by Gretchen Huesmann
Tired. Weary. Exhausted. Sometimes we’re just having a busy day. At other times, we experience seasons of hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, not all labor produces obvious fruit and we can feel like we’re spinning our wheels, a common feeling in ministry. Obviously, if our path is leading to burnout, something has to give. It’s time to take a step, even if we’re dead on our feet.
1. Step Back
Sometimes we just need to take a STEP BACK – a break, a hiatus, or a vacation. How many people really take a day off or a true Sabbath rest? I know I’m guilty of dragging work home with me on a regular basis. Jesus Himself set a better example when He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place to get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
Or perhaps a longer respite is required, such as a sabbatical. This is trickier, but may be necessary for clarity, health, and rejuvenation. My husband and I have friends who recently embarked on a 6-month sabbatical. This step was not an easy one for them or their workplaces. However, the alternative, to continue the downward spiral toward burnout, was not a welcome option.
2. Step Aside
At other times, the Lord may be calling us to STEP ASIDE. Could it be that God has something else in mind for us or less in mind for us? Maybe it’s time for someone else to run the Sunday School or plan VBS. I know a woman who has led the same Bible study group for 30 years! She’s very proud of that. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many potential leaders have missed out from her unwillingness to step aside.
3. Step Away
Perhaps a bigger step is needed, a STEP AWAY. Any kind of change is daunting, especially a career change. It requires prayerful consideration, conversations with family, and searching God’s Word for direction. It takes courage and clarity and a whole lot of trust. Recently, a friend left his job to start his own construction business, a bold move to be sure, but a God-directed and God-inspired one. He has a new bounce in his step.
4. Step Up
One last option is to STEP UP. Is God calling you to press on? To lean into the work, not with your own strength, but with His power?
Paul describes this in Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.” And in Colossians 1:29, “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”
Noah pressed on to build the ark, despite the dry weather. Moses pressed on with the Egyptians behind and the Red Sea ahead. Jesus stepped up when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
What step do you need to take? Proverbs 4:26a says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” If exhaustion is leading you on a path toward burnout, carefully, prayerfully consider your next step. Know that our God will lead you.
Gretchen Huesmann loves to connect women with God’s Word through Bible studies, retreats, and blogging. Since little people are her other joy, she also teaches 4K. Gretchen lives in Jackson, Wisconsin. You can find her blog at www.gretchenhuesmann.com.
For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER.
The secrets to Sarah Holtan’s leadership success: Integrity, citizenship and the Dream Team. Read on…
What does it look like to be a woman in a leadership role? How does Christian faith impact leadership? And what happens when you put the two together?
To find out, we caught up with Sarah Holtan who is the Chair of the Department of Communication at Concordia University of Wisconsin. Sarah has been at CUW since 2001 and has held numerous roles there. She holds a B.A. in Mass Communication and Political Science from Augsburg College, and M.S. in Education for CUW, and a Ph.D. in Journalism Education from Marquette University. Sarah is also a speaker at the upcoming WLI National Conference where she will lead a workshop on Speaking 101: Delivery That Delivers.
We asked Sarah a few questions about her job and her views on Christian leadership:
What’s the favorite part of your job?
I love developing curriculum, energizing class discussions, mentoring, career counseling, and inventing fun “side” projects completely outside my job description.
How do you bring your Christian values into your work?
Integrity: Via role modeling; and holding myself, peers, direct reports, and students accountable to expected standards.
Citizenship: Integrating current events into course curricula.
Service: Offering short-term service learning projects in a few courses; serving on many committees; and nearly always saying yes to special requests, tasks, and duties.
Work Ethic: A disposition of gratitude toward my professional vocation; being willing to roll up my sleeves and do the work.
Can you remember a specific experience where you relied on your Christian faith or values to lead you through a tough decision or important task?
I was the Dean of Students for several years at CUW and the Chief Conduct Officer. I had to make many tough decisions. One of the toughest types of decisions was whether a student had to be removed from a resident hall or the University following a serious violation. I had to weigh the rights of the individual student and the concept of forgiveness against the rights of the community and the concept of consequences. As such, I often relied on my values of integrity and citizenship. I don’t know if I got all the tough decisions right but I’m hopeful that God was able to use any mistakes for something good.
How does working in a religious or secular setting change the way you lead as a Christian?
I’ve worked in both settings and they do seem different. Perhaps I am more thoughtful about how my decisions affect others now that I work in a religious context. My success seems secondary to others now. However, age and maturity might be the key contributors to becoming more other-centered. It’s important that Concordia prepares students to be Christian leaders wherever they work, regardless of the setting.
Who are your biggest role models as a leader?
I am blessed to have a peer group that has supported and helped me grow professionally. We call ourselves the “Dream Team,” although no one else has adopted that moniker! Our similarities drew us together and aided in our bonding. Our differences challenge us and spur growth.
What most prepared you to be a Christian leader in the workplace?
Ironically, it was the creation of an in-house, faith-based leadership program for faculty and staff at Concordia. A colleague, Prof. Tracy Tuffey (Psychology Department) and I developed the program from scratch. We created a proposal, pitched it to the higher ups, secured funding, generated buy-in from participants and administrators, organized the logistics, facilitated the sessions, assessed the program, and turned it into a research project. Prof. Tuffey and I simply wanted to fulfill a perceived need on our campus. No one asked us to do this nor compensated us. It’s actually been an enormous energizer for me at work. It’s also taught me a lot about having an original vision and seeing it through, despite the obstacles. I believe vision and perseverance are two hallmarks of leadership.
What challenges do you face as a Christian leader in your workplace?
I’ll answer the same way I’ve heard others answer: the scrutiny of being a Christian. It seems to be held against us at times. It’s quite impossible to be perfect and people watch us very carefully! I have found that when I try to defend my Christian perspective (e.g., consequences along with forgiveness), I just end up sounding defensive. That is something I am working on.
What is the most important piece of advice you would want to pass along to other Christian women in leadership?
Fight the Good Fights. Ask yourself a few questions to discern the difference between Good and Bad Fights. Does justice need to be served? Does a person or a cause need advocacy? Is this project/task/duty worthwhile personally or professionally, even if there is no recognition or compensation? Would you still take this project/task/duty on, even if creates a headache or full-blown backlash? Could you defend yourself with evidence? If you took your ego out of the equation, would you still engage in this conflict? If you “lose” the fight, can you turn the “loss” into a valuable lesson? I don’t mind a good loss. It can ease my conscience, serve others, and possibly even build some credibility and trust along the way. Ideally, it paves the way for change in the future. Sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s been my experience.
As I reflect on the last three years of my college experience and growing leadership skills, I feel the culmination of many small teaching moments have been molding my character little by little to form a steadfast servant for Christ. Servant leadership is a concept I’ve immensely matured in since freshman year and I can honestly say intentionally living my life for others continues to transform my heart every day. Even though I have a busy schedule, the various roles I am able to participate in rarely feel like work and it has been refreshing to watch God shine through the acts of service my peers and myself complete. I never imagined heading into my senior year I would be given such unique opportunities to serve God and live out my vocation!
Leading nursing home ministry taught me how to communicate better with others, plan events to meet multiple requests or suggestions, and exercise a new level of leadership autonomy that was unfamiliar to me. Even on evenings when I would have rather done homework instead of going to the nursing home, God never failed to prove me wrong that it was worth my time to visit the residents. The residents’ sweet smiles, witty comments, and wisdom of enduring the highs and lows of life taught me something new each week. I frequently left feeling as if they had served me more than I had served them. The residents and the nursing staff often remarked how much they looked forward to our weekly visits and that we visibly brightened their day.
Besides what I began experiencing sophomore year with Nursing Home Ministry, I am blessed to witness the outcomes of my services in my other roles as well. I’ve seen two homes be built with Habitat for Humanity, homeless people fed on the streets of Milwaukee with Street Team, and the glow on audience members faces after performing touching music with the Wind Ensemble. Nursing school has not been an easy feat academically so when I have the chance to encourage some of the younger, struggling students through my SI position I feel honored to be the tool God chooses to work through in small non-formal conversations. Receiving appreciation e-mails from the students and seeing them develop the confidence to in turn help teach their fellow peers who need help has been an extremely rewarding part of the job.
Outside of holding direct leadership positions, I think my character has developed simply from being able to quietly watch, learn, and put into practice the enriching examples of what it is like to be a Godly, professional, and extremely compassionate woman that has been modeled by Concordia’s staff and faculty. My list of role model women who “I want to be like someday” continues to grow. I am so thankful for the ways God has placed specific people in my life throughout college who have made this campus feel like home and keep me actively pursuing God, even when it is difficult. I owe many of my gained leadership qualities to those women.
Additionally, as God has opened my heart to servant leadership, He has reassured me that my quieter sometimes shy demeanor is not a character flaw but rather the way God designed me to uniquely serve Him alone. My yelling voice may not carry across an entire room, but my heart screams for Jesus and I try my best to convey his love to everyone who crosses my path. I have learned to value the more quiet confidence He granted me and I look forward to meeting the people God continues to write into the story of my everyday life. So, even if I am not at a specific service event, I now appreciate the service of the simple yet significant act of knowing someone’s name, giving them a little smile in the hallway, and conveying to them that they are loved by God.
Looking to the future, I intend to continue developing as a servant leader by first, being aware of what opportunities God calls me to while taking time to seek out those in need of hearing the Gospel message. I did not develop my current leadership skills overnight and know that I still have a lot of growing to do. I am far from perfect. I am attempting to be more diligent about spending time in God’s word and hope He will reveal more to me through scripture. As I begin my CMLT presidency I plan to continue participating in WLI workshops and have loved the speakers I’ve heard this year including the confident leader workshop. I have been blessed on this leadership journey so far and trust God will only continue to work things for good if I remain faithful to Him.
Learn more about WLI and all we have to offer by exploring the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, and TWITTER.