Jake is the volunteer director of the small-group ministry at his church. Under his leadership, the ministry has begun to flourish—four new groups have formed in the last three months! Twenty-five people, previously unconnected, now meet every other week to share their lives as they grow in Christ together. Beneath the excitement, however, cracks are beginning to show. The group leader in the fastest-growing group is new to the church and appears to be taking the group in a different direction than the larger church. Jake is worried, but he avoids talking to him, fearful the conversation may not go well. Another small-group leader has mentioned in passing that things aren't going well at home. In yet another group, one troublesome member is talking way too much, and the group is rapidly losing people. The group leader has asked Jake for help, but he is trying to avoid getting involved. While greatly loved by most, Jake is conflict averse. He secretly hopes the issue will somehow resolve itself without involving him. Over the next six months, three of the four new small groups close.
This list of examples could go on and on, but I think you get the point. When we devote ourselves to reaching the world for Christ while ignoring our own emotional and spiritual health, our leadership is shortsighted at best. At worst, we are negligent, needlessly hurting others, and undermining God's desire to expand his kingdom through us. Leadership is hard. It involves suffering. But there is a big difference between suffering for the gospel as Paul describes (2 Timothy 2:8) and needless suffering that is a result of our unwillingness to honestly engage difficult and challenging leadership tasks.
How Healthy Is Your Leadership?
Being an emotionally unhealthy leader is not an all-or-nothing condition; it operates on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe, and may change from one season of life and ministry to the next. Use the list of statements that follow to get an idea of where you're at right now. Next to each statement, write down the number that best describes your response. Use the following scale:
5 = Always true of me
4 = Frequently true of me
3 = Occasionally true of me
2 = Rarely true of me
1 = Never true of me
1. I take sufficient time to experience and process difficult emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness.
2. I am able to identify how issues from my family of origin impact my relationships and leadership—both negatively and positively.
3. (If married): The way I spend my time and energy reflects the value that my marriage—not leadership—is my first priority.
3. (If single): The way I spend my time and energy reflects the value that living out a healthy singleness—not leadership—is my first priority.
4. (If married): I experience a direct connection between my oneness with Jesus and oneness with my spouse.
4. (If single): I experience a direct connection between my oneness with Jesus and closeness with my friends and family.
5. No matter how busy I am, I consistently practice the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence.
6. I regularly read Scripture and pray in order to enjoy communion with God and not just in service of leading others.
7. I practice Sabbath—a weekly 24-hour period in which I stop my work, rest, and delight in God's many gifts.
8. I view Sabbath as a spiritual discipline that is essential for both my personal life and my leadership.