In ministry, authenticity grows relationships. Some people are intimidated by their pastors and leaders in the local church. Congregants can easily believe the lie that those serving from the platform have their lives more “put together” than the average layperson. When we, as ministry leaders, are willing to be vulnerable, we will see how simple relatability can make a massive impact on our discipleship opportunities.
But what about boundaries? How do we lead authentically in ministry without inappropriately blurring lines with those we are responsible for helping to grow in the Lord? How can we share the pain in our own stories without dishonoring another person or sliding into gossip? If we show weakness as leaders, should we be concerned about breaking the trust of those we lead?
Here are some key truths the Lord has taught me about leading authentically in ministry as I’ve wrestled through these types of questions throughout my own difficult season of life:
1. Remember that in Christ, you have nothing to prove.
So often as ministry leaders, we feel an unnecessary amount of pressure to be flawless. We know that none of us are perfect, yet we can easily slip into operating out of our own strength and abilities. As leaders, we must be diligent to train our hearts and minds in humility. Pride is always creeping at the door, and especially for those in the limelight. We may feel the pull to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, and in doing so, the pressure of proving ourselves “worthy” of our calling or position begins to surface (Rom. 12:3). It is vital that we remember who has given us the giftedness that has placed us in a position of leadership in the first place—God. Christ has approved us already. Christ’s work on the cross has accomplished all that is truly necessary. We are free to share our seasons of suffering with those whom we lead because Jesus modeled it to us. He was transparent with his disciples as he prayed in the garden, asking them to come alongside him and be present in his pain (Matt. 26:36-46). We can do the same without fear of rejection, for Christ is our source of strength.
2. Remember that your primary purpose is to glorify God.
Our positions of leadership serve to exalt God, not ourselves. If our vulnerability through a difficult season or openness about our past mistakes shines a light on God’s redemptive work, then praise Him for that opportunity to be used for His glory! We may be “leaders” in the eyes of humanity, but at the end of the day, we are merely servants of the King, purposed with stewarding our role in His Kingdom (Gal. 1:10).
3. Remember that boundaries are for you, not others.
Boundaries exist for our own protection. We are free in Christ to ask for wisdom on what to share, when to share, how to share, and with whom to share, that it may serve the body and build others up. Boundaries are important because they enable us to share a piece of our hearts and what God has taught us, but not divulge all of the details. A simple, “I’m not comfortable answering that,” is an acceptable answer to any part of our story that is not relevant to what God has instructed us to share. Some people will try to push back against our boundaries and tempt to shift us towards gossip, but we can remain confident that if the Spirit has truly prompted us to share, He will be faithful to prompt us when to close our mouths (Eph. 4:29).
“Ministry leaders” or not, we are all fallen humans in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Our influence as leaders will multiply as we remember this and remain humble, compassionate, and forgiving toward others—even in painful seasons. When we act as though our lives are “together” all the time, we become unapproachable and unrelatable to those whom we are supposed to serve. However, vulnerability under the control of the Holy Spirit’s guidance is a beautiful gift to the Church.