Leading with Courage and Integrity in the Midst of a Pandemic

As leaders, we must slow down and remember who is with us and who goes before us!
5 min read

When needs rise, many leaders are ready and willing to sacrifice it all on the altar of ministry—because they’re compelled by love and compassion. They are good shepherds who often de-prioritize their own well-being for the sake of their sheep.

That’s why we love you!

With the global pandemic, needs have multiplied and shifted drastically: emails, meetings, pivoting ministry plans, caring for the vulnerable, not to mention taking good care of your own health, family, and keeping the bills paid.

Parents shopping online on laptop while looking at daughter having breakfast in dining room
Image Credit: Maskot/Getty Images

Having worked in vocational ministry, both as pastors and volunteers, my husband and I personally know the toll it takes on the mind, body, and soul.

This level of need also takes a heavy toll on relationships. During times when we are pushed to our max and compassion fatigue is knocking at the door, consider the following tools to help you lead with courage and integrity.

You cannot give away what you have not first received. Trying to lead without your own oxygen mask on will only cause you to run out of gas, and you’ll be serving on fumes alone. That’s never a good way to lead.

Leaders who do not practice what they preach find themselves eventually burned out, hiding, and in many cases, diving deeper into unhealthy coping strategies.

You cannot give away what you have not first received.

On the other hand, leaders who understand their own humanity and practice the healthy habits that they preach with increasing measure, are able to sustain ministry for the long haul, finding reserve beyond their own abilities.

God’s unlimited resources flow through leaders that are dependent upon Him to deliver what is right, good, and in concert with His character.

1. Notice Your Own Basic Needs

Girl closing her eyes at the river bank
Image Credit: Yusuke Nishizawa/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Even Jesus, in His humanity, let the angels care for Him. He let Mary and Martha serve Him. There is a time and place to make sure we are cared for before we serve others.

Often, I have to ask leaders to focus on how their body feels and what it needs and then to take action to actually practice this principle.

  • Am I hungry? Then eat.
  • Am I tired? Take a 10-minute rest.
  • Am I amped? Take a walk.
  • Am I anxious? Take 5 deep and long breaths (6 exhales, 4 inhales).

Ignoring our own needs models to those in our wake that they, too, must ignore their own needs.

The long-term damage is far too much to risk.

2. Notice How You Feel

We must learn to feel it to heal it.

After years of sitting with leaders in my office, feeling our emotions can be the LAST thing we want to do—especially in times of holding everyone else’s emotional needs.

Healthy leaders (moms, dads, ministry leaders, managers, executives, etc.) all need to understand their own emotions and learn to find healthy ways to self-comfort before they can ever give that comfort away.

We must learn to feel it to heal it.

Many of us want to stop the bleeding because it makes us feel better, but this temporary relief only lasts momentarily.

At the beginning and end of the day, with a prayerful posture, consider the following with God’s help.

  • How am I feeling? (Worried, sad, angry, overwhelmed, lonely?)
  • Where is it in my body? (My head, heart, neck, back, chest?)
  • What lies am I tempted to believe, or what would the emotion say if it could talk? (I can’t do this! I don’t want things to be this way!)
  • Is there a scripture or truth that would bring peace? (God is present and capable.)
  • What action can I take to give it release? (Journal, talk, take a break, exercise, play.)

When you are ready, consider talking this out with a trusted friend, colleague, or spouse.

3. Notice Your Limitations

Notice where you are limited, and then ask for help.

Leadership is not about being all things to all people. I, and hundreds of leaders, are burdened with a cursed belief that it’s up to us to help those in need or get things done. If not me, then who?

Our God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for, especially in times of anxiety, fear, uncertainty and stress. Your head knows God is big, but your body, heart, and actions are acting as if YOU ARE IT!

Our God is so much bigger than we give Him credit for, especially in times of anxiety, fear, uncertainty and stress.

Take 10 minutes to prayerfully consider the following questions and see what God shows you.

  • Who is my responsibility? (Name these people.)
  • Who is God’s responsibility?
  • What is my responsibility to do TODAY?
  • What is on the list for TOMORROW?
  • Who can I ask for help and rely on to delegate to? (It might be God.)

When you stop to consider God’s thoughts, you might find your to-do list growing smaller and your faith growing bigger.

Remember that Jesus Gives Rest

Young woman sitting in windowframe looking out
Image Credit: Oliver Rossi/Stone/Getty Images

Jesus said, “Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Rest does not necessarily look like sleeping in, a long nap, or copious amounts of time with no deadline. Rest is about our posture—who we trust in times of need.

Simply slow down and remember who is with you, who goes before you, and how you might bring peace and comfort to those in your wake. This is highly dependent on your own rhythms.

He is in you and using you for His purposes. You are never ever alone.

How to Guard Yourself from Ministry Burnout

There are moments in every leader’s journey that defines whether they move forward or give up. Things happen, life gets hard, and opportunities come and go. Download this guide to be encouraged in your leadership walk with the Lord!
Free Guide

How to Guard Yourself from Ministry Burnout

There are moments in every leader’s journey that defines whether they move forward or give up. Things happen, life gets hard, and opportunities come and go. Download this guide to be encouraged in your leadership walk with the Lord!
Free Guide

How to Guard Yourself from Ministry Burnout

There are moments in every leader’s journey that defines whether they move forward or give up. Things happen, life gets hard, and opportunities come and go. Download this guide to be encouraged in your leadership walk with the Lord!
Free Guide
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  Updated on May 14, 2020

About the Author

  • Terra A. Mattson, MA, LMFT, LPC, and her husband, Jeff, are raising their two daughters just outside of Portland, Oregon. They are the founders of Courageous Girls and the counseling and organizational-development firm Living Wholehearted. Terra is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has helped thousands of women at every stage of the journey over the past two decades. She is the author of Courageous: Being Daughters Rooted in Grace. Learn more at Living Wholehearted and My Courageous Girls

© 2020 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
© 2019 David C Cook. All rights reserved.
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