Leading Through Tough Times
These past couple of weeks have been difficult, to say the least. To have to address an affair between two friends and church leaders is never a fun or easy thing, and to even imagine moving on as a church was extremely painful.
Then in the midst of dealing with that, we had to return our foster baby (a baby who we had been loving and caring for since his birth), to his birth parents.
It made for a tough week, to say the least.
Here are some things that helped me out when dealing with all of the stress and pain in the past weeks:
Read the Bible. The Bible gives us a clear path for leading the church through public sin. As much as I wished I could ignore or avoid it all, it had to be confronted (1 Timothy 5:20). That said, it had to be confronted with as much grace as Jesus would offer.
Recognize that you don't live in a vacuum. I was greatly buoyed by my friends who were all around me to help and support me. I had prayer support everywhere, even from many who didn't know anything of the situation. They just knew (mostly by my facebook status updates) that something was going on and that they needed to pray. Sometimes it feels like you're the only one to go through anything like you're enduring, but recognition that you're not in a vacuum is also a recognition that others have walked these steps before. Like at the Youth Specialties National Youthworkers Conference a few years back when a speaker asked us if who was living in a "desert" place. I stood... and watched as nearly half of my fellow youthworkers stood with me (including my close friend who I was rooming with). It was comforting to know that I wasn't alone!
This also is a recognition that as others have walked these steps, they have resources available to help. I was glad to be able to call several fellow pastors (close friends as well as others I don't know well but were told that they had walked this path before).
Furthermore, due to the prevalence of podcasting, I was able to listen/watch sermons that other pastors had preached on the subject. These were extremely helpful to me as I worked to craft a Spirit-filled message to bring to the church on Sunday.
Lean on other leaders. Remember that you aren't alone, and because you aren't alone, you don't have to do it by yourself. I was overwhelmed when the call came from DJFS that Baby J was going - so I called Rudy (my fellow pastor here), who came over immediately. Likewise, through the whole affair affair, if it weren't for Rudy's tireless work and his constant care for the families involved, I'm not sure how I would have gotten through it.
Get rest. This probably includes setting and sticking to some boundaries. True, for a time, you'll probably be more consumed with what's going on, and it will probably take more time and energy than you're used to giving, but that's no excuse to run yourself ragged or to ignore your family. If you ignore yourself, you might get through this crisis but not the next one or the one after that. And you'll do long-term damage to the church. There is a reason that God told us to take a Sabbath.
For me, part of getting rest was emotional/mental rest. Meaning I had to get out and run, which is therapeutic for me. That meant blocking out time when I would be unavailable on the phone and I couldn't "do" more. It was vitally important.
Don't just move from one crisis to another. Remember to take joy in the life God gave you. Take joy in your family. Slow down. Evaluate everything you're doing; are these important things, or are they just time/energy consuming?
Most importantly, remember that God never left us. As godforsaken as some of the situations we deal with can seem, we aren't alone. Even if nobody else understands, we have a Holy Spirit who does. Even if we don't even know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes on our behalf. This is the most important thing to remember when dealing with crises and painful events.