Leadership

How to Avoid Burnout and Painful Member Care Obstacles

member care
Burnout! That common condition that we hate to see our friends go through. Depression. A mental health issue more common in ministry leaders lives than you would think. Marital difficulty or divorce. Again, not unusual. Heart attack! Almost predictable in busy leaders who don’t take care of their health.  These issues are a major concern for those trying to start movements, especially in pioneer regions of the world. Member care issues join our list of obstacles that block a Disciple Making Movement.

Not Only Strategy Matters

Many of the things which block a movement’s growth have to do with strategy. But the health of those initiating the movement also plays a key role. When team members are overworked, emotionally drained and struggle in their own lives and families, it has a major impact on the movement.

Exhaustion That Runs Deep

I had never felt so exhausted in my life. One doctor who saw me called it “chronic fatigue”. I could barely walk up the stairs without becoming so tired I had to sit down. I was completely depleted. A few weeks off helped me to recover…somewhat.  Then another crisis hit. A medical evacuation of a fellow missionary. They nearly died. I came home and collapsed. There was absolutely nothing left inside of me. I didn’t realize that following that pattern in my life would lead me toward medically diagnosed depression. I would later face a season when I needed to take significant time off to get medical care and help. Paul, the great movement initiator knew what this kind of exhaustion felt like. The pressure of ministry can be incredibly heavy upon us. 

“Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Cor. 11:28 NIV

Stop It!

A pastor I often listen to online said recently, “Don’t give out more than you take in. That is just plain dumb! Stop it.” That is about as direct as it can get.  There is real truth in his statement. At times, we need to hear it said that way. We can be a bit dumb when it comes to taking care of ourselves.  As passionate people deeply committed to the Great Commission, we give and give and give. We push ourselves to help others, even when there is little left inside. Sometimes we give out more than we have taken in. Eventually, it catches up with us and we pay the price. Often the movement does too. Maintaining spiritual, physical, emotional and relational health is crucial. It is necessary if we want to release a thriving, multiplying, and sustained movement. Below are some of the things I have tried to practice to keep myself and my team healthy.  How to Keep Yourself And Your Team Healthy

1) Practice spiritual disciplines like Sabbath.

Do you take a weekly day to rest and refill? Or do you go week after week without any breaks? Many church planters do.  We tend to think we are somehow superhuman and able to keep going without rest. But God didn’t create us to function that way. The Sabbath is a command of God for a reason. He gave us that law to bless us with the health we need. We can not give out what we don’t have. Each week, find a way to practice Sabbath personally and as a team. I’ve written several articles on this that you may find helpful.

2) Maintain boundaries, even when growth is happening.

In community-oriented cultures, this is quite difficult. But it is necessary. Brene Brown in her book, Rising Strong, says, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” Henry Cloud has also written an excellent book called Boundaries for Leaders.  It is easy to feel like the needs of those you minister to and lead must take priority. Christian ministers can feel they must have their phone on 24-7. They must always be available to those they lead.  This is a recipe for burn out. While we are called to love others deeply, we must also love ourselves. We show that by setting and upholding boundaries.  That means learning to say, “I will meet you tomorrow. Today I have another appointment.” Even when that “appointment” is your date night with your spouse or taking a nap on your Sabbath.

3) Seek out mentors and peer community.

Make sure you have upward mentoring in your life. The more we grow in leadership and ministry the more difficult it can be to find mentors who speak into our lives. We are helping many, but who is helping us? Take responsibility to find those people and seek them out.  Also, look for peers you can relate with. Take time for those Skype or WhatsApp calls with an old friend. Join a peer group like the one we have for DMMs. Cultivate meaningful relationships, even when it takes energy to do so. It is vital to your emotional health.

4) Practice “friendly accountability” related to your physical health.

Do you have someone who holds you accountable for things like exercise, healthy eating, and sleep? If you crash and burn, chances are the movement will too. Maintaining your health is much easier than recovering from burn out or depression. Set goals in these areas and then find someone to hold you accountable and encourage you. We are whole people. Our physical health is as important to God as the rest of us. Make space in your life for exercise and sleep. Don’t believe the lie that you are superhuman and don’t need sleep like other people. Get regular physical check ups.  Your healthy lifestyle speaks loudly of what you value. It’s part of being a disciple-maker to model this too.

5) Make space in your life for friendships and play. read more

A Relentless Commitment to Focus on the Most Important Activities

focus

As a kid, I enjoyed going to the circus. I especially liked watching the jugglers. How did they keep all those balls in the air?  When I was about 12 years old, my dad bought me a set of bean bags to practice juggling with. It was fun to try to keep a few of them up in the air at the same time.

The challenge excited me, but often they would all fall to the ground. Our lives as disciple-makers and trainers can feel a bit like we are juggling.

We become very skilled at doing it all. One more meeting. Just one more thing that someone has asked us to help them with. Another ball in the air. read more

Is Your Culture in a Fight with a New Testament Worldview?

qualifications for ministry

“If you want the movement to multiply, ordinary believers must be released to baptize and serve the Lord’s Supper,” George Patterson, our speaker, announced. “What? Is that right?” I thought. “Did ordinary believers have the necessary qualifications for ministry?”

We were a group of young church planters and missionaries. We had come to this seminar to learn from George, a church planting expert.

It Sounded Strange

It sounded strange to me. I had well-established ideas from my upbringing and education about the qualifications for ministry. read more

DMM Obstacles: Resistance from Pastors and Traditional Churches

resistance from pastors

They stood in front of my gate. A group of angry men. Impatiently, they rang the bell again and again. They had demands to make. Emotions ran strong. Who were they? Angry Hindu fundamentalists? No. Surprisingly (or not), they were a group of pastors from our city. One obstacle we often face in starting Disciple Making Movements is resistance from traditional pastors.

I went to the gate cringing inside. How would I answer them? I knew why they had come. I’d broken their “rules.” We had done some things that went against their church traditions. It violated their ability to control. That was a tough day. I had to lean hard on God for His grace to answer them. It was difficult to do that with honor, while still standing firm in the convictions of my heart. read more

What Do You Have In Common With Winston Churchill?

tenacity in disciple making movements

Never, never, never, give in!” These were the words of Winston Churchill during one of England’s bleakest moments. It was 1941 and Hitler’s troops were advancing. The American forces had not yet entered the war and things looked bad for Europe. He went on to say, *“Never yield to force; tenacity in disciple making movementsnever yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” We need great tenacity in Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs). We must never, never, never give in until God’s Kingdom is established and growing among the unreached. read more

How To Find Potential Leaders and Fruitful People

find potential leaders

Our resources are limited. Time, money, energy, and personnel are all stretched far too thin when pioneering in new areas. Some people seem to only drain our precious resources. As disciple makers, how do you avoid wasting time on the wrong people? How do you discover the potential leaders who will be most helpful in growing the movement?

Don’t Just Guess- Give Assignments

While it is tempting to try to guess who will be worth investing in, we are often wrong in our guesses. The best way to discover who to invest in is to first train a larger group of people. Give them assignments to apply the training. Then, watch to see who does what they were trained to do. Those who actually take steps to begin working are the ones worth investing in. These are the people who will most likely be the most fruitful. read more

Leadership Book Review- Leading With A Limp

Leading With A Limp

Leaders and trainers of disciple making movements face many challenges.  Christian leadership is an often painful journey. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we often are “leading with a limp.”

I remember when my husband and I took our first ministry position.  We were straight out of Bible college and full of ideas. We had a great passion to change the world.  It only took a few months, however, before we hit major obstacles and massive challenges. We soon realized we were in far over our heads! read more

3 Keys to Staying Focused on Disciple Making Movements (DMMs)

staying focused

Kids are easy to distract. When my children were young they’d start crying. Maybe they were angry about not getting a piece of candy they craved.  I’d point out the window. “Look! See the birds?” Suddenly, their attention shifted. We can be like kids too- easily distracted from our goals. Staying focused as we pursue Disciple Making Movements is a major challenge!

Not Focusing Is Serious

Failure to focus is serious. The eternal destiny of thousands of unreached people is at stake. Their future depends on our actions and decisions. Can we keep from being pulled in a million different directions? If not, they may never hear the gospel and believe. Thankfully, there are simple keys to keeping our concentration on DMM goals. read more

How to Develop the #1 Habit That Releases Movements

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution and then failed to do those things? Most people have. We say, “I’m going to lose 10 kilos.” Or we might say, “I’m going to start exercising.” We make resolutions, we set goals- then we go back to our old ways. Sometimes this makes us not even want to set goals! The problem isn’t with goal setting. If a goal is to become a reality though, you have to change your behavior. There is one regular practice that will make a bigger difference than any other. It is the development of a daily intercessory prayer habit. read more

Why Saying “No” is a Crucial Skill

I personally don’t like saying no.  It feels…not nice.  It seems…unkind, or like I don’t value the person who is asking me to do something.  Yet saying no, and meaning it, is a crucial skill for those of us pursuing DMMs.  This is why we need to learn not only what to say no to, but also how to say no with honor and respect.

Lets start with the what part.  What do we need to say no to as a DMMer?  (Is that a thing? Can I call us that?) Sorry.  Rabbit trail.  Okay, so my point is, we need to say “No” to things that side track us, that pull us away from the main vision we are going after- a Disciple Making Movement.  Anything that seems good but isn’t related to making disciples who make more disciples or to reaching lost people should go on our “I might need to say no” list. read more