The Shrinking Church:
Are You Feeling Worthy to Lead?
This thread of articles is for clergy and leaders of mainline protestant churches. The purpose is to recognize systemic dysfunctions and leadership gaps that are limiting the effectiveness of the local church and many times are in the way of true and effective ministries. For the full statement, see Post #1 of the ongoing series. The intent is to promote dialogue through, and awareness of, possibilities for growing healthy ministries of any kind.
Post #4: Are You Feeling Worthy to Lead?
“We live our lives at the level of our wounds not our wishes.” – Dr. David Gruder, Organizational Psychologist
Wounded people wound people. – Richard Rohr
In his daily meditation, Richard Rohr refers to our broken vision of God’s grace.
“Psychologically, humans tend to operate out of a worldview of fear and scarcity rather than trust and abundance. This stingy, calculating worldview makes both grace and mercy unimaginable and difficult to experience.”* He goes on to talk about how our vision of God matures over time and we move from the early Biblical image of God as punitive and retributive.
Richard Rohr also said, “Transformed people transform people.”
In my conversations with my clients and prospective clients who lead various types of organizations, I discover some negative feelings that they have about themselves. Many even have negative scripts running in their minds, telling them things that damage their self-confidence and create self-doubt. Knowing that all of us have some level of doubt about our abilities, this might not seem unusual; however, at some point these negative scripts block success.
There are many ways that messages are transferred from one person to another, most of which we don’t fully understand or even notice. When I work with clients making capital presentations for investors, donors, sponsors, or some other funding source, I notice that they transmit doubt because they doubt that there will be positive results. As James Allen stated in As a Man Thinketh, we attract what we are and not what we need. If we feel unworthy, does that feeling attract negative results? In addition to the unspoken feelings, I get verbal clues that many leaders lack self-confidence and even self-esteem. Do we get this only from our family of origin? Or, do we get this from our church experiences?
I continue to grow my vision of God and take away the image of putting God into my very small box. As I grow my image of God, I can release some of the limitations I have on myself. Releasing the doubt is not necessarily going straight to pride or arrogance. Being humble is not like self-doubt. I am worthy and I don’t have to have all the right answers. Leading is not about having the right answers, It’s mostly about asking the right questions, and then establishing a process for getting the right answers. Somewhere in someplace, clergy have been led to think that they must call all the shots, so to speak. Maybe the feeling of having to control things comes from the feeling of being unworthy.
I come to a place of knowing that doubting myself is doubting God. God created me. God didn’t create any junk. I’ve arrived at this point mostly from my studies in Bowen Family Systems over the past 6 years. It’s been a transformative journey of self-discovery and personal growth. I recommend Roberta Gilbert’s book, The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory.*
One of my most memorable takeaways from the study of Bowen Systems is recognizing over-functioning. Clergy burnout is massive. In fact, studies show that only 1 out of 10 clergy will make it to retirement. There might be many reasons for this. One is certainly leader burnout. Over-functioning is at the root of burnout. Over-functioning can come from a feeling of being unworthy.
Questions to ponder:
- When I feel unworthy, am I aware that I am doubting God?
- Not acting on what I know to be the right thing to do is not what a leader is called to do? Why am I holding back and what are the consequences of holding back by no acting?
- If I fail to respond to a situation because I don’t want to hurt some’s feelings, am I aware that the situation will not resolve itself, moreover, the situation will typically get worse. Am I willing to pay the “upfront” cost of acting now rather than paying a much higher price by acting when things get really bad?
I am worthy to lead and continuing to grow my abilities. How about you?
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