One of the things that will undoubtedly happen to you as a leader will be disappointment. You can't escape it. An initiative or program you feel strongly about might land flat, you might be betrayed by someone you trust, you might learn the couple you invested months in to try to save their marriage filed for divorce, or any number of things. Leadership is always messy because you're not perfect, and it's messy in the church because you're leading people who like you aren't perfect. Yesterday I pleaded and shared with a man who visited off the street, and gave him a Bible because he had no assurance of his relationship with Christ. Before leaving, I found that Bible left behind, discarded. I won't lie, it stung.
When you find yourself in those moments of disappointment, I think it's important to do three things:
1) Remember Your Calling - When you entered ministry leadership, it wasn't your idea first. It was God's. He called you. He prepared you. He sharpened you. He shaped you. He led you through intense training. And He's the One who continues to be with you. In those moments of disappointment, it can be tempting to wonder if you should've gone into sales or retail instead. But if God is the one who called you to ministry, you can rest assured that He's going to sustain you through it. You've not been called to be successful, you've been called to be faithful. There's a huge difference. Our responsibility is to be faithful to what we've been called to and who God has called us to be.
2) Don't Take It Personal - Most of the time, the disappointment we face isn't because of us. Sometimes it is though, and when we blew it we need to own it and learn from it. But more often than not, we'll find ourselves as collateral damage in the wake of the disappointment. That's when we start playing the "what if?" game. Can I ask something? If God's in control of everything, and nothing happens apart from His wisdom and leadership, do you think He knew what He was doing when He put you there? Everything that we go through is part of God's process of sanctifying us, of making us more like Christ, of chipping off our pride.
3) Pick Up and Go On - My wife and I love medical and law shows on TV. And sometimes in those shows they lose a case or a patient dies in surgery. It's awful. It's gut-wrenching. They have to break terrible news to a grieving family. But the next patient is already prepped. The next case is on the docket. They can't dwell on the past. They have to pick up and go. So do you. The responsibilities of ministry will be there after you've been let down. And for the faithfulness of your calling and your responsibility to lead God's people well, you need to carry on. Yes it will be hard. But that's when your prayer is Paul's words from God in 2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
How have you as a ministry leader worked through disappointments?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.