider

So, when I was taking my rest and relaxation inventory, I asked myself this question, “Where have I experienced joy and peace in my life?” This is what I discovered: 

Memorable Experiences

One of my most memorable experiences of joy and peace was on, of all places, a golf course. Although I grew up golfing, it is not a relaxing activity for me. But on one occasion, I was golfing with my mother. It was one of the last times I was totally present with her before she became ill. Through that experience, I discovered that what brought me joy and peace was being present with someone I loved and not an activity in which I participated.  

Another memorable experience of joy and peace was on a lake, fishing with my son. Although I grew up fishing, it is not a relaxing activity for me. Yet, on this occasion, I experienced deep joy and peace watching and listening to him. I marveled at how he maneuvered his boat, his reasoning regarding where we should fish, the number of fish he caught as I listened to his dreams and hopes. I have not been fishing since that Father’s Day fifteen years ago, but I would go with him again just for the joy and peace I experienced that day. Again, I discovered that what brought me joy was not the activity in which I was engaged, but the person with whom I shared the experience.

What brings you joy?

I love baseball. l grew up listening and watching the Cincinnati Reds. As a young boy, I dreamed of going to Crosley Field, and later Riverfront Stadium. You can imagine how excited I was when I moved to Cincinnati and lived within 6 miles of Great American Ballpark. Although I could attend a ballgame any time I wanted, I did not go to many games. What I discovered, even though I loved the activity, it was not the activity that brought joy or peace. The games I enjoyed the most were games I attended with family or friends. Regardless of whether the Reds won or lost, what brought joy and peace was the interaction I had with the people I enjoyed and appreciated.  Even today, when I am watching a game on television or listening to a game on the radio, I enjoy the activity so much more when I am in a texting conversation with a friend, who is also watching or listening to the game. What I have discovered is, even with activities I like, it is the relationship with people I love and appreciate that brings joy and peace.

It is not so much the activities that bring me joy and peace as it is the people with whom I interact. I learned I find joy, peace, and relaxation with people who are special to me. Persons for whom I am grateful, who bring depth and richness to me as a person.  I discovered that there are individuals who bring an “at oneness” into my life. When I am with them, regardless of the activity, I experience wholeness and joy. 

What provides peace and relaxation?

But that is not all I discovered.  I do participate in some activities that provide peace and relaxation. Activities like: (Below are three)

Reading

Up until recently, I read books and material to help with sermon preparation, leadership development, or some other professional task or goal.  It was all good but did little to bring a sense of peace, joy, or relaxation.  Most recently, I started reading more for enjoyment as opposed to work. I have discovered a sense of excitement and renewal when I read for pleasure.  

Listening to music

I have always enjoyed music, but I have discovered that certain types of music at times provide relaxation and rest. Sometimes I find relaxation in listening to vocal music, whether it be hymns, show tunes, opera, or pop. At other times, I find relaxation in listening to instrumental music like the piano, the violin, or the orchestra. I wish I could tell you what works best for me. At this point, what I know is listening to music brings relaxation and rest. 

Walking

Eighteen months ago, I began to walk every day. I started walking to lose weight. When I reached my goal, I continued to walk because it helped me reflect and focus. What I especially enjoy is walking with a friend or a colleague. It is that “at oneness” again. I am refreshed and renewed when I walk, and I am enriched when I walk with those whom I enjoy. 

By taking a few minutes to focus and reflect upon what I do to rest and relax, I discovered I am most relaxed when I am at one with myself and when I am interacting with people whom I love and appreciate. The activities are good and necessary, but they are a means to my relaxation and not the cause of my relaxation.

Your Turn

So, what do you do to relax? When you disconnect from work, what helps refresh your mind, renew your spirit, and refocus your attitude?

I’m guessing you already have an idea. But, this week, I want you to take a few minutes to reflect and focus upon what you do to relax. Ask yourself these questions:

1. Where have I experienced joy and peace in my life?

2. Who are the people with whom I experience wholeness and joy?

3. When am I my most relaxed?  

4. With what I am learning, what will I do this week to relax? 

Now, in whatever form it takes for you, relax. You will become a more courageous and effective leader. Remember, who you are is how you lead.  

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week, 9 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Tune in and listen to Episode 185: Best Wisdom on Rest, Relaxation, and Play. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

What are you doing to relax this week? 

I am not asking about your day off or your vacation. I am asking about what you are doing to reduce the stress and tension you experience off and on each day? Have you built in time for rest and relaxation? Have you taken time to breathe deeply and to refocus?

We all want to be the best we can be, but we cannot be our best if we do not take time to rest and relax. Research from the National Institute of Health links relaxation to healthy benefits like greater focus and concentration as well as improved problem-solving and memory. There is even evidence that relaxation leads to deeper and more meaningful relationships. As a leader, it is important to build rest and relaxation into your everyday living. 

Stress and Anxiety

You already know that being stressed out and anxious is not good for your health and that checking out of meetings is not helpful in leading people toward your ultimate goal. How many times have you heard that you should get a good night’s rest so you can face the next day? My guess is you know these things and being reminded of them is not always helpful. So, why not build in a few moments of relaxation into your day? 

As you think about whether you can or will add a little relaxation to your everyday living, here a few things to consider:

Leading effectively is hard work.

To do it well requires that you be alert, present, and thinking clearly. It requires energy and stamina. Stress and tension will not get there. Relaxation will.

You want to be the best leader you can be. The people entrusted to your care need and deserve your best leadership. Ask yourself, “I’m the best leader I can be without rest and relaxation? 

Navigating Stress and Tension

There is always going to be some stress and tension, but the right amounts at the right times can and will help you develop as a leader. You will grow and benefit more when you are relaxed, present in the moment, focused, and thinking clearly.

Find Potential

Leading effectively means you are finding the potential in people and helping them to develop that potential. Your job is to help them be who God has created them to be, so why would you put all the pressure and stress on yourself? It is not only about you. You are surrounded by people who want to learn and grow. Your stress will not help develop their potential. So, relax and enjoy the people God has put in your path. 

Your Work & Your Health

Your work is important, but not as important as your health. There are unhealthy physical conditions brought about by stress and tension. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension). It is a medical fact that a lack of relaxation can and does lead to heart, stomach, muscle, and emotional problems. Stress and tension have even led to dental problems. Time for rest and relaxation keeps you physically fit for the work you are created to do.

Observations of Leaders

People are watching you and how you lead. They are watching to see what they should be doing. Do they see a stressed-out overworked leader or a relaxed clear-thinking fun to be around leader? Are you stressing them out or are you leading the way to healthy and effective leadership?

I know this will sound strange and counterintuitive, but have you considered that slowing down so you can be the leader who is needed now? Who you are is how you lead. Below are five activities to help you slow down. Any one of these will help you rest and relax as well assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. 

1. Pray and Reflect

A pattern of prayer and reflection, with a focus on stillness and breathing, creates a sense of calm, peace, and balance that impacts your emotional well-being and overall health. Even if it is five minutes a day, it is one way that leads to relaxation. 

There is no “right” time to practice prayer and reflection but taking time in the morning to center your thoughts in prayer or making time in the evening for reflection, has worked well for me over most of my ministry.

2. Get outside

Being in nature helps to clear your head and improve your outlook on specific situations and on life in general. In a study conducted by the University of Essex, it was found that adults could lower their stress levels by simply looking at pictures of nature. Imagine how helpful it can be to experience nature firsthand by simply walking outside. 

Next time you are having difficulty staying present or hit a wall with a project, get outside and take a walk. Become aware of the air. Feel the breeze. Soak in the sunshine. Take notice of the colors. Listen to the sounds. Just a few minutes outside has rejuvenating benefits and boosts your mental energy. 

3. Exercise

Exercise helps control weight, improves mental health, boosts your mood, and increases your chances of living longer, while also building the strength of your bones and muscles. You experience a more restful sleep at night and less nervous energy during the day. To say it another way, physical activity makes you healthier and helps you release stress. It helps you become the best version of yourself. 

I know some of you have gym memberships and you exercise regularly. I know others of you feel like you do not have the time to exercise. Just know, a short walk three or four times a week has significant health and attitude benefits. The more exercise you add, and the time you permit yourself to exercise, the healthier you will be.

4. Take a break

Well-planned breaks can help you relax, lower blood pressure, and assist you in becoming a more effective leader. Just a 10-minute break when you step away from your computer, set down your phone, step outside, take a walk, talk with a friend, or get a drink of water helps your brain rest, switch gears, and restore your concentration and focus. 

I know it sounds simplistic, but a short break is a form of relaxation that provides renewed focus and greater energy, especially if you are having difficulty staying awake when you need to focus and be present in the moment. 

5. Focus on what brings you joy

Joy-filled activity helps to slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and decrease your stress level. When you focus upon your joy you are giving your senses a chance to rest and recharge.

Your Health & Multitasking

Too often, without thinking about it, you engage multiple senses in multimedia formats. Sometimes multitasking is not a healthy exercise, because before you realize it, you are on visual and information overload. There is power in simply slowing down to experience and enjoy the moment, especially if you are focusing upon what brings you joy. 

Whether it be listening to music, reading a book, interacting with your children, or in conversation with your spouse or a good friend, the focus upon what brings you joy brings a sense of peace and relaxation. 

Intentionally scheduling moments of relaxation could be the very thing that frees you to become the leader you are created to be. Schedule one relaxation exercise this week and add another next week and another the next week. Try each one and discover what a difference they can make in your living and in your leadership. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

What Will You Do to Relax This Week?

So, relax and become a more courageous and effective leader. The questions are: what are you doing to relax this week? Which of the above activities will you incorporate in your leadership? 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. This week, 7 leaders are sharing their wisdom on rest, relaxation, and play. You’ll hear from 9 more next week. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

How well did you rest last night? I’m serious about asking the question. Research reveals that a good night’s rest leads to more effective leadership. It is not a secret that eight hours of sleep is the recommended amount. But I get it, responsibilities with work, family, and participation in social commitments and activities often consume more than 16 hours of your day.  Since you can’t add hours to the day, too often there aren’t enough hours left to get the rest you need each night. 

Christopher Barnes, writing for the Harvard Business Review, writes, “Insufficient rest leads to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity.” His research shows that sleep-deprived leaders hurt the people entrusted to their care as well themselves. When not rested and balanced in their judgement, they are more likely to create an atmosphere where people are marginalized, feel less engaged, and might even behave less ethically.

Make Rest a Priority

So, what do we do? Some of us have convinced ourselves that we function just fine on four or five hours of sleep a night. Others of us have grown accustomed to working late and getting up early. Still, some of us wear sleep deprivation as a badge of honor. Because we often understand leadership as an activity, we resist rest, or at the very least, don’t take rest seriously enough to make it a priority in our leadership.  

What we know is this, rest is an important key to effective and productive leadership. To say it another way, regular and adequate rest provides you a greater chance to be the courageous leader that is needed for today. It provides you with the opportunity to have the stamina to move through the different situations and circumstances of leadership. It also provides you a greater possibility of leaving a legacy that impacts people into the future. When you get the rest needed, you experience greater productivity, improved health, and more meaningful relationships. 

Rest Fuels Leadership

Just think about it for a moment. What could you accomplish or help others accomplish if rest and relaxation were priorities in your life? When you do too much without sufficient rest, you are in danger of becoming frustrated with the people around you. You can only pour into others what you have first received yourself. Rest allows you to better serve and influence the people entrusted to your care. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Below are four ideas to help you implement rest into your life:

1. Make rest a priority 

  • Schedule a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. Even if you don’t go to sleep at your designated bedtime, it is helpful in developing a pattern of rest. 
  • Turnoff or set aside all electronics. Give your eyes as well as your mind an opportunity to rejuvenate and reset.
  • Once you have scheduled a consistent bedtime, stay with your schedule. Give yourself the opportunity to establish a new pattern for rest and relaxation.

2. Make a list of who and what refreshes and recharges you

  • Spend quality time with your family. Be present with your spouse and children. The time you spend with your family will not only recharge you but will set a standard for the people around you. How you interact with your family tells others who and what you value in life. 
  • Deepen special relationships. Spending quality time with a close friend can bring rest to your life as well as refresh your soul. Time with people you love and appreciate is irreplaceable. These relationships are with people who love you for who you are and allow you to be yourself. They add energy instead of taking energy away. 
  • Do activities that you enjoy and like to do.  Whether it is a hobby, some form of recreation, taking a walk, reading a book, or taking a nap, schedule time for what you enjoy doing. You might include family or friends. Whatever you do, this is your time. It is what you enjoy and like to do.
  • Nourish your spirit. When you nourish your spiritual life, your outward life will thrive. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31).  Spending time with God, praying, reflecting, and meditating brings rest into our life.

3. Set aside time to reflect upon your day.

  • At the end of day, before bedtime, look back over the people and experiences of the day. Move from experience to experience. What opportunities did you take advantage of? What opportunities did you miss? What did you learn? Give God thanks for the people with whom you interacted and for what you have learned.
  • Make a note of the people who added value to your life. Are there people you want to thank for anything special? Individuals to whom you should apologize?  People to whom you should express your appreciation or care? This time provides an opportunity to learn the lessons that help you improve, but also provides an opportunity to clear your heart and mind of experiences that could keep you from a restful night. Looking back in reflection upon the day helps you gain clarity for looking ahead. 

4.Develop a balanced life.

  • As an effective and courageous leader, you need a healthy balance between your personal and professional life. It is not restful to take time off and continue to think about work or a task that needs to be accomplished. It is not fair to family or to friends to not be present when you are with them. Whether at work or at home, train yourself to be fully engaged in your present activity.
  • Rest requires being intentional and deliberate in disconnecting at appropriate times so you can be fully renewed and refreshed. 

Rediscover Rest

Rest allows you to rediscover the enthusiasm and energy you have for what you have been called to do. It is not only for your body, but for your mind and heart as well. When you include rest among your priorities, you will be a more effective leader who inspires better efforts of the people around you. Who you are is how you lead.

This week, what is one thing you will do to find the right rest rhythm for you? Will you set aside and protect the time for sleep? Will you find time to enjoy the relationship of a friend? Will you be intentional in setting aside time to reflect upon your day? How will you develop a balanced life which gives you an opportunity for the rest and relaxation you need to be an effective leader? 

Your Next Step

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I present some ways you might rest, relax, and play. Join us for Episode 183 to Explore What Makes Rest & Relaxation Possible. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past Episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

We are living in a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. It is a critical time in the life of our country, our communities, and our churches. It is a time that calls for courageous leadership. This is the time for you to be the leader you were created to be. To step up and be the leader needed for this time, you must be in tune with yourself, because who you are is how you lead. 

A Few Reminders

We are in a two-part series on Leading Through Racial Unrest. In part one, you were asked to reflect upon the question, “How did I first learn about race?” You were asked that question because much of the way we view the events that take place around us and what we believe about the people with whom we interact has been shaped by the attitudes and behaviors of the people in our lives. So, to recognize your condition, or why you believe what you believe, or react the way you react is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. 

In part one we explored an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers. What we know is the reality of racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races. It comes through the differences of cultures and politics. It comes through the assumptions we make about one another. It comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

If you want to catch up quickly, you can read Part One or you can take a few minutes to do the following: Answer this question: “How did I first learn about race?” Write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory?

Am I Willing?

Now, after you have an understanding of what racism is and how you first learned about race, you have another question to answer regarding leading courageously in and through racial and social unrest. It is the most important question regarding your leadership. The question is, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?” Let me be clear, if your answer is “no”, there is no reason to continue reading this blog. If your answer is “yes”, then continue reading to become the leader needed for this time and place in history. 

With what you have learned or are learning about your condition is key to our hope in addressing the evil of racism. If you are ready and willing to be transformed by the love of God, read on. 

Biblical Foundations

My point in writing this next section is to lay a biblical foundation for courageous leadership. I am not writing to present a political point of view or to debate the meaning of certain passages of scripture. It is simply to lay a foundation for you and for me to answer the question, “Am I willing to be transformed by the love of God?”

There are several things we know beyond any doubt. Things that are not even debatable. Each statement is found in the scripture and is plain in its meaning. There are many passages throughout the bible. 

Old Testament 

Here are just three passages from the Old Testament:

  • Every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
  • When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34)
  • Be careful when you pass judgment. You aren’t dispensing justice by merely human standards but for the Lord, who is with you. Therefore, respect the Lord and act accordingly, because there can be no injustice, playing favorites (II Chronicles 19:6-7).

New Testament

In the New Testament, every chance Jesus gets, he says and shows that every person matters to God and is a person of worth. Regardless of who the person is or what the person has done, he teaches and demonstrates that all people are equal in the sight of God. 

We have stories throughout the gospels of Jesus demonstrating the love of God. Do you remember the conversation he had with the woman from Samaria? She was at the well to draw water. Jesus asks her for a drink. She is the one who points out the racial divide. She says to Jesus, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink when Jews don’t associate with Samaritans?” Before the conversation is over Jesus has given her hope that will change her life. Why? Because Jesus will not let a racial divide keep anyone from hearing the good news of God’s grace. He will not allow a racial divide to get in the way of loving people. 

Jesus Bridges Racial Divide

Jesus was and still is the bridge of the great racial divide on this earth. Read the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 2:14-20). Paul tells the people in Ephesus that Christ broke down the racial barriers on the cross. His statement came in the midst of a deep racial divide between Jews and Gentiles. The Jews hated the Gentiles. They called Gentiles dogs. They saw Gentiles as less than human. The Gentiles felt the same way about the Jews. They saw themselves as superior in culture and in language over the Jews. 

These two groups of people, who hated each other, God brought together to be the Church. It was the experience of God’s love that brought hope in the midst of hatred. Jesus taught love for all people. He demonstrated love for all people. His love was greater than human differences. The presence of God’s love in Jesus, lived out in and through the people called the church, was greater than historical, social, cultural, and racial differences. 

Our Hope is in Jesus

Where is our hope as a country? As a culture? As a Church? It is in the love of God found in Jesus. He is the bridge over the great racial divide in which you and I live today. 

I just heard one of you scoff. I just heard you say, “this is not realistic.” I want you to hear me clearly, God’s love for God’s creation is the only way we have not attempted to answer the racial divide we face today.

The Answer is NOT…

The answer to racism is not in the political workings of a nation, though politics are important to getting things done. Political leverage has never transformed a heart. It has shaped attitudes and behaviors to the extent we get what we want. It creates lots of rhetoric and even incites fear, but the political power and persuasion of groups of people is not the answer to racism. If it was the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about our laws. Laws about equality are good, but laws don’t transform hearts. Jesus transforms hearts. Jesus can take a heart of hate and make it a heart of love. Jesus can bring enemies together to start a movement that transforms the world. Laws do not start such movements. In fact, many laws try to keep such movements from getting started. If laws were the answer to racism, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. 

The answer to racism is not about training. Even though it is wonderful and each of us needs the training to respect and understand difference , to be empathetic, to not put people down or dismiss them, to understand different cultures, and to be tolerant of others, our hope is not in the training. Our hope is not even about tolerance. It is not about good behavior. Hear me, both are important and are needed. If training were the answer, we would not be living with the racial unrest we experience today. The answer is in the living and loving transforming power of Jesus Christ. 

Are you willing?

To move forward, my question is still the same, “Are you willing to be transformed by the love of God?” 

As Jesus followers, we know that the way to life is the way of love. Because love is the way, then leading through racial unrest is based upon allowing ourselves to be loved by God in and through the people around us. To love God and to love your neighbor are related to understanding yourself being loved. No matter who you are or what you think and do, you are loved. It is God’s decision to love, so if God loves you and all the people around you, then love yourself and all the people too. 

Bishop Michael Curry, in his book The Power of Love, writes that loving God and loving neighbor are based on a conviction that God knows what God “is talking about.” With that conviction he tells the following story:

I was a parish priest in Baltimore, and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was probably three years old. My wife went off to teach school, and I think our oldest daughter went off with her. It was up to me to take the young one to nursery school. So, I said, “Elizabeth, I need you to go and put your raincoat on.”

And she looks back at me, at three years old now. Mind you, I am the rector of St. James Church, the third oldest African American church in the Episcopal Church. A historic church, the church that gave you Thurgood Marshall and Pauli Murray. Yes, this is a serious church, and I’m the rector talking to this little three-year-old person. I said, “Elizabeth, go put your raincoat on.” And she said, “Why?”

I said, “Because it’s going to rain.” She ran to the window in the living room, and looked out the window and said, “But it’s not raining outside. I said, “I know that, but it’s gonna rain later.” She said, “Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain.” I said, “I know Mommy didn’t say it was gonna rain, but Al Roker on the Today show said it was gonna rain.” I tried to explain to her about weather forecasting, and showed her the newspaper. And I finally said, “Why am I doing all this? Elizabeth, just go and put your raincoat on!”

She actually thought she knew better than I did. I spent more time in seminary than she’s even been on the earth. And she actually thought she knew more than I did. And it occurred to me that must be what we look like to God. 

Bishop Curry continues, “I have this fantasy of God putting his hands on his cosmic hips and just saying, ‘They are so cute! They think they know so much, but don’t they know that I was the one that called this world into being in the first place? Don’t they know that I created the vast expanse of interstellar space? Don’t they know that I told old Moses, Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land, and you tell old Pharaoh, let my people go? Don’t they know that I’m the author of freedom? Don’t they know that I’m the creator of justice? Don’t they know that I’m the God of love? Don’t they know that I came down as Jesus to show them the way of love, to show them the way to life, to show them how to live together? Don’t they know how much I love them?’” 

God’s Transforming Love

On the day of Pentecost, God’s love was fully proclaimed and experienced. People were filled with the Holy Spirit. Another way of saying this is, people were filled with God’s presence and God’s power or by God’s transforming love. 

People from every nation under heaven were gathered. It was the greatest ethic, racial, and cultural division to ever gather. And the coming of the Holy Spirit, God’s transforming love, on that day brought unity to the greatest diversity imaginable. 

The answer to racism that day, on the day of Pentecost was the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The answer to racism today is the Holy Spirit. God’s holy presence and power. God’s transforming love. 

The Same Love

We are the church, the body of Christ, the bringers of the love of God to a racially divided world. The same love that came to us in a baby, the same love that was shown to us on a cross, the same love that came in and through the Holy Spirit. 

So, are you willing to be transformed by the love of God? You were created to lead at such a time as this. As a Jesus follower filled with the love of God, you are what the love of God looks like in the 21st century. You are the answer to racism. By God’s grace, you can lead a movement of Jesus followers who will change the world. Filled with God’s love, you are a bringer of hope in the midst of racial unrest. Who you are is how you lead!

Your Next Step

This week, what is one thing you will do to show the love of God? Who will you contact? What action will you take? If you are unsure, contact me. It is the greatest joy of my life to introduce you to God’s transforming love in Jesus and get you started on the path of putting an end to racism.

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I present some ways you might rest, relax, and play. Join us for Episode 182 for a fun episode about Ingredients for Joy and Meaning. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

It has been a while since I checked in with you.  How are you doing? You have done well leading through a difficult time. I have said it before and I believe it today, you were created to lead in such a time as this. 

Which brings me to the question, “How have you been leading during racial unrest?” I’m curious. I am learning that each of us leads in different ways. Some believe that the less said the better. Others believe that they should call out racism when they see it. Some dismiss racism saying, “this too shall pass,” while others have difficult conversations. How have you been leading people to respond to racial and social unrest? 

We may be coming to the end of the COVID pandemic, but we are not coming to the end of racism. The day I am writing this blog is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

The Tulsa Race Massacre

My guess is that you are just learning about this event in our history. I say that based upon my own experience.  I did not read or hear about the massacre in high school. It was only after I was in college, as a Social Studies major, that I heard about it. And at that time, it was still called the Tulsa race riots.  

Just to refresh your memory, on May 31, 1921, a white mob marched into the predominantly Black Tulsa neighborhood of Greenwood, known as Black Wall Street, and set fire to businesses, homes, and churches. Over 300 black lives were lost, thousands of people were left homeless, 35 blocks of the city were burned, all within an 18-hour period. For many years there were no public ceremonies, memorials for the dead, or any efforts to remember the events of the massacre. In fact, until recent years, the event was not even taught in Oklahoma classrooms. 

How are you leading?

How do you lead in that kind of racial and social unrest and denial? I know that it takes some courage to even talk about race and the differences that have kept so many of us apart as human beings. But I think courageous leadership can be shown in another way which might bring about the deep change that is so desperately needed.  This week we will look at our condition. Next week we will look at our hope. 

Our Condition

Let’s start with our condition. An honest look at current reality will help you lead effectively with conviction and courage.  

What do we know? We know that racism is the belief that:

  1. Human beings can be divided into separate and exclusive biological entities.
  2. These exclusive biological entities possess distinct characteristics, abilities or qualities, that distinguish them as inferior or superior to one another. 
  3. These exclusive biological entities are inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, as well as other cultural and behavioral characteristics.
  4. The systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantages of another racial group

In other words, racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism, in our attitudes and actions, toward people who are different in ethnicity or race. Our attitudes and actions are usually rooted in the idea we are superior to those who are different. 

What else do we know?

We know that as Jesus followers, we believe:

  1. Racism in all its forms is sinful (James 2:1, 8-9)
  2. Racism goes against God’s design for the world. All of us belong to the family of God, we have a high calling to love other people as Christ has loved (John 13:34-35)
  3. Every person is created in the image of God and is worthy of our deep respect.
  4. When we treat anyone as lesser than anyone else, we simply are not in line with the gospel of Jesus.
  5. When we see life through the lens of God, every person we see is loved by God and equal in the sight of God.

The Reality of Racism

Even with an understanding of what racism is and what we believe as Jesus followers, the reality is racism is perpetuated in powerful ways. It comes through the clash of nations and races, the differences between cultures and politics. It also comes through the assumptions we make about one another.  Finally, it comes through the experiences we have and the teaching and modeling we have received from those who have gone before us. Racism is passed on when we teach our children what to believe about race. 

To understand our condition and to lead courageously in and through racial and social unrest, it is helpful to know how you first learned about race. What attitudes, actions, or events have shaped your life and ideas?   

South Pacific

As you think back upon your life experiences, let me tell you about the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific”. The issue of racial prejudice was explored through the musical. 

One song in particular created a controversy. It was sung by the character, Lieutenant Joe Cable, a United States Marine. He was in love with Liat, a young Tonkinese woman. Yes, he explored his fears of what might happen if he married her.  He struggled with his own racism. Lieutenant Joe Cable is able to overcome it sufficiently to love Liat, but not enough to take her home. He said, “Racism is not born in you, it happens after you are born.” Then he sings: 

You’ve got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You’ve got to be taught

From year to year,

It’s got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a different shade,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

The production of South Pacific was almost cancelled because of this one song. Written in 1949, based upon the book, Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener, the producers were told to remove the song, or the production would not go forward. Rodgers and Hammerstein defended the song. They had a story to tell, so they built the musical around the song and its implications. Even if it meant the failure of the production, the song was going to stay in the musical.

Is the Song Correct?

Think about it.

Is the song correct?

Is racism taught?

How did you learn about race when you were growing up? Are you able to trace back to when, how, and by whom you were taught? Your understanding of yourself, attitudes, thoughts, and actions regarding race is important to you being the courageous leader needed to navigate the racial unrest of our day. 

This week, to better understand your current reality and to navigate the obstacles of racial unrest, reflect upon this question, “How did I first learn about race?” Set aside a few minutes to write your thoughts down so that you can get a clear understanding of your first awareness and learnings. What experiences do you remember? Who was involved? What happened to leave an impact upon your memory? 

Recognizing Your Condition

Recognizing your condition is essential to leading courageously in the midst of racial and social unrest. You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Who you are is how you lead. Will you step into this opportunity to explore who you are in relationship to the people around you? 

We will continue this discussion in next week’s blog. We will explore our hope in part two of “Leading Through Racial Unrest.”

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.   

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Amy Burgess, Rosie Red, is our guest are we explore the theme of “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” Join us for Episode 181. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

People are ready to resume the social interactions they missed during the pandemic. They are yearning to get back to the groups and activities that brought meaning to their lives. They have rediscovered the importance of relationships and are ready to fill the void that has been created.   

Because of this longing to reestablish relationships, you are at a critical point in your leadership. You have an opportunity to step into this void and to nurture community. So, how will you lead? 

Relationships are Essential for Community

I know there are several alternatives, but the reality is you will either slide into the way things were before the pandemic or you will nurture people into new relationships. You will either allow people to close their circle of influence or you will lead them into deeper and broader interactions in their neighborhoods, towns, and cities. So, how will you lead? 

As you are thinking about it, remember that community is about the interrelatedness of people. It’s about belonging to something larger than ourselves. It helps people say, “I am a valued part of this body and have contributions to make”. The essence of community is a feeling of being in relationship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals centered in Jesus. 

Three Aspects of Community

This interrelatedness is seen in three aspects of community:

Connection

Nurturing communities facilitate connections between people. They are the places that help you develop relationships with others on several levels. There are immediate, superficial connections that cause you to look around the room and ask, “Who here is like me?” And on a deeper level, you connect with people around your stage of life, life experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. When you experience connection with other people, you know you belong to something bigger than yourself.

Contribution

Nurturing communities invite you to make a contribution. Your connection leads to contributing to the community with your skills, gifts, and passions. Through your contribution, you are saying, “I am a valued part of this group and I have something to offer.”   

Care

Care is the integration of connection and contribution. When people know that you care about them, care about their talents, care about their contributions and connections to the greater community, they are more likely to be involved in the community. This doesn’t mean you have to offer all the care, but it does mean you are offering God’s love in every situation and circumstance of the community in which you are leading. Simply stated, you are loving God and loving neighbor in all that you do. 

Every community is made up of different members who work for a common purpose.  Effective leaders recognize those differences and understand that the differences are crucial for healthy community interaction and function.

Every Member 

Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, uses the metaphor of the human body, to illustrate this point. He writes that even though the body is made of many parts, it is still one body. And even though the body includes great diversity, every member is equally a part and important to the function of the body. 

As you know, his point had nothing to do with human anatomy.  He used the metaphor to show that every follower of Christ is important and for the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed. He points out that no one has the right to act as though he or she is separate from the body and no one has the right to exclude others from the body. For the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed. 

God created each of us and expects us to faithfully serve according to our unique giftedness. As a leader, you view every person of your community as a crucial part and you assist every person to live out his or her giftedness in relationship with others. 

“Members of the Body”

Maybe you can think of it this way. 

One day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work while the Stomach did nothing but store all the food. So, the Members of the Body held a meeting and decided to strike until the Stomach consented to do its share of the work. 

The strike began. 

The Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. After a day or two, the Members began to find that they themselves were in poor condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest of the Body. It was at that moment, the Members of the Body discovered that the Stomach was doing necessary work for the whole Body to be healthy.  The Members decided that they all must work together for the Body to function properly. 

Your Role as a Leader

As a leader, you work to make sure every person of your community makes their contribution to the whole of the community. 

Maybe you can think of it this way. A great orchestra had gathered to rehearse with a celebrated conductor. As the music reached a crescendo, every instrument was being played, except for one.  Distracted, the piccolo player had momentarily lost his place on the page of music.  He hoped his instrument wouldn’t be missed.  Suddenly, the conductor brought down his arm and silenced the orchestra.  He looked over the group of musicians and asked, “I didn’t hear the piccolo. Where is the piccolo?” A skilled leader, like a skilled conductor, assists every person in the community, regardless of perceived importance, to make his or her contribution. Every part of the system is crucial, even those that seem small and less significant.

Now, why is this important? For God’s love to be known by all people in creation, it takes all of us, related to each other and working together, to connect with the people beyond ourselves. Each of us has our part in the body. 

Four Functions of a Nurturing Community

To use Paul’s metaphor, what does it have to do with our part in the nurturing community, the Body of Christ? It means the following: 

1. We see through the eyes of Christ

When we see each other as God sees us, we see with the love of God. There are distinctions and differences, but no one distinction has greater value than the other. In other words, there are distinctions of black and white, male and female, east and west, but all are one in Christ. Through the eyes of Christ every person is a child of God, a person of worth. As a leader, nurturing community means, you are leading people to see each other as God sees them and to see the world in loving concern. 

There is no selective service in caring for people. Seeing through the eyes of Christ means we see all people and not just the people who are like us. Where there is suffering, poverty, injustice, hatred, etc., you assist the people entrusted to your care to see Jesus.

2. We speak with the voice of Christ

When you speak, use words of care and compassion. Don’t confine the voice of Christ to those with whom you agree or with those who agree with you. Speak to human beings in every situation and every condition.  It is not a matter of a social gospel or a personal gospel.  Nor is it a matter of who is progressive or who is conservative. No, it does not matter who is a Democrat or who is a Republican. It is a matter of God’s love spoken into the lives of every human life.  Remember Jesus’ sermon recorded in Luke 4? He used the words of Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He had sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). 

To speak with the voice of Christ is to use your voice with words of love (agape).  Whether it be in our families or with our enemies, no area is off-limits to God’s Word (Jesus, the Word made flesh). As a leader, you have been anointed to speak the good news and to equip those entrusted to you to speak to all who will listen. 

Paul in this letter to the church in Ephesus wrote: “Let no evil talk of out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). As a leader, speak with the voice of Christ, so that those who need a kind, caring, and encouraging word, hear your voice of love, support, and care.  

3. We heal with the hands of Christ

 When you respond to human need, respond with the hands of hope and healing. Sometimes hope and healing come with grace and forgiveness. Do you remember the story of Hosea? As a prophet to Israel, Hosea’s job was to predict the nations’ exile and later restoration.  In order to illustrate God’s love for the nation, he was commanded to marry Gomer, a prostitute. He did so, but his heart was broken when she proved unfaithful and left him. Later, Hosea sought out an emotionally broken and financially destitute Gomer, forgave her, and renewed their marriage relationship.

Hosea’s love for Gomer serves as a picture of God’s love for unfaithful people.  It serves as an example for us to follow.  There will be times you are called upon, as the leader, to seek out, forgive and restore those who have wronged you. Such actions will require the compassionate and grace-filled hands of Christ. 

Sometimes hope and healing come with justice and compassion among the poor and the elderly; in the divisions that continue between races, the inequities that continue between female and male, and the widening economic gap between rich and poor. The healing of hands of Christ are needed among those who are economically deprived and politically oppressed, as well among those who have everything except what they need to make what they have worthwhile and meaningful. As a leader, assist those entrusted to you to heal with the healing hands of Christ. 

4. We breathe with the breath of Christ

We are not only a human organization or institution, we are living and breathing organisms. In fact, we have no community without the breath of Christ. On the day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church to be agape for all people. Because of God’s love for each of us, regardless of who we are or what we have done, God uses us to reach all people with his love. That is why, as a leader, assist people in finding connections in the community and in making their contributions of hope and healing. 

A Critical Moment

You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Will you step into this opportunity to nurture community to see with the eyes of Christ, to speak with the voice of Christ, to heal with the hands of Christ, and to breathe in the breath of Christ? God has provided the people you need to take a step into this opportunity. 

Think about it and reflect upon it. How can I come alongside you to assist you in making the connections needed, to make your God-given contribution to your nurturing community? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your next steps reveal your place in the Body and the God given contributions you are making. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.   Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I  introduce our theme for June, “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 180. Become a regular LeaderCast listener. Subscribe and listen to a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.

We are on the downhill side of the pandemic.  Several of the mandates, like wearing masks outside and the number of people gathering in public places, are being relaxed. Much of what we could not do over the past year is coming back. With that in mind, how are you leading or preparing to lead into this “new normal”?

Are you expecting things to go back to the way they were? Are you building upon some of the things you learned? Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Things have changed. How are you leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality? 

The Moment Things Changed

As you reflect upon these questions, let’s look at a moment in time when things changed and a new way of leading emerged. The moment of change is recorded in the bible as The Day of Pentecost found in the second chapter of The Acts of the Apostles. 

On the Day of Pentecost, one hundred and twenty discouraged, self-absorbed, willful, frightened, powerless men and women were transformed into new people. They lived through an experience that brought about a new intellectual and emotional reality.  

Through their experience, they began to communicate in ways that connected with people. In that connection, the people who were curious asked, “What does this mean?”  As in all new experiences, the people who were cynical viewed the experience as nonsense. 

An Opportunity to Lead

Both the curious questions and the cynical comments were received as an opportunity to lead people into a new reality. Simon Peter, taking advantage of the moment, began to give his account of what had happened, beginning with his experience of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and continuing through the presence of Jesus on that very day. He explained God’s offer of love (agape) and relationship (community) in Jesus. He clearly named current reality when he told them about people who had refused God’s invitation. Then he offered hope when he explained what could happen to those who would receive the invitation. 

Many of the curious, when they experienced the leadership of Simon Peter asked, “What shall we do?”  He was ready with clear direction. “It is time to change the way we have been looking at things. A new normal is here. God’s love is greater than we have ever imagined.” Then he gave clear directions for living into the new normal.   

A New Way of Leading

In the midst of the change, a new way of leading emerged. The people who followed, were received in a new normal of love and relationship, They devoted themselves to learning new ways to live together in koinonia (community). 

If you are saying that there is a world of difference between a COVID pandemic and the Day of Pentecost, you are correct. But just as the Day of Pentecost was an opportunity to love and live differently, the COVID pandemic provides the same opportunity.  

Do you have a plan for bringing people back together into community? Even though some things have changed, other things have not changed. As you are leading your community out of the pandemic and into a new reality, keep in mind the following:

1. You are part of a learning community

Be persisted in learning new ways for a new day.  Learn from the people around you. Learn from authors and teachers. Learning is at the heart leading.

2. You are nurturing community

The word “koinonia” means having in common or in fellowship.  At the heart of fellowship or relationship is the love of God (agape). We know that love in and through Jesus. Jesus is our common bond and it is greater than anything or anyone else.  It is the love of God we have experienced in Jesus who draws us into community and who loves us in and through each other.  

3. You are in a community of prayer

Community life is lived out as unselfish and non-manipulative concern and caring for one another. It takes time to be together to listen to each other, care, and be for each other.   Prayer together becomes the time of communication with God, who replenishes us, so we are unselfish in care and concern.

4. You are a worshipping community

In worship, we express outwardly the presence of God’s love living within us, as we affirm our love for one another. People are attracted to the joy of the community. They want to be with loving people. 

A New Way of Living

The reality is you are on the downhill side of the pandemic. You will either slide into the way things were before or you will lead into a new way of living and loving. 

You have an opportunity to lead into a new day. This opportunity never presented itself before and will be present only for a short period of time. So, what one thing will you do to change and be the leader people need and want for this new day? 

Remember, who you are is how you lead. So, keep your purpose in mind. Love the people around you. Communicate clearly and directly. And when the time is right, invite people to join you on this journey into a post-pandemic reality. We have been created for this moment in time. 

When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

A Reminder

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I have a conversation with April Casperson, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the West Ohio Conference. April shares grace-filled wisdom about community, relationships, and  diversity. Her role is to help people work better across differences. 

If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 178. If you have not been a regular LeaderCast listener, you will want to start with this episode. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.