6 Common Mindsets That Drain All Church Leaders

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A church leader's plate can quickly fill up with lofty goals, stressful tasks like hiring and firing, and an overwhelming to-do list. This is problematic because it is remarkably easy for church leaders to fall into deadly states of mind when presented with so much expectation, leading to potential burnout or moral failure. It is important to be armed with a healthy mindset in order to combat these thoughts. 

Identification of a problem is the first step to finding a solution. I hope the identification of these problem perspectives can help lead you to some solutions. These are all mentalities that will put you on the fast track to burnout, so I encourage you to indentify if they play a role in the way you are currently approaching your ministry. 

1. "It’s better if I do this on my own." 

There are two sides to this coin. On one side is a fear of delegating because it will confirm any inadequacy we may feel; asking for help is admitting that we can’t do it all on our own. However, it is a gift to accept that we can’t do it all on our own, an opportunity to have a team moving together toward the same goal. 

On the other side, we fail to delegate because of pride and/or lack of trust. Equally as destructive as the belief that you are inadequate is the belief that everyone else is inadequate. It’s only lonely at the top if you insulate yourself for a sense of control and autonomy. Let go and let your team lead.

Leadership is not control, and delegation is not laziness. Tweet: #Leadership is not control, and delegation is not laziness. http://bit.ly/1OXpNoS via @VanderbloemenSG

2. "I need to stop and analyze until I have complete understanding."

Life will keep moving forward regardless of your current circumstances. Your responsibilities for today are not put on hold because of something that happened yesterday. Yes, it is good to carve out time to reflect and learn, but if your mind is constantly consumed with reflection, it is likely that you are just stuck in shame or overanalyzing, making little progress in actually learning from the past.

Paralysis from deep reflection happens when you don’t set boundaries or goals around your analysis. Remember that you can always course-correct.

Analysis is a tool for informing your future, not changing your past. Tweet: Analysis is a tool for informing your future, not changing your past. http://bit.ly/1OXpNoS via @VanderbloemenSG

3. "I’ll set boundaries when I have less on my plate."

We’ve all been in seasons where boundaries felt like a luxury reserved for times that weren’t so busy. We can lose sight of balance because all we see are the needs of the ministry or the length of the to-do list. If you continue this line of thinking, you will always be able to find something to keep the plate full. It is easy to devote all of your energy to work (it is work, after all).

However, finding identity or satisfaction in your work is not sustainable. Work will continue to creep into the time you need to recharge, and you will be burned out from burning the candle at both ends. 

4. "Every item on my to-do list is a top priority."

When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority; and without priorities, it is nearly impossible to mange your time and energy. You will either run until you are out of energy or you will start to miss deadlines because you were spending your time on tasks that were not as time-sensitive. If you need help, have a trusted colleague help you put your to-do list in order of priority, and focus on what is most important.

5. "Unrealistic goals push me to try my hardest."

I’ve worked under this self-induced pressure at different points in my life, thinking that setting unrealistic goals would push me past the point of realistic goals. However, knowing that I wouldn’t reach the goals eventually either gave me permission for poor performance or led to disappointment. Never meeting your goals will not push you to be better; it will just wear you down. Keep your goals - and your team's goals - realistic and achievable.

6. "Success will be the antidote."

Viewing yourself as a failure is different than and uncorrelated to failing. Some of the highest achievers view themselves as failures, and some people who have failed more times than they can count still know how to keep moving forward. It is easy to think that the solution to feeling like a failure is to succeed. But when you approach evaluations of your successes and failures with this bias, you will confirm it by dismissing the success and dwelling on the failure. Failures are opportunities to do better next time, and success does not define you. Don't let your identity rest in either.

I hope that these encouragements give you the ability to recognize and change a deadly mindset before it affects your actions and leadership in your church or ministry.

How can you begin to self-evaluate these pressure points in your work life?

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