Strategy #2: Move at the Pace of Your Success
Very recently I was on the elliptical trainer at the gym. (Believe me, I am loving how virtuous that sounds. Don’t buy it.) I was moving right along, trying to tick off the minutes as fast as I possibly could, when a roving trainer stopped at my machine. “Nice to see you here,” he said. (I took that as a judgment statement, even though he probably wasn’t trying to induce guilt.) He took a look at the digital display on the machine and, while I kept running along like a rat on a wheel, he explained that I wasn’t really working hard enough to get any results. I had to increase the incline. I had to pick up the pace. I had to go for longer, much longer, than I had planned.
Sigh. Perhaps he was unaware of what fortitude it took to actually get me in the door. How depressing. I wanted to quit.
The writers of Bearing Fruit: Ministry With Real Results maintain that to sustain fruitful pastoral leadership you have to move at the pace of your success and not get sidelined by the next hill ahead. The reason for this is, of course, that if you start out to run a marathon and are upset because you can’t run twenty-six miles on your first time out running, you’re probably going to quit. You start by running around the block. Then doing it twice, and on and on until you slowly build up to the whole race.
They write, “Anxiety about a fulfilled vision for ministry can wear out a good leader. When the church begins to feel vital and commitment is on the rise, it can become addictive. As objectives and goals are accomplished, leaders naturally begin to think about the next big thing. What would we look like in ten more years? How much more building do we need to do? How many more staff do we need to hire? Could we handle the ministry load of the additional people projected to arrive with the opening of the new facility? It does not take long to realize that the journey that brought the leader to this point of vitality has been taxing. Thinking about the steps necessary to move to the final summit can feel crushing.”
There are times to push forward and times to rest, just like any runner will tell you (I think). Sometimes the best leadership strategy is to pause and slow things down, to preserve your energy for the next big hill, to rest and recuperate after a big push, to move at the pace of your success.