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Oct

Emotionally Healthy Leadership: 8 Unique Challenges

Posted on October 18th, 2010

I spent most of my adult life reading great leadership books. EHS led me on a journey, however, to recognize there were unique issues to church leadership that were rarely discussed. I have identified eight unique leadership challenges, each of which is powerful and far reaching in their implications. Each is worthy of a chapter or a book itself.  I have crafted them in the form of tensions that we hold as leaders. 1.     Dual Relationships- Supervision and Being Friends We are a church family and we often hire our friends who then become our employees. The result is I become both your pastor/spiritual leader/supervisor and friend. Which is it? We hire people we mentor and then they become our employees with a contractual agreement and money is exchanged. We are naïve to admit that all things are equal. They are not when we have the power to fire or increase/decrease someone’s pay. The people we lead do not have the same power over us. Friends enjoy an equal power relationship. Dual relationships create countless opportunities for misunderstandings. Am I saying, “Don’t ever do it?”  No, just do it with your eyes open.  The risk is enormous.  Failures and broken friendships abound in church leaderships around the world. 2.     Hiring/Firing and Being a Church Family This is perhaps our most difficult challenge as church leaders.  To terminate a person in the corporate world is painful. In a church setting, it is excruciating.  We became pastors and leaders to serve and help people, not hurt them.   Yet if we don’t steward God’s resources well by hiring and firing well, we betray our people who trust we are leading well and doing the right thing. 3.     Strategic Planning and Waiting on God Balancing the process of goal setting and the strategic planning process with prayerful discernment is no small task. What is God saying? What season are we in as a church/organization? What is God’s will for us? The fact that a door is open and we can do something does not mean it is His will for us now.  Jesus struggled with the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had to submit his will to the Father. How much more do we? 4.     Preaching/Teaching and Our Integrity It is easy to preach what we are not living. I know. People trust we have spent the time with God in prayer and stillness to speak for Him publicly. People trust we are living what we are preaching. If we can’t say “Imitate me as I imitate Christ,” then we need to press the pause button. Investing time in our development and growth is perhaps the greatest contribution we make to our teaching and to our people. 5.     Leading the Church and the Marriage Vow Ephesians 5:32 argues that our earthly marriage is a pointer of something beyond itself – of the profound mystery of Christ’s marriage to His bride, the church.  Our marriage, if we are married, is our most powerful message to our churches.  It is a sacrament, imaging something invisible! The marriage vow is both a limit and a gift. Like a monastic vow it informs all we do and every decision we make every day. To expand our churches as if we were single is a violation of Scripture and our vows. 6.     Social Media/Technology and the Ancient Church God has called us, like the apostle Paul, to contextualize the gospel and bring Christ to our culture. That culture today is Twitter, blogging, Facebook and the worldwide web. At the same time we learn from the great cloud of witnesses who have preceded us. We learn from church history and the early church fathers (e.g. Ignatius of Antioch, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Basil, Gregory the Great, Augustine) who were leaders of local churches, theologians, and monks who prayed their theology. We are called to be an “Ancient/Future Church.” 7.     The Gift of Limits and Casting Vision The issue of limits touches the core of our tendency to do our will not God’s, to rebel rather than submit, to grasp rather than surrender. Adam and Eve violated God’s limits. Jesus submitted to the Father’s in the wilderness. We are called to lead our people into the God’s future. We carry the tension, however, that we easily can take over Gods’ work for Him, violate His protective gift of limits, and unleash chaos into our churches. Remember: “a man can receive only what is given him from heaven” John 3:27. 8.     Listening to God in Our Losses and Leading by Faith In every church relationships end, ministries die, dreams dissipate and leaders move on. Jeremiah, Jesus, Job, and David had a full-orbed theology for the disorientation that comes with loss and grieving. Integrating this into our Western church culture of leadership that is always growing and expanding to take the next hill is problematic. We are called to lead our people forward. The discernment question is whether that means leading them to listen to God internally first before moving into the next new initiative. What might be other tensions that you would add to this list?

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