One of the greatest challenges of leadership for me, personally, has been how to lead without being lonely.
This has been a sacred frustration of calling and of ministry for nearly 40 years. My husband and I understand that we have been called to leadership in the body of Christ, yet it has been our experience that oftentimes leadership culminates in loneliness.
Is it possible to be a strong leader and to also develop meaningful relationships with those whom you are leading?
I believe that the answer may be, "Yes and no."
We are not called to be Lone Ranger Christians, and there is magnificent beauty and profound safety when a leader is allowed to flourish within a circle of healthy relationships. However, when you are the leader, it is important to carefully choose those with whom you share your heart. The circle of relationship is definitely smaller when you and your spouse are the ones leading, but friendships can be revitalizing and refreshing just the same.
As a leader, the call is not to be bosom buddies with everyone in your church. You can be kind and friendly to all but also reserve deep friendships with those whom you are fully able to trust. The number might be small, but the blessing will still be available.
I have found that many of my closest friends are not members of the church that my husband currently pastors, but that they live long distances away. I maintain vibrant friendships with a few college girlfriends as well as with people who were part of our congregations years ago in distant cities. I also stay in touch with some dear high school friends and with other pastors' wives who often find themselves wrestling with the same dilemma that I grapple with: "Must I be lonely if I am a leader?"
It takes great wisdom to navigate the waters of relationship when you are the one who is expected to lead well, to take care of everyone, to respond to every request and yet to raise an exemplary family. I am the first to admit that I am a failure. I am unable to meet everyone's expectations with gusto.
However, what I am able to do is to place my family as my priority even when my husband is the pastor. I am able to maintain a personality that is warm and hospitable. I am able to develop relationships with a few members of the church. And, I am able to cultivate relationships with those who live far away.
I am able to pray for everyone at my church and to consciously be aware of those who are struggling. However, I am not able to meet all of their needs; my husband doesn't expect it and neither does my Father.
Loneliness should never be part of the call to leadership in the grandest family of all time. However, even Jesus only had 12 close friends that He poured His life into day after day.
If you are a leader in the body of Christ or if you are married to a leader, I am praying for you today. I am praying that God would give you vibrant and safe relationships as you love those under your care.
Carol McLeod is an author and popular speaker at women's conferences and retreats, where she teaches the word of God with great joy and enthusiasm. Carol encourages and empowers women with passionate and practical biblical messages mixed with her own special brand of hope and humor. She has written five books, including No More Ordinary, Holy Estrogen!, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart and Defiant Joy! Her most recent book, Refined: Finding Joy in the Midst of the Fire, was released last August. Her teaching DVD, The Rooms of a Woman's Heart, won the Telly Award, a prestigious industry award for excellence in religious programming. You can also listen to Carol's Jolt of Joy"program daily on the Charisma Podcast Network. Connect with Carol or inquire about her speaking to your group at justjoyministries.com.
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