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Monday, June 05, 2006

How to Avoid "Brain Drain" for Pastors

BraindrainEver feel totally brain-dead? Tired. Frustrated. Incapable of making a decision?

In his book, "Practicing Greatness," Reggie McNeal describes three "brain killers" that deserve special attention for each and every pastor and church leader:

1. Negative people. Leaders need to be aware that when they allow themselves to be consumed by negative people (who seem so often inclined to seek them out), they allow precious mental, emotional, and spiritual energy to be drained off from other leadership pursuits. Obviously, leaders cannot totally avoid negative people, but they can deflect their negativity by creating a mental boundary. So acknowledge their destructive, energy-sapping perspective, but stay on your side of the wall. And adopt a strategy of surrounding yourself with positive people as a proactive strategy.

2. Disorganization. Disorganization is a major brain drain. Not only does it consume time ("it's right here -- somewhere") but it also raises anxiety ("what am I forgetting?"), which is another major cause of brain drain. Even leaders who do not count administration as a strength can be sure they don't sabotage their efforts through a lack of organization. They do this by recruiting someone to help them, by availing themselves of technology, and deciding to expend enough personal effort to get sufficiently organized.

This discussion is not intended to make you feel guilty for finding organization to be a challenge. The idea here is not that you get skills of someone who has great propensity for this. You just want to defend against having a level of disorganization that creates a brain drain. Of course, some disorganized people don't even know this is a problem for them. Their way of life just feels normal to them. You can check this by asking your administrative assistant or a coworker who has exposure to your work habits to tell you if disorganization is something you should work on.

3. Tendency to second-guess decisions. Some spiritual leaders waste energy when they allow nagging doubts, compounded by self-blame, to dog them if things don't go the way they anticipated when they made a decision. Depending on personality and cognitive style, leaders need differing amounts of information and lead times in order to make decisions. But once decisions are made, the best leaders practice little second-guessing. "Would I have made the same decision with the same inforamtion I had at the time?" is a good question for leaders to ask themselves when tempted to second-guess. If the answer is yes, then the leader can move on. If the answer is no, then the issues is to find a better way to make decisions (which McNeal talks about later in the book)...

Could you use some help "practicing greatness"?

If you enjoyed the article above, you'll love Reggie McNeal's new book, "Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders."

Based on his extensive experience as coach and mentor to many thousands of Christian leaders across a broad spectrum of ministry settings, Reggie McNeal helps spiritual leaders understand that they will self-select into or out of greatness. In this important book, McNeal shows how great spiritual leaders are committed consciously and intentionally to seven spiritual disciplines, habits of heart and mind that shape both their character and competence:

The discipline of self-awareness—the single most important body of information a leader possesses

The discipline of self-management—handling difficult emotions, expectations, temptations, mental vibrancy, and physical well-being

The discipline of self-development—a life-long commitment to learning and growing and building on one's strengths

The discipline of mission—enjoying the permissions of maintaining the sense of God's purpose for your life and leadership

The discipline of decision-making—knowing the elements of good decisions and learning from failure

The discipline of belonging—the determination to nurture relationships and to live in community with others, including family, followers, mentors, and friends

The discipline of aloneness—the intentional practice of soul-making solitude and contemplation

Order your copy of "Practicing Greatness" here and support MMI at the same time!

On a scale of one to ten, how brain-dead are you this morning? What do you need to change from the list above to be effective this week?

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June 5, 2006 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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I think he has forgotten two very important things:

1. Overbooking/Fatigue--you are unable to think straight if you are constantly tired or rushed. Overbooking means that not only are you tired, but you have no time to just sit and think.

2. No Sabbath. By this I mean the need to not only relax, but also to refresh and be re-energized. I also mean the need to nurture the spiritual side of life. How many pastors and leaders schedule so much they don't have but 5-10 minutes for God?

Just a few thoughts.

Posted by: eric | Jun 5, 2006 9:12:09 AM

I would agree with the comments of Eric above. I think one of the biggest "brain-drains" of those involved in spritual (and especially church)leadership is the lack of a "sabbath" in their/our schedule. God makes it crystal clear how important the sabbath is. We need to fight to preserve the sabbath day in our personal lives. Without a day completely dedicated to time with God and time for self-restoration we will be left running on empty. Yet it seems the sabbath is one of the first things to get squeezed out of our lives... (for those involved in ministry - I don't believe "Sunday" can be a sabbath day) What are other leaders doing to preserve the sabbath in their lives?

Posted by: Christina | Jun 5, 2006 9:35:59 AM

I agree with eric on those two additonal items. Taking a Sabbath is more difficult for me than I would have thought.

Ironically I am spending the next two days organizing my office. It has sort of gotten away from me. But these are two days well spent.

Posted by: Kent | Jun 5, 2006 9:36:27 AM

Since today is Monday and I have a bit of PMS (Pastoral Monday Syndrome)I feel somewhat "Brain Drained". I agree that the Sabbath is difficult for ministers. The Hebrew word "shabbat" literally means "to Stop." That's a little more than rest and it's a little harder. Monday is a great office day and a day latter in the week is better for a "stop day".

Posted by: Bob | Jun 5, 2006 10:09:24 AM

Friday as a day off is great. But as a Sabbath I am not so sure. There is usually a "honey-do" list in the offing.

Posted by: Kent | Jun 5, 2006 12:33:13 PM

Sometimes I get so warn out that I don't want to even think about religious stuff.

Am I the only one?

Posted by: Al | Jun 5, 2006 1:01:51 PM

I especially like McNeal's question, "Would I have made the same decision with the same information I had at the time?" Too often we ask ourselves, "Would I make the same decision again?", and we interject all of the information we've gained since the first decision. Those are fundamentally different questions - and don't necessarily have the same "correct" answers.

18 months ago, I quit my well-paying but no longer satisfying job to launch a new ministry. The ministry has never really gotten off the ground, I wasn't able to raise the funds to support myself and my family, and the guy I was working with on it moved 1000 miles away. Talk about a scenario rich for second guessing! I have learned tons in the past couple years, including what kinds of questions to ask before taking such a leap. If I'd asked some of those questions then, I wouldn't have left my job; but with the same information as I had, I would have made the same decision. If I focus on the former question, I get drained emotionally and spiritually. Focusing on the second is very freeing.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Jun 5, 2006 1:09:58 PM

Amen to you all! I have been on a Sabbatical for several years and feel like I should totally get back to the calling I received some 26 years ago (a little slip of the finger produced "tears ago"). I am semi pastoring now and so much desire the calling to be His will. I believe He will give us the desires of our hearts if they are pure and within His will. Todd I am going to order the book and put it into practice. Guys, pray for the ministry here in NY and that I will be able to perform His will daily. Thanx.

Posted by: Jay Gainer | Jun 5, 2006 1:27:26 PM

Randy, I appreciate what you have to say about second-guessing decisions. After working in corporate America for nearly ten years, I took a church staff position thinking it may be my last chance to honor God's 'call' on my life.

I weighed variables and then threw caution to the wind...after which I got my butt kicked for 15 months by a pastor who had just a bit too high an estimation of his own level of genius.

I deeply regret making the decision, but I am thankful for what I learned in the process. Now, the trick is not to let disappointment turn into bitterness. I have a feeling that focusing on lessons learned and moving on is the key to my recovery.

Not hating people that remind me of the pastor from hell is a different story.

Posted by: Billy Cox | Jun 5, 2006 2:27:46 PM

Al writes... [Sometimes I get so warn out that I don't want to even think about religious stuff.]

You are indeed not the only one Al. Be encouraged!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Jun 5, 2006 5:10:17 PM

Absolutely agree with a day of rest. Whether called a Sabbath or not. Friday is my rest day, a family day, nothing else. This is a great benefit to me as I work full time and am currently ministering a small fellowship only a few months old.

God Bless.

Posted by: Eddie | Jun 6, 2006 3:36:28 AM

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