What Does Leadership Look Like in a Time of Online Everything?
By: Jenna Mengle, Cru Staff at West Chester University
Have you felt guilt for changed desires, differing priorities, and the ‘should be’ doing this?
I’ve felt like I should talk to this person, I should want to disciple more, and I should figure out a way to share the gospel with my neighbors.
I should have called my friend, or I should have met up with that person before this all happened - then I wouldn’t have missed the chance for the foreseeable future.
“I disciple on campus, but discipling in the last 2 weeks has barely crossed my mind.”
“My small group really matters to me, but I’ve rarely thought about them.”
“I never wanted to miss a Cru weekly meeting, now I could barely tell you the day of the week”
We’ve all moved, reoriented our schedules, and been inundated with information and zoom calls. It was encouraging and fun for a moment, exciting even in some ways.
But as you hurriedly pack up your dorm room on short notice and you don’t get to hug your friends or share spring break stories - you start to feel sadness.
You’re living under your parents’ roof, probably, and that brings an entire new set of challenges, mostly a loss of independence, on top of the loss of all that you were looking forward to in the coming months. You live by their rules, maybe their rhythms and realities force you to change yours.
I, like many of you, moved home to my parents’ house. I couldn’t stay quarantined in my space due to external factors, and I had the opportunity to move in with my family. In addition, while praying about the impending quarantine, I believe God asked me to move here. I love my family and time to spend with them is such a gift, one that I haven’t had for the last 8 years. But hear this, it is hard. For me, my parents watch TV far more often than I, they eat different foods and talk about different things than I normally do. They wake up at different times and do dishes in different ways. I’m reminded of high school when I was younger, and much less mature. It feels so much easier to fall back into those rhythms of who I once was.
For me, my parents are vulnerable. A two - time cancer survivor and both above 60. Fears creep in of the virus and the reality of what it could mean for them. I understand the varying emotions surrounding us right now.
While my physical surroundings have changed, I still think about everything my life held before moving. My disciples float back into my mind, my small group and all the weekly, recurring appointments I used to go on. Life was so different a month ago. I’ve organized the following thoughts about leadership right now into three areas that I’d like to share:
1. Lead in loving God first:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Matthew 22:37, referencing Deuteronomy 6:5) My top, #1 priority is to love God. Right now God is giving, or allowing, or some form of that – time. Time we didn’t have before. Canceled events and isolations at home. What a gift, that we’ve never had before and cannot possibly assume we’ll get again. How can you love God with heart, soul, mind and strength? It will look different for me than for you, but here is how it takes shape.
Heart- Letting myself feel sad, excited, angry, confused, excited, annoyed: Our emotions are indicators, they tell us what’s going on. They are not our decision guides, but they are worth acknowledging. Don’t numb out all your emotions- they’ll come back later stronger and uglier.
Soul- Prayer: I pray on my knees and sitting, walking outside, and while I notice the flowers and spring coming. I pray when I start to get teary and when I see something God is doing in this unique time. Pray constantly.
Mind- Memorizing passages of scripture: I have one for when I start to think about where I’ll live when my lease ends in May, and one for when I feel worried- that one, Psalm 23, I rehearse several times a day. It’s the fastest I’ve ever memorized scripture. It’s a gift. I’m also committing to a chapter a day of a spiritual book. It lifts my eyes and reminds me God is at work.
Strength- Exercise, walks, and physically taking care of myself: Eating immunity-boosting, antioxidant-rich foods when I’m able. Building, creating and praising God that I can move. Getting up for a 10-minute break every hour or so, moving my legs, diverting my eyes from a screen. Practicing 1 hour a day, 1 day a week, (and 1 week a year) of no screens. (Resourced from The Common Rule by Justin Witmel Earley )
2. Lead in where you’ve been placed:
What about the opportunity? Think: who is now in my most intimate sphere of influence that I can love? This may be the same as it was before, or different. For me, it has looked like unique and extended time with my mom and dad that has proven an incredible opportunity: prayer times I’ve invited them into, the movies we’ve chosen together, and the story of wearing gloves and holding Clorox wipes, standing in the driveway disinfecting the take-out containers, the online church services I’ve gotten to watch with my mom, and realistic conversations about the state of the world around us.
For me, God asked me to move home. I see many, a dozen maybe, confirmations of that. My mom and dad have entered into my closest sphere of influence. Picture with me, a target. At the red epicenter is the bullseye. Point one talked about this center. Taking care of your greatest relationship- followed by the extending circles. Who is now in the next circle? Who has moved? Who has God placed on your heart as you’ve prayed over the last three weeks? We constantly need to ask God where he has us- not necessarily moving there in a day’s notice, although that has been a reality for many of us recently, but more seeing who he has for you.
Yesterday, I reached out to a friend I lived with overseas several years ago. Today, I’ve only really talked to the people living under the same roof as me. I don’t know who it is for you, but God has given you people to love. A friend of mine used to say – love your neighbor, aka anyone God has put close to you: you’re called to love. She’s wise.
3. Lead in where your responsibilities are:
Question: What do my responsibilities even look like?? Many of you probably clicked on this post for this bullet point - here we go.
Answer: Different. I think our lives, as a whole, should look different.
I don’t think God is asking us to take our lives, prior to COVID-19, and move them into today’s reality. I don’t think we line up our weekly appointments, classes, homework routines, and hangouts, and transfer them to a computer screen. To do so would be to ignore the evolving reality around us. So, what is he asking us to do?
We do have responsibilities: We committed to discipleship, small groups, servant teams and those commitments are a reality, even still. However, we have incredible grace. We can take a deep breath and know that our responsibilities have evolved. Our lives have changed. When you signed up to lead men’s times, you didn’t know this would happen, but God knew.
Living at home, sharing your space differently with whomever you’re living with is different. There is freedom then, in Christ, to make changes. There is a relief of the pressure from the should’s and guilt.
Guilt comes from Satan.
Deep peace, lasting joy, eternal security – those come from God. Think of God’s character, his voice aligns with Him.
What voice are you listening to?
We are not so important that another’s spiritual health relies on us. We are free to shepherd others in new ways, trying new things, or asking God for help where we don’t feel like we can keep up our responsibilities. Andy Crouch put it this way: Until we grieve, we will lack creativity to solve the unique problems we’re facing now.
-If you feel like you cannot disciple anymore because of your changed situation- ask a friend to help you think through the solutions, after that if you conclude a change be necessary- contact them, ask them if there is someone else you could connect them to, but do so over the phone. DO NOT TEXT THIS. Texting is not a form of formal communication especially when it comes to relationships.
- Think of different ways to make a small group work- you’ve got ideas, take some time to think of them! (ex.: rotate who is leading, make it a BYO dinner call, or change the time so that it works with your new schedule, ask your parents for times that you can have uninterrupted time and where you can focus and talk in private.)
-Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you. Do I want to change my commitments because I don’t feel like it, or out of wisdom?
What is wise in light of my past experiences?
What is wise in light of my current circumstances?
What is wise in light of my future hopes and dreams?
(taken from Andy Stanley)
There is incredible grace in our communication with others. There is incredible freedom and grace in the Gospel. It is OKAY to feel differently about leadership today. It is OKAY to need to adjust and change, it would be insane to think our lives can or should operate in the same way they used to.
I have talked to those of you who share internet privileges with others. I’ve talked to some of you who have new freedom and time in your schedule, and others who have doubled your work hours in this season. We are each individuals with individual circumstances. Do be in communication with other leaders around you. Do not make decisions in isolation.
Love those around you,
Ask God for wisdom in your leadership.