I am rereading a book I got a couple of years ago entitled, Leadership on the Line. It is a very good book about leadership and although it is from the Harvard Business School, there are a ton of good lessons for ministry. One that caught my attention is in a section called, “Manage Your Hungers.” It is about not giving into our own primal urges that leadership feeds us, such as power and control, affirmation and importance, and intimacy and delight. It is not a far leap to suggest that most, if not all, ministers, of both sexes, deal with some or if not all of these hungers, and at times they get us into DEEP trouble.
Personally I would lean towards affirmation and importance as one of my largest hungers. I desire to be affirmed and to be told I’ve done a good job. It makes me feel wanted and important. I may not be outward about it but it is an inward hunger that it there. Simply ask my wife, who hears the question every Sunday afternoon, “So how was that sermon?”
There is a paragraph in this chapter I found helpful and I thought I would share with my three readers…
Managing one’s grandiosity means giving up the idea of being the heroic lone warrior who saves the day. People may beg you to play that role; don’t let them seduce you. It robs them of the opportunity to develop their own strengths and settle their own issues. Don’t begin to believe that the problem is yours to carry and solve. If you carry it at all, make certain you do so only for a limited period of time, while people accustom themselves to their need and ability to take responsibility for the challenge. (p171)
How many times in have I taken burdens on, placed other people’s problems on my shoulders because I thought it was being ministerial? How many times have I wanted and needed that superhero feeling to swoop in and save the day and make everything right again? But truly I am doing a disservice to my congregation and its leaders. I am setting them up to fail in the long run and simply satisfying my hungers.
On the page before there is another snippet that is very enlightening.
The skill of managing any tendency you might have towards grandiosity goes hand in hand with remaining mindful that people see you in your role more than they see you as a person. Indeed, what those in your professional surroundings see is the fulfillment of their goals or, conversely, the disturbing questions you represent. They see not your face but the reflection of their own needs or worries. These dominate their perceptions of you. (p170)
This is so true in ministry. People always force their presuppositions on what a minister should be upon us. If a minister has hurt them in the past then you will. If a minister they loved was outgoing and energetic then you should be. Ministry (although I say this from a place of preference) is the toughest place to carve our your own sense of self and not be influenced by the desires, needs, and presuppositions of others. The toughest part of ministry is being who God created you to be and realizing where your personal boundaries are. Yet it is something you have to learn to do and to do it well. If not…grandiosity and trouble lie ahead.