“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”. - James 1:2-5, NIV
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him”. - Hebrews 11:6, NIV
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me”. - Revelation 3:20, NIV
God is at the door. He is in our midst and available to us in this most trying time. He is with us! When your faith is tested, it stirs up power within you to endure all things. This is how we grow! These kinds of trials enable us to be the men and women of God and the leaders God intends for us to be.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia”. -1 Peter 1:1, NIV
Let’s stop there; notice the word scattered. That is how it feels today. The church feels scattered. Our TC family has been scattered by the social distancing requirements. Our worlds have drastically changed in a matter of days and months by the impact of Covid-19. We have all been forced to endure some challenges and some measure of inconvenience and pain, but God is still on the throne, and He has us in the palm of His hand. James tells us to count it all joy when we experience and face trials of many kinds. And many trials there have been: staff and students with Covid-19, traditional fundraising has stopped – causing a real shortfall in finances, donors, who themselves are also facing challenges have stopped giving, and some of us have lost loved ones.
√ We have all been given an opportunity to count it all joy.
√ We have all had our leadership skills tested.
√ We have all had our emotional and mental health challenged.
How does leadership in a crisis impact us?
1. A crisis moves us to action.
It never leaves us the same! That’s certain! Yet, the question becomes, “Is this movement positive or negative?”. The onset of any crisis is almost all negative. It is surprising, inconvenient, taxing, uncomfortable, and it can cause fear to rise up. On top of that, most of us have to confront the fact, all over again, that we don’t like change.
After the initial reaction, leaders begin to make choices. We must own our responsibility and lead our organization by the grace and wisdom of God. So, you decide, “Do I swim upstream or just go with the flow?”. Because there are things you cannot control, you have to choose to control what you can. You cannot control how government regulations will impact operating your center or micro-businesses.
You cannot control how ever-changing regulations impact those around you. You cannot control the amount of fear that is created by the news media’s opinions and reports.
You can control your attitude, and you, as a leader, can make the necessary adjustments to keep things moving forward. When it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties, you can choose to live by faith and utilize every challenge as an opportunity for joy, just as James suggested.
2. A crisis reveals who the true leaders are.
There are so many voices trying to influence our hearts and minds, and a lot of the noise seeks to drown out all reason and truth. It can be difficult to know what to do with so many voices coming at us at once. A leader has to choose to control the voices that are allowed to give advice or counsel.
Crisis will separate pretenders from true leaders. I’ve been around many TC leaders and pastors the last few months, and generally, two types of responses have emerged:
Some are listening to the many negative voices and are emotionally discouraged and living in fear, and a few even dealing with mild to severe depression. Many of these want to quit. The feeling of hopelessness is real for those who give in and give up.
Others are silencing the voices and making the choice to move their organization forward. They choose to limit themselves to minimal news and not listen to the negative voices and opinions of others. We need to remember that so much of what we are hearing is simply someone’s opinion.
Knowing that Hebrews 11:6 says that “He is the rewarder of those who seek Him,” I have counseled several leaders to take a three-day fast from the news and spend time listening to God for His direction. We need to invest time with God and then take Him at His Word. God was not surprised by Covid-19, nor has He given up control. Our part as leaders is to listen to His Word, stand in faith, and press into what God has called us to do.
True leaders get their heads above the noise and can see down the road, as God enables. We know this crisis will end one day. No pandemic in history has lasted beyond a certain period of time.
3. A crisis tests your confidence.
We are in continual change. We are shifting, changing, and it’s critical that we are adaptable. Like every professional sports team has a pre-game plan against their opponent, at half time, depending on how the game is going, the game plan may change. To win, they have to be adaptable. This is key. We, too, must be adaptable to the changes required to move forward. These changes are impacted by attitude and confidence. We must get our heads above the noise and see where God wants us to go.
So what is expected of us as leaders in this crisis?
1. You lead through the crisis.
You show the way. Your team needs you to lead them. They need you to build confidence and see that you know where you are going and that you have the faith to get them there.
When you put a 1,000 piece puzzle together, you always look at the picture as a guide. You see clearly, and then you begin. In good times, the picture is clear, but this crisis has no picture. That tells me that I have to begin by faith. The pieces of the puzzle will come. He will lead us. The next step is to take the next step. You observe, consider your options, decide, and then act.
2. As leaders in a crisis, we need:
- Awareness - We have our eyes open, an openness to change, and consideration for the voices, listening to what is going on, not just to opinion, but listening to God.
- Anticipation - We trust our intuition, our heart.
- Agility - We make flexible plans (plans A & B), and if they don’t work, then go to plan C or D.
3. Embrace good biblical values.
Lead by values and not by emotion or recent input. We can’t give in to fear or be led by it. This kind of leadership increases the crisis. People are dying, and it’s scary, but fear makes it worse.
Many have never had to deal with something as challenging as this pandemic and are overwhelmed with fear. The lack of values contributes to this fear, resulting in a 40% increase in alcohol sales across the nation, and overdose deaths and teen suicides are also up around the world. People are scared, they are hurting, and they need good leaders who embrace good values.
Solid biblical values that bring comfort include:
- Freedom from fear. (The assurance that everything is going to be okay.)
- Moral courage.
4. As leaders, we need to effectively communicate.
Keep in touch with reality! If we argue with reality, we’ll inevitably lose. Resist taking hearsay as fact and running with it. Connect with what is really going on, and know we are going to get through it. Communicate with care, compassion and assurance. Use “we” when communicating: “Together, we are going to make it,” and “we are moving forward.”
Know that we are praying for you and trusting God with you for the future.
God bless you!
Jerry Nance, PhD
Global Teen Challenge