There are many beautiful days in college ministry, days where you see the power of God moving in the hearts and the lives of these students you love so much. Then there are days when you are so shattered that you wonder why you continue to serve.
The truth is, we will have more days of heartbreak and discouragement than we would like to think we will in ministry. Burn out, discouragement, disagreement, and conflict will find us in the midst of those beautiful days. I have found that some of my most blessed days come with brokenness. When I was battling through depression, grief, anxiety and PTSD while also trying to lead well on my campus, I found that I wasn’t doing well at either one. I chose to reach out and find better ways of handling the brokenness and stress while leading.
Here is what I’ve learned about how to lead well when you are struggling with your own broken heart.
Prioritize your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
This means being in tune with your mind, soul, and body so that you can recognize the symptoms of distress—then doing what is necessary to maintain good health. That might mean taking time to sleep, be with friends, eat well, exercise, worship the Lord, spend time in the Word, seek therapy, take medicine, or fellowship with fellow believers. Do what you need to do to be your healthiest self. Healthy people breed a healthy ministry.
Learn to Say No
“No is a full sentence.” My friend Hannah Gryder said this, and it completely smacked me in the face. Oftentimes we as leaders feel obligated to take on so much, whether it’s teaching Sunday School, speaking at churches, leading a VBS class, etc. These are good things in their own right, but they may not be the right things for us to be doing.
Jesus didn’t heal every person. He didn’t feed every person. He didn’t raise every dead person from the grave. What He did do was be obedient to the Father doing what He wanted Him to do. Knowing your limits helps you know that God has no limit. Saying NO to some things is good; it’s showing grace to yourself, to your family and to those you are ministering to.
Be Kind to Yourself
Our harshest critic is ourselves. The enemy uses that to keep us from acknowledging and accessing our true source of strength: Jesus. You will fail. Things will not turn out like you planned. Life will suddenly change. People will hurt you. Kindness isn’t always about being nice. Niceness is about politeness; kindness is about love. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit; niceness is not. Kindness is about doing what’s necessary to bring out the best in yourself and others.
In this context, that means recognizing your flaws and dealing with them, making peace with your mistakes, moving forward instead of dwelling in the hurt, and choosing healing from loss and hurt. You do this just like Paul did learning to live with the thorn in his side (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Ultimately he came to realize that when he is weak, God is strong.
This one is particularly difficult for me, so I don’t take lightly what I’m about to say: not everyone needs access to every part of your life. I know it’s crazy, right?!? Teach people how to treat you by your boundaries. Students need to know that you need time alone, you need time with your family, and you need time with Jesus. Your whole life doesn’t revolve around them, nor does it revolve around anyone or anything else but Jesus.
That means you make clear boundaries with all the people in your life about when they have access to you, but also clear boundaries about how you’re to be treated by those people in your life as well. And be clear what will happen if those boundaries are crossed. This won’t be easy at first especially with people who are used to getting away with treating you or others any way they please, but they will adjust—you all will be healthier when this happens.
Instead of trying to power through this difficult season, be honest with where you’re at and what you need. Tell those closest to you, seek out wisdom, and allow others to help you. God gave us the gift of the Body of Christ for a reason—so use it. You’re not alone; no one should be fighting the darkness alone. Let someone in to help you through the tough seasons. It won’t make you less of a leader; it will make you a better one."You're not alone; no one should be fighting the darkness alone. Let someone in to help you through the tough seasons." -Christina Boatright #collegiatediscipleship 5 Essentials for Leading Well From a Broken Place Click To Tweet
Keep Your Light Bright
I know very well that this list is easier said than done. What I have found though is that the things worth doing are the hardest things to do. God has called us to be lights in the darkness; keep your light bright.