As a ministry leader, chances are that you have felt a little “stuck” before. In fact, you may even feel stuck right now.
That’s pretty normal.
But, it doesn’t mean you are stuck and it doesn’t mean there isn’t a way out.
This episode will explore seven steps to move you from feeling stuck to moving forward.
What is “STUCK”?
It’s the feeling that we’re spinning our wheels in ministry, like maybe God has given us a vision, but no matter what we’re doing, we can’t see the fruit of the work at hand.
We try this and that, but nothing changes. Numbers don’t grow. Lives don’t appear to change. Volunteers don’t come.
So, you try something new. And still, you’re stuck.
Have you been there?
I know that I have!
It’s a natural part of being in ministry, and of being in leadership. It’s natural that we all go through seasons where we cannot see the fruit of what we’re doing.
But, here’s the trick.
DON’T LET THOSE SEASONS DERAIL YOU.
For many leaders, those seasons go from days to months to years. And they either become so discouraged that they quit, or they become so frustrated that they stop trying and settle for the status quo.
Neither is good!
And neither is God’s heart for you.
So, today, I want to offer you 7 practical tips for going from stuck to unstuck.
Recognize that You’re NOT REALLY Stuck
The idea of being stuck is just an idea. It’s not reality. That may seem odd. In fact, you may be tempted to turn off this podcast right here saying “but you don’t know my circumstance”.
True. I don’t know your circumstances. But I know that stuck would imply that you’re trapped. Like you cannot move. I grew up in Michigan and I remember one snowy winter, I was about 17 years old and I was driving on a back road. I slid into a snowbank and was stuck. I could not get out. There was NOTHING I could do until a kind passerby came in a big truck and pulled me out.
But in leadership, there is always something that you can do. You are not helpless. You are not hopeless. You are not really stuck.
You feel stuck. But you’re not stuck.
So, recognize that reality. You may feel stuck. But, as we’ll see today, there are things that you can do to change your mind, change the situation and change the circumstances.
Feeling stuck is an emotion led by our thoughts.
Our thoughts will always be the reason we feel a certain way.
So, start to think differently.
- Thought: “I’m stuck in this deadend staff role where I can’t get any traction in my ministry no matter what I try.”
- Feeling: Apathetic, defeated or stuck
- Action: Take no action at all
- Results: No movement forward, no results to show and still in the same job.
We act on emotions and because of the way we’re feeling.
If you’re feeling stuck you’re likely taking no action at all – but this is still a type of action – inaction.
Our thoughts produce our beliefs which produce actions, which produce our situations. So, to change the situation, change your thoughts.
If you’re not careful, you’ll be creating results based on feeling stuck and I’m guessing those results aren’t what you’re dreaming of. Nor are they the results that God has called you to.
So recognize that you’re only as stuck as you believe you are.
Become Aware and Name Reality
Something got you to where you are now. And there is a reason why you’re feeling the way you are.
Our thoughts and the things we believe create our emotions, and since feeling stuck is an emotion, we need to uncover the base thought or belief behind it. And name it.
If you can pinpoint what has got you feeling (and believing) that you’re stuck, you’ve won half the battle.
Often as leaders, we can get into a rut of either thinking everything has us stuck, or simply believing the wrong things have us stuck. We blame our feelings of being stuck on things or people that are not really the cause.
So, you’ve got to give yourself an honest assessment of what’s making you feel stuck.
That’s not usually easy. But it’s necessary. Don’t settle into a defeatist mentality that believes everything is wrong and you become overwhelmed. Get specific about looking at yourself, the people around you and the circumstances you find yourself in.
What is the biggest barrier to progress?
Is it a certain person that is always in opposition to you? Is it your own desire to please people? Is it simply a story you’ve been telling yourself. Name it. In order to get unstuck, you’ve got to get to the root of what’s causing you to feel so stuck in the first place.
Get Out Of Your Head
In order to change your beliefs, you need to separate yourself from your thoughts.
Get out of your own head to uncover why you’re feeling the way you are.
Do a thought download of all the thoughts that are on a loop in your mind.
Write them down on a piece of paper. Often writing down our thoughts helps us see them for what they are. When you put them on paper, they go from playing on loop in our mind, feeling much bigger than they are, to being seen for exactly what they are.
A thought. A feeling. A story we’re telling ourselves.
Take what you’ve identified as your biggest barrier to progress and begin to extract all of the stories, feelings and emotions around it. Get that stuff out of your head and onto paper.
When it’s given permission to run amuck in your mind, it will always seem bigger and more unmanageable than when you put it down on paper.
Neutralize The Thought
Ask yourself, how can you change this thought and how can you neutralize it?
For example, if you’re struggling with a certain person on your board who seems to always be in opposition to you, you’ve named the issue, you’ve written down all of your thoughts and feelings surrounding the issue and now you need to move it from being a frustrating issue to just being what it is.
For example. What if you’re having the thoughts: Bob is always trying to undermine me. He’s against everything I’m trying to get done here. Because of Bob, I can’t get anything done.
You can neutralize the thoughts about Bob while still naming reality for what it is.
Bob provides a different perspective. I can learn how to work with Bob and help him feel valued and part of the vision that God has given me to move forward.
By shifting the narrative around Bob, you’re able to move from feeling defeated by Bob, to understanding that there are things you can do to move forward with Bob.
Neutralizing your thoughts won’t make everything easy, but our thoughts will drive our behaviors as leaders. So, if you think of Bob as an enemy, you’ll never get Him to work alongside of you or join in the vision God has given you. You’ll feel like a victim of Bob instead of a leader of Bob.
This goes for every thought, person, circumstance that has you feeling stuck. How you think about the things and people around you will drive how you interact with them.
Change the story you’re telling yourself and you’ll change the way you feel and behave.
Act on your new thoughts
If you want to stop feeling stuck as a leader, you’ve got to take responsibility and plan steps of action. But the type of action I’m talking about comes from within you and moves externally. Rather than the other way around.
Here’s what I mean.
If you try to change your circumstances to change how you feel, it will not work.
In fact, you can’t expect external changes to swoop you out of your rut.
Change in your circumstances or in your organization will come from changes within you as the leader.
It is only passive leaders who will look merely to external circumstance to improve in hopes of their feeling stuck to go away. We’ve all seen this.
It’s the leader whose church is shrinking and they seemingly sit around waiting for something to change. This leader feels stuck and overwhelmed, not knowing where to make change, so they pray for change and blame it on God when nothing happens.
That’s not leading.
But the leader who is able to name what’s going on, shift the way they think and therefore behave, who is able to join God in His mission and will be far more likely to see progress forward in the ministry.
This leader still prays and relies on God. But they also make internal shifts and then take steps of action.
It’s the only way to get unstuck and see progress.
- You feel stuck in your relationship with board member Bob
- You want to leave that ministry assignment to find a different place where you can get more done.
If you quit your job because you think whatever is on the other side will make you happy – you believe that external factors create your emotions.
Believe me, you’ll just find another “bob” in the next place you serve.
As a healthy leader, you’ve got to change what you believe about the Bob’s in your life, shift the stories you’re telling yourself and therefore shift how you engage with that person or circumstance, etc.
Focus on the Future
To acquire forward motion and get you from stuck to unstuck, you need to have a driving force – and that driving force is the vision.
Ask yourself: Where is God leading me? Or where is God leading this ministry? Or our family? Etc.
Shifting the way you think and behave in the face of opposition is not easy. And frankly, the only thing that makes these changes worth it, is to focus on the vision of what God is doing.
As a leader, you’ve got to be clear on the vision and be the first one to step into that vision.
Begin living as though that vision is now.
Back to the example of board member Bob.
In the future vision, is Bob a problem? No way.
Don’t let the challenges with Bob keep you up at night. And don’t let them derail you from what God is doing. Bob may be frustrating now, but the only things that will stand in the way of what God is doing, is what you let stand in the way of what God is doing.
If you allow present frustrations to get you stuck, apathetic, defeated… God will find someone else who is bold enough to cary out the vision. His plans will move forward in the hearts of those who are surrendered to Him and willing to take action along side of him.
If you allow yourself to feel stuck, you’ll be stuck.
If you fix your eyes on the future of what God is doing, the vision will cary you through the challenges you may experience now.
It might not be easy. But it won’t be defeating.
Taking action is the only way out of the “stuckness”.
And there is one thing that will be required for you to take action.
Courage is not just a feeling, it’s a skill you can practice and get really good at.
People aren’t courageous because they feel courageous. They’re courageous because they’ve decided to be. As you practice it, you will gain confidence. Courage is a muscle. It grows as you use it.
So, as a leader who refuses to remain stuck, implement courage into your daily routine.
This means, getting out of your comfort zone every single day. It takes courage to break the cycle of your stuck thoughts. It takes courage to tell yourself a new story about what is within you or around you. And it takes courage to step into the vision of what God is doing.
But, God has given you His spirit. The same spirit that raised Christ from the dead is within you as His leader.
You don’t have to search around for courage. God has placed His spirit within you. So, ask Him to help you be courageous. Then, take some steps of faith. And be courageous.
Before You Go
Your thinking will always determine how you feel.
You’ll take action on the energy (emotions) you feel.
The action is what creates our results.
So, pay attention to and investigate the thoughts you’re currently having and ask yourself how you can change them.
If your mind is used to the negative thoughts, you need to practice this shift in mindset regularly.
First, go neutral, then new and improved.
Choose better thoughts and act on those new thoughts.
Recognize that God has empowered you with His Holy Spirit. Live with the power He has given you and be courageous to live in the vision that He has set before you.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, motivation, and the ability to get coached by me on your real-life problems, Join my free facebook group. It’s called The Jesus Leader Community for women in Christian Leadership.
I’d absolutely love to have you on board.
Until next time, I hope you continue to lead like Jesus!