Confession time: We leaders sometimes allow the burden for the organization, teams and people we lead to become all consuming. I know all too well the burden and stress of leadership and the toll it can have on an individual. As the executive pastor of a growing church, I have faced this terrible reality. So much so, that in our rebuilding years, I had once contracted shingles on my face due to stress. It was dangerously close to losing my sight from the infection. It rang out like a siren that I had been pushing myself too hard; signaling to me that something seriously needed to change.
One of the things that came to the forefront of my mind was that a huge part of the stress was either self-induced or that I had allowed it to enter into my life in the first place. And if you are anything like me, this may be the case for you.
Of course, it may not be the same for everyone. There is definitely a genuine pressure and stress to being the leader. However, I believe the burden of leadership doesn't have to be an early grave. In my own story, I was able to find success in this, and after some serious reflection and intentional changes, I have been able to not only continue in my role but thrive in a position that should probably be shared with at least two other people.
I still have a lot to figure out as I continue to grow and learn every day (as we all do), yet I hope that some of the lessons I have learned over the years can be useful for you. My hope is that you find not just a healthy balance, but if you have come to the point of burnout, that you may return to the place of excitement and passion you may have once had.
1. Don’t Expect More of Yourself Than What is Healthy and Make Sure Your Team(s) Understands
It is very possible that you are in an unhealthy situation, and what you need to do is quit before you burn out. You are not called to sacrifice yourself, your calling or your family on the altar of your organization. If you are not the top leader and you have talked with your supervisor about your longevity and no help is given when you share your need, then maybe you need to eject yourself from that position. Remember, you are not indispensable, and to think that you are may bring about more harm to you and the organization/team(s) you are looking to serve.
Let's take it a step further. What about the unhealthy expectations you have on yourself? The deadlines you keep, the responsibilities you choose to handle, the performance level you expect of yourself, and the motivations you choose to have. Are your expectations for yourself one that only Jesus or Superman could keep? Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly about hard work and a culture of excellence, but what we need to be careful about is moving towards a culture of perfection and people pleasing. We need room to fail so we will be able to take healthy risks. Also, we should never be driven or find our worth by the need of approval of those we look up to. Ask yourself this question: what/who is motivating me?
2. Be Disciplined In Your Time Management
What is your average work week look like? Are you constantly running out of time? Do you spend more time at the office than with family and friends? In the world of leaders, it can be easy to develop the bad habit of the 70 hour work week because we allow our schedules get away from us. Instead of us being in control of our time, information and projects, we let these things control us. We become slaves and are carried along by them. Many leaders don't spend enough time developing habits and tools to manage their time. Maybe you don't even know where to start. Let me let you in on something: the secret to time management isn't even managing your time: the secret is managing your attention. It is knowing how, when, and what we put our greatest attention towards and become focused on those things. This means we don't waste our greatest moments of productive attention on things that only waste our attention or in moments when our attention is low.
Even something as simple as having time limits on meetings or actually having fewer meetings will make a world of difference. I know that sounds harsh, but in no other profession would they let the person needing the meeting dictate the amount of time. I was amazed at how much time I had gained back once I became disciplined with my time I used and what I choose to focus my attention on and when. This is all about focusing on what is important and prioritizing my time on that. If you are not sure how to start this or want to wrap your mind around this idea, a great book on this topic is How To Be A Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott.
3. Recruit, Equip & Release
I know that it is easier said than done, trust me, I know. But part of our calling as leaders is not to simply call or demand people to do. Instead, we need to inspire, equip and empower people. This means we need to do the foundational work of sharing the authority and responsibility of the vision and mission, not just delegating tasks.
When we can find the right people that get the vision and culture we are building, we can equip and empower them to be released to further that goal as a team. Remember, if you like it or not, you are not the expert in every regard. Your role is to lead a team, not to know everything. It is finding the experts in a particular field or gift, recruit them, give them the tools need and release them with both tasks and responsibility (which involves letting go of some authority to accomplish this).
Maybe you think you don't have the time to invest in people like this. Let me correct you there. You don't have the time not to. Maybe one of the reasons why you are burnt out is you are trying to do it all on your own. Maybe you are too scared to share responsibility, or maybe you have a hard time raising the bar for people.
Maybe you are in a role that leads majority volunteers. How do you ask people to step it up when they are volunteers? Let me let you in on a little secret: people are dying to be asked to serve in their passions. You just need to connect these people to their passions. Also, in the world of leading volunteers, some people quit because you ask too much of them, while others quit because you don't ask/challenge them enough. The trick is figuring out who is who, (and the simplest way is to just ask).
Maybe you are not the personality to do that, and that’s alright. But find someone who is and has the know-how, character and has gained the right to lead and empower that person to do so. They are wired to do it, so don’t feel guilty. Be willing to share the glory and reigns. remember, you don't need to be the expert in it all, you simply need to bring the best team together to reach the goal.
Maybe think about it like this: Delegate anything that you don’t need to be doing to others who are passionate, so you can focus on what you are wired to do. You would be amazed how many people are willing to step up when all they are waiting for is for is an ask. I have found that the big ask rarely works, people need the human touch. I recruited 80+ volunteers in the 3 months, simply by asking. I got turned down a lot, but I also discovered a lot of people who were excited and gifted and seen new teams form because of it.
4. You Can’t Do Everything: Know When to Kill Something or Pass Something Off
Don’t ever feel guilty to ask for help and inspire your team(s) to work alongside you. The reality is we cannot be the expert in every situation because we are not experts in all things. I have heard it said from multiple leaders I deeply respect: "As the leader, it isn't our job to be the expert in the room, but to get all the experts into one room together." As a leader, our mission should be to work ourselves out of a job, not create more jobs for ourselves. There are so many people who are gifted in what you need and so ready to serve, it is simply being willing to see these people, ask, and release. Don’t create teams and fill the holes. Don’t ask people or try and fit them into things that they are not passionate about or gifted to do. Instead, find the passions and gifts of people and build ministries around them. Start with asking people what they are passionate about and see how they are gifted and build the church around that.
Furthermore, we can be much too busy in our organizations, because we are doing so much that we are never actually accomplishing anything. We are busy, but we are not actually productive. We need to be focused. Are there teams, projects, ministries that have lost the 'why?' of why they exist? If we can't answer the question of why something exists, maybe those things should be killed. I know sacred cows can be hard to kill, but they sometimes need to die. Or as my friend, Brian McNarry, put it to me, “Sacred cows make the best burgers”. If there is no one to lead it and/or you can't answer the question of why it exists… kill it. Change takes time—and you need to choose your battles—but in the end, you can't do everything, and you (and your teams) need to focus on what really matters.
5. Get a Hobby That You Can Measure In Quantified Growth.
If you work in a vocation that deals with the growth of people, so often it can be discouraging because growth is slow, sporadic, and when people are encouraged by your organization's mission and are growing, we rarely hear about it. This is the hard reality of working with people. It would be awesome if those we worked with actually shared more good than bad, but this hardly ever happens.
One small thing we can do is find a hobby where we can walk away and say: “look what I did.” I worked with a pastor that gardened because he said he can actually see it grow. Find something where there is a tangible goal, something to strive for and accomplishments I can celebrate and something that isn't tied to what you do in your vocation.
6. Find Support Outside the Walls of Your Organization
Look for other colleagues and/or mentors to feed into you and where you also can feed into them and give each support. This can be professional support and advice, but also find ways to minister to each other emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Maybe there is no one in your context and you need to get creative, like using skype, phone calls, or something else. I am connected with someone who is on the other side of the world right now who is someone who keeps me grounded and focused.
Ultimately this creates a place where you can vent and mutually feed each other, do life together, challenge each other, call each other out, support each other, and a place where you can be yourself.
7. Give Yourself a Break
You don’t need to be perfect. No seriously! Listen to me: You are allowed to be human, to make mistakes, to have struggles, to not have perfect kids, to not be put on a pedestal and the perfect example for everyone else to follow. Help people to see this: show your blemishes and remind your team(s) that you and your family are human too.
We want to strive for excellence, but not perfection. No one can carry that burden. If you are a people-pleaser and worry about performance or have that pressure put on you, maybe you need a season to get away and deal with this. This can kill you if you don’t!
When is the last time you rested? I mean, really rested. And I don’t mean a vacation, I mean time to get away, be fed, feed yourself, seek God for your life, your family and even your vocation. We can get so busy with the details that we never find the time to stop and just be.
Find the things that feed you and give you life away from your position/vocation/organization. Look up Spiritual Pathways, it’s a good place to start. Don’t carry the world on your shoulders.
9. Add More Things That Give You Life, and Kill the Things That Drain You
Obviously, leading can be draining. But, if you can be using 70% of your time on the things that give you life and excites you and 30% on the things that drain you, you will be more likely to last.
You will go through seasons that the latter will be higher, but fight back to a healthy split. If you are doing too much of the things that drain, give it away. Trust me, there are people in your organization/team(s) that would love to do that one thing you hate because they want to be involved and are wired that way. I know that seems weird, but it is only because you hate it that you think it is weird someone else would love it.
I remember having someone come up and ask me if they could help with my paperwork. What got them excited was Excel and spreadsheets. I remember thinking: “There is something seriously wrong with you.” After I got over feeling guilty of handing this over to someone who enjoyed this, it became easier to empower people to share the load because I recognized everyone is gifted and passionate for what they are wired to do.
Start asking this question to people: “If you could do anything, what would it be? What are you passionate about, no matter how weird you think it is?” You will be surprised by what can be accomplished when you empower others who are gifted.
10. Change Isn’t Easy But Is Possible
Now, I know all this is easier said than done, but I would still challenge you though there are most likely many external factors that are pressing in against you, there is a good chance that a large percentage of the battle is internal also. We put way too much pressure on ourselves, and in a lot of ways that no one else feels. Change isn’t easy and this will take time, re-training, and some hard work. But you can’t afford to not make some changes.
If this resonates with you and you don’t know where to practically start, find someone to help you walk through it. If you have no one, let me be the first to say I would be willing to start that conversation with you and get you on the right foot.
Drake currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com and the Executive Pastor at gateway.ac
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive. To BELONG, Wrestle with what the BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLE BY FAITH, and ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is also a life learner and loves being challenged to think deeper and grow further. One of his favourite things to do is spend a good amount of time in a good cafe or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience is always a pleasure and honor.
By Anthony Portillo
What do you do when you try your best to please someone and you still fall short? What happens when your best isn’t good enough? We have all felt that way at some point or another I’m sure. Whether it’s a teacher, an employer, a family member, or a significant other the truth is we will never be able to satisfy everyone.
In situations like these, the natural impulse is to look at the other person and assume they have an issue that is causing our feelings. This can be dangerous ground to tread on as it can lead us down a road of victimhood. It also takes the attention off of us and places it in an area where we really have no control further perpetuating the cycle of victimhood.
I’d like to suggest two things. Number one, we are the issue. Number two, we have control.
Some people are ornery, some people are just hard to satisfy, and most people have issues of their own that cause them to act a certain way toward others. I am, by no means, saying that you are responsible for someone else’s actions or attitudes but we are responsible for how we respond to them and how we allow them to affect us. Many of us just aren’t settled in who we are, we still have open wounds, we still have unresolved pain and trauma, so we are seeking validation from others. This we never end well.
When we look to others to find our own worth, we will never have a proper self-image, we will never find healing for our hurts, and we will never feel complete. This path will just reinforce those negative emotions and hurts. Wholeness will continue to elude us so long as we look for it outside ourselves. This sounds like bad news and it is! The good news is WE have control!
We can regain control of our mind, will, and emotions. We can connect with Holy Spirit and our inner self and take back the reins of our lives. We can find healing, wholeness, and joy once again. We can shed our victim mentalities and embrace victorious living!
We carry divine DNA. Our relationship with God connects us to our Creator, whose image we bear. Holy Spirit within us bears witness to this connection. When we tap into this connection we will find freedom. We can connect with God in an experiential way. We can learn to communicate with Him and with ourselves, in turn, we will learn to control and properly process our emotions.
This is not an easy journey! When we finally find the time to sit and get quiet we will quickly be confronted with ourselves. We will realize how full of ourselves we truly are, good, bad, or indifferent. This is the beginning of the journey. This is the first step on the path of change. As we confront our internal ghosts we will come to understand what they hide and they will become holy ghosts, instruments of our further transformation.
When we learn to love ourselves, we won’t look to others to find our worth. Further, we will learn how to truly love others without needing their approval or validation. Healing starts inside and it starts with a choice. Choose this day to begin the journey of transformation! An internal revolution! Refuse to settle for anything less than complete joy, peace, and freedom! Refuse to allow others to dictate your worth!
Transformation is possible. The journey will be tough but it will be worth it! You are worth it! You are special! You are enough! Join the Revolution!
Anthony and his wife serve as pastors feeling called to focus on their local community and work in the drug and alcohol recovery and the inner city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As well, Anthony is the co-host of The Alliance Podcast, which is striving to bring together a variety of voices from different perspectives within the church. Their desire is to engage as many perspectives as possible from leaders all over the church world in hopes that we can start a conversation and promote unity in the Kingdom of God.
With all the conversation about the changes of the Canadian National Anthem and the reactions that followed. I would like to proposed that if we are going to be purest, we should sing the original O Canada, commissioned by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony; Calixa Lavallée composed the music, after which words were written by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. Which is as follows:
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Though, to be fair, we are a bilingual country and an english National Anthem was written 26 years later, so, we should probably uphold to the traditions of its writing. Wouldn't you agree? Though, as we look at history, Weir's original lyrics from 1908 contained no religious references and used the phrase "thou dost in us command" before they were changed by Weir in 1914 to read "in all thy sons command". So, wait! Are we changing the National Anthem, or are we reverting it back to the original?
I mean, this isn't the first time this conversation has come up. In the Throne Speech delivered by Governor General Michaëlle Jean on March 3, 2010, a plan to have parliament review the "original gender-neutral wording of the national anthem" was announced. However, three-quarters of Canadians polled after the speech objected to the proposal and, two days later, the prime minister's office announced that the Cabinet had decided not to restore the original lyrics.
To be honest, I am not sure I can see a good reason for us needing to change the National Anthem. But what I find more interesting is the reaction online to the news of the Canadian House of Commons passing the change officially and reacting in kind with disproval and some with outrage of how this being disrespectful of our history and heritage. Even though a simple 5 minute Google search would give a easy and brief education of our actual National Anthem and seeing that possibly the reasoning isn't so outrageous.
Now, the satire was intentional and the direct speak is as well. I don't mean to offend, but in a lot of ways, this is another example of the usual social media, jump on the band wagon without taking the time to be informed. The temptation to believe the narrative being weaved is a easy one, I know I have been tempted in the past to be a band wagon jumper, but my hope is that we would be wiser and shrewder then that. Would that be a fair thought? And possibly there really isn't that many people reacting and it is only those on my feed, but maybe this post can be one of those things that could get ahead of the curve, as I feel this is one of those topics that will probably get some traction. Maybe I am wrong.
But in conclusion. Does the Canadian National Anthem need to be changed? Who knows. Is the decision motivated by political correctness? Probably. Do you have to like the fact that it was changed? Absolutely not. You live in a free country and because of that, you are allowed to disagree, have your voice be heard and even protest. But, maybe, just maybe, if we do disagree, we should do so from a point of informed disagreement. But enough about what I think, I want to hear your thoughts?
Drake De Long-Farmer
Drake is passionate about seeing people thrive and come alive--to BELONG, wrestle with what they BELIEVE and BECOME people FULL OF LOVE, FUELLED BY FAITH & ADDICTED TO HOPE. Drake is an engaging speaker, writer and an equipper of leaders. He is a life learner and loves being challenged to grow further. One of his favourite things to do is spend a good amount of time at a good café or coffee shop with a good book or engaging conversation. To be able to share in someone else's journey and experience their story is always a pleasure and an honour. He currently serves as the Editor-In-Chief of boldcupofcoffee.com & the Executive Pastor at Gateway Alliance Church.
It has been 11 years since my life was irrevocably changed by an encounter with God. I’ve spent countless hours reading the Bible as well as other books about the bible and Christianity. I have seriously questioned and refined my theology. I have waded into philosophy and religion and I believe I am better because of all of it. Still, I am led to believe that my walk with Jesus is missing something.
Prayer is weird. It really is, if you think about it. We believe in a relational God, a God that hears us and answers our prayers. This God is everywhere, all powerful and full of love. We are to believe that this God hears our prayers and intercedes on our behalf. Is that strange, or is it just me?
Maybe I just don't understand how relational God can be due to my pseudo-secular upbringing. Or, maybe I just have a supreme lack of confidence due to a nasty case of social anxiety. Either way, I just can’t get used to prayer.
I think my problem is that we, as Christians, don't know what to expect from prayer. Christians are all over the map on what prayer means, and when we should do it. For me, this is the major reason why I find it hard to embrace prayer as a spiritual practice.
PRAYER IS NOT MAGIC
You see, I have a hard time praying for specific things. As if the God of everything is a genie that grants me wishes as long as I have enough faith. I know that people have biblical examples of this type of prayer, but I just don’t see the evidence for it. People pray for all sorts of things and never receive what they have asked for, and some that never pray receive exactly what they desire. It’s just so random.
Not only that, I also find it insufferable to pray for petty and ultimately inconsequential things when I am aware of the poverty, violence and hunger that exists in the world. How am I to pray for a good parking spot when there is a little girl sold into sex slavery in another part of the world? Why should God care about providing a means for my laziness and turn a blind eye to the massive amount of suffering elsewhere? How am I to thank God for a gluttonous thanksgiving meal when so many of his other children go without any food? Doesn’t He provide for them too?
My problem is declarative prayer, prayer that is intended to cause God to act. It just doesn’t commonly happen; God doesn’t seem to intervene in a predictable way and we don't have a good way to explain that.
Years ago, my wife and I decided to have children. We already knew that we might have a hard time conceiving due to health problems, but we wanted to try anyway. It was potentially discouraging, but we had faith (as much as we could muster) that we would eventually bear children. We had been quoted bible verses and received prophecy that it would happen. We believed it.
And I prayed. It was weird for me and I almost never did it when other people were around. I didn’t know how to pray or what exactly to pray for but I prayed all the time, and with purpose. I prayed with all the faith that I had.
But it didn’t help.
Quite a lot of time had passed and we were still not seeing the promise. We were discouraged and thought about abandoning it all, but somehow we managed to hang on to a faint glimmer of hope.
And then it happened. We found out that we had a child. We were elated. This was the promise that we were waiting for, the prophecies made sense and scripture seemed to be speak directly to our situation. It was wonderful, things finally made sense.
But then our baby died. That beautiful baby that was the fulfilment of God’s gift to us. The child that we were promised was no longer with us. Things no longer made sense. God seemed distant and scripture was confusing. If you asked me then, the prophecies were simply wrong. This was the hardest period in my life and God wasn’t providing the respite that I had heard everyone talk about.
I somehow made it out of that period without losing God. Sure, I was changed but I didn't lose my faith completely. Later, my wife became pregnant again. This time we were joyful, but apprehensive. We didn't know what the future held but we hoped for the best. At this point I couldn't rely on bible verses to cheer me up and the promises espoused by others were hollow and vague, if not disingenuous. So, we waited. I didn’t pray.
Then, one day, there was blood. I thought it was all happening again. I became detached in an effort to distance myself from the pain. I don’t remember praying. If, out of desperation, I did pray I definitely didn't have enough faith to effect a change in my circumstances. I wasn’t hurling mountains into the sea, that’s for sure.
This time it ended differently though. The bleeding stopped and my wife eventually gave birth to a healthy little boy.
Maybe I am too cynical but I wonder why our prayers didn’t work. Why didn't our faith effect healing the first time and why did healing occur the second time when I had less faith? As well, I am left wondering whose faith contributes to the efficacy healing anyway.
The New Testament certainly has precedent for healing, but the origin of the required faith is ambiguous. Sometimes the healing is attributed to the faith of someone else (the Centurion in Matthew 8), the person being healed (the bleeding woman in Matthew 9), Jesus himself (The man with leprosy in Matthew 8), and sometimes Jesus heals people that didn't even ask for it (Peter’s mother-in-law in Matthew 8).
WHAT ARE WE TO PRAY FOR?
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him how to pray he responded “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
So what should I pray? If I don’t trust the certainty of declarative prayer what is left? When I’m alone, or tucking my son into bed I have taken to thanking God for virtues like love, justice, hope and faith. Instead of asking and thanking Him for specific things, I thank him that this depraved world, the one that we have screwed up still somehow includes these good concepts. I thank Him that through these virtues His kingdom will come.
I thank him for these virtues while understanding that we are His hands and feet to bring about good on earth. I firmly believe that, for whatever reason, God has chosen to partner with humans. Thus, it is through humanity that we receive our daily bread; people are fed when we share our abundance.
Prayer is meant to change us, not God. It is through prayer that we ask to be forgiven and find the strength to forgive. It is where we find the courage to flee from evil and embrace goodness.
I do all of this with the understanding that I don’t have an answer for suffering. I can't, with a broad stroke, minimize the pain that everyone feels. I can only look to the cross as an example of God’s co-suffering with us, with an appreciation that meta-narratives like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control exist. But, this involves accepting the responsibility that it is up to us to make sure that these ideas are distributed among all God’s people. This is part of the gospel message that Jesus wanted his disciples to spread by telling them to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
Here is my proposal: stop assuming our words cause God to act, as if His hands are tied otherwise. God could act without our prayers. Instead, He has chosen to partner with us to accomplish His goals. Our prayers only tell us what we should already know: that the words we speak should coerce us to bring about goodness and banish evil. We need to embrace our responsibility in God’s plan.
I write about my story. The story about how I became a pro-life (womb to grave) liberal, confident arminian, reluctant charismatic, cautious progressive creationist, tentative conditionalist, utterly wretched without Christ, corporate complementarian (individually egalitarian), clueless pre-millenialist, and most importantly, a follower of Christ. I am a blue collar tradesman, I don't have any seminary or official religious training. I am a victim of post-modern society probably due to my secular upbringing. I am married to a wonderful woman and have a son with another child on the way. They are the very best of me.
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