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Leading Under Pressure (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of posts entitled “Leading Under Pressure;” click here to read Part 1.

To recap the previous post:

  1. Pressure is an inescapable reality of pastoral ministry.
  2. There are only two ways of resolving ministry pressure: Decrease responsibility or increase resilience.

I promised practical tools for helping increase your leadership resilience, so let’s dive in by discussing pressure and stress.

1. Learn to differentiate between pressure and stress
Pressure and stress are related, but they are NOT the same.

  • Pressure exists around you. Stress exits inside you.
  • Pressure is a reality of the condition of your ministry. Stress is a reality of the condition of your soul.
  • Pressure comes from your responsibility. Stress comes from your perspective.

2. Learn to separate pressure from stress in your leadership.
Learn to separate pressure from stress in your leadership.
After differentiating between them in your thinking, you can then effectively separate them in your leadership. This is KEY because it means you can live under great pressure without great stress. The key to leadership resilience is the ability to lead in high pressure without high stress.

This is not something I’m just making up; scripture makes the same distinction.

John 16:33 — “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace (LOW STRESS). In this world you will have trouble (HIGH PRESSURE). But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Philippians 4:4–7 — Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything (HIGH PRESSURE), but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (LOW STRESS).

2 Corinthians 4:16 — Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away (HIGH PRESSURE), yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day (LOW STRESS).

When looking through this pressure/stress lens, you see three types of leaders:

  • Underdeveloped leaders have more stress than pressure. They just have a lot going on inside that keeps them on edge. This inner stress keeps them from growing in ministry responsibility because they can’t handle the pressure that comes with it. You never know how hard some people are working just to be normal.
  • Good leaders have equal amounts of pressure and stress. While this makes sense, it will eventually stall their growth in responsibility (and their impact).
  • Resilient leaders have figured out how to increase pressure without increasing stress. They have the ability to absorb substantial ministry responsibility and pressure without adding overwhelming amounts of stress.

While some people have more innate capacity than others, I believe all of us can grow in resilience by:

  1. Getting rid of self-inflicted stress (the next post in the series)
  2. Developing soul anchors (the final post in the series)

Miles has served the local church as a pastor and leader for 20 years, and has been at 12Stone Church (Lawrenceville, GA) since 2001. He previously grew a college ministry to a 500-student gathering, and started the Residency Program at 12Stone. As Pastor of Leadership Expansion, Miles develops leadership not only in his immediate church context, but also coaches pastors and church leaders across the country.
To read more writing by Miles Welch, visit his website here: http://mileswelch.com/