An article I happened across recently, raised for me an interesting leadership principal from the story of poor old Humpty. Mr Dumpty obviously required considerable preparation and assistance to arrive at the top of this very high wall; perhaps this was by means of a ladder or a rope. Eggs are not equipped to climb, unless I missed something in my biology lessons. However, despite all the thorough preparations for the ascent, Mr Dumpty did not consider the possibility that an uncontrollable circumstance such as a loss of balance, a strong wind, a flock of birds, something, could challenge his position. He didn’t prepare to maintain his position, nor protect himself against serious balance risks, and the end result as we all know, was a great fall.
It may sound folly to suggest a Christian leadership principal from a nursery rhyme, however as I get to meet pastors and leaders around the country, I am struck by the repetition of the Humpty Dumpty story. Christian leaders often invest so much of their time and and emotional energy into getting ready for services, for meetings, for dealing with the next growth challenge, that they fail to recognise how precariously balanced their life is. Perhaps they fail to take stock on their marriage, their relationship with co-workers, their walk with Christ, and they subsequently allow themselves to get into the most precarious of positions on top of the wall.
Whilst a fall might not necessarily risk physical damage to themselves, there is nevertheless damage done to those around them. Perhaps a child of a leader who now views church differently because of the cost it has had on their parent. Maybe a wife or husband who feels like an ‘also ran’ in comparison to the work of their partner as a Christian leader. Maybe a damaged leadership team as the result of an uncharacteristic outburst, because the leader was ‘stressed.’ I am sure many of us could insert further examples from our own experience.
And yet the Christmas period is often one of the busiest times in the calendar of a Christian leader, as we search for an idea to explain the nativity story from a fresh perspective at the community carol service. How might we prepare and protect ourselves?
Firstly, increase the time you spend with God in quiet. Me and the Lord often enjoy a coffee first thing in the morning; I sit and sip, and the Lord sits in the other chair. We both listen, but here’s the thing; the quieter I am, the more He seems to speak. This time of listening gives me perspective, and often a nudge to go and say sorry to the people I upset the day before.
Secondly, to do something that re-creates you. For me, it is either dog walking, shifting a trailer load of horse muck with a tractor, or working in the garden. You no doubt will have different things that help you. It is important that we don't fill our lives so much with the work of the Lord, that we forget who He created us to be in the first place.
Thirdly, find someone you can have a very honest conversation with about how things are between you and God. I have a wise man who acts as my spiritual director with whom I meet every six weeks. He has a real knack of asking just the right thing, and helping shed light on some of the things I would rather keep in the dark.
Finally, book some time off. I invite you to get your calendar and if you haven't already, circle some days after Christmas, where you can get some quality rest. Those of us who are called to leadership are often the worst at obeying the 4th commandment, so ensure you have at least three days together where you can recharge your batteries.
These steps are by no means a guarantee that we will not still fall off the odd wall, but they will help to ensure we don't end up with too much egg on our faces!