The inevitable loneliness of leadership

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The really hard thing

Sorry, let me start again…

One of the really hard things about being in Christian leadership (and maybe any leadership) is the unspoken expectation that you have it figured out.

As someone serving on two sides of the aisle in Christian ministry, both in education and the church, the following are representative of the unspoken–

  • You believe all the right things about all the right things, especially those things that other people really hang their theological (or ideological) hats on
  • You uphold tradition because tradition is, well, tradition, and to question it means you’re a troublemaker
  • And you don’t change things, at least not too quickly, because someone might be offended. Someone’s feelings could possibly, perhaps at some time, be hurt…in fact, please don’t change things

It’s a lonely place.

For those in leadership, being in process on matters remains private, just like your obsession with CrossFit should be kept to yourself. I can’t even tell you what I mean…that’s how private it has to be, because to raise a question in voice or print is to signal to the congregation or constituency it’s open season on you.

What’s the point?

When dealing with educators, administrators, elders, pastors, and other Christian leaders, bear in mind that it can be/is lonely, more lonely than you realize.

  • Words are scrutinized and decisions are scandalized…

Usually in the most passive aggressive manner possible, though sometimes by a boisterous, victimized minority. And in the south it’s even portrayed politely at times, which just means the knife is pushed in at a slower rate.

I get it. I’ve played armchair preacher critic, teacher critic, and so on. But how much more do these folks–me, folks–need your prayers and grace?

We need a lot. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll have regrets–so many regrets. We’ll be judged by God more harshly for how we have stewarded these opportunities. We really don’t need other gods.

We need grace-filled, prayer-saturated, meal-sharing, cheer-leading men and women who will help us finish well.

Does that mean never ask questions? Of course not. But what are the motives? Speech should be seasoned with salt that it might give grace to the hearer…that’s how the apostle Paul put it.

I’m working on all of this myself. I’m extending more grace towards leaders. I’m slashing my suspicion quotient and choosing to trust.

That’s hard.

 

“Get to the Chopper!” -Helicopter Parent

Helicopter parenting is a thing. There are books about it, spoofs of it, and it’s a wildly popular practice.

The long and short of it is that helicopter parents hover over their children in most every venue of life–school, sports, social, spiritual–in such a way that the child or teen (or young adult) is never really left to herself to survive or figure it out. Especially if that means stumbling or someone tripping them up.

Be childlike again and imagine this: a mom hovering over her son, keeping  a close watch over the grade book, seeing he didn’t do as well as he could have on an assignment. She lands the chopper at school, strides (somewhat passive aggressively–though you don’t know it right away) into the teacher’s work space, and proceeds to explain why Jimmy deserves a higher grade…any of the following arguments may ensue.

  • WE have been struggling over the last unit–and so have lots of other students. (Because hover parents usually stay connected with one another)
  • WE just aren’t getting the concepts.
  • WE were at a Circus Olay performance very late, and WE didn’t get enough sleep.

Notice the use of We. That’s mom acting as if she and her son are one. It’s a tell tale sign. In any case, the thrust of each argument is the same: my child is a victim. Of what? Not getting the grade I want him to have.

Are there legitimate reasons why Jimmy may have blown a test? Sure. Was he ill? Did someone in the family pass? Does he just flat out not get it? Those things are possible and do happen. Communication is key, of course.

This scene is playing out on every level, though. From kindergarten through college. Yes, college. I have heard professors speak of parents calling to argue about their kid’s grade, even on single assignments.

Whether it’s grades or a disagreement with another students, the helicopter parent is always alert and ready to intervene.

Smothering is a hard way for kids to grow, kind of like a fire. “We need this fire to get bigger and warmer and more beautiful.” “Smother it!” “Oh, okay.”

I have helicoptered over our oldest. Especially in public play scenarios–playground, soft play (AKA, Bring your kid here if you want sickness to spread through your household Play), etc.

I would keep a close eye on Ben (now 5). Waiting for someone to look at him the wrong way, run past him too fast and thus need my scolding (you’re welcome other parent staring at your phone), or in the event that he might fall, trip, stub his toe, get a hangnail, or look constipated.

I’ll admit it. I hovered. And it’s been hard to stop. To stop making sure he never gets scraped or has to struggle. To stop making excuses for why he colored outside of the lines more than other preschoolers (weak hands….mine are small, too….it’s the economy??).

And thankfully we have friends around us trying to prevent doing the same, so we can laugh about our neurosis together. There are things kids can’t fully do or think through themselves; that’s why parents matter. But some struggle is good.

Not letting them struggle when they’re safe in your care could lead to some silly and socially devastating experiences later. And to illustrate…

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Let your baby boy or sweet little princess feel some of the tension they will face evermore. In other words, coach them. Don’t take their place on the court.

They will eventually work alongside that difficult kid in class you’re trying to keep them away from. The coach who doesn’t always say something encouraging will be their boss. The players may be different, but the game will look pretty much the same.

God’s grace be to all of us trying to prepare kids for this world. It’s hard and vulnerable and tiring. And it’s so worth it.