Courage in Leadership and Life


Many of our staff serve with no formal training or direct prior experience.  They are simply passionate followers of Christ who God has called into ministry.  As a church we recognize their calling, gifts and character and bring them on to serve.  Without exception, they bring incredible heart and skill to the role.

Serving on a church staff presents unique challenges not found in other jobs, and many of our staff have had to grapple and adjust.  To help them, we offer various trainings and discussions on the nature of church leadership and so for 2014, I asked some of our staff to share what they’ve learned about leadership along the way.

Kelly Little was the first to share, which seems fitting, given her topic.  After several years serving in dual outreach roles, Kelly now exclusively spends her time as Executive Director for Light Up Hope. Please take a moment to click on the link for Light Up Hope.  You can sponsor a child or buy an item to help, but also you can learn about the power that a local suburban church holds to change lives around the world.  In many ways, Light Up Hope does similar work to World Vision and Compassion International, except it resides in and is fueled by the vision and DNA of a local church.

Before serving at Discovery, Kelly previously received training as a chef, hence her “recipe” below.   She shared some thoughts on the nature of courage and fear which generated much vulnerable discussion from the rest of us.  Because Kelly leads one of the more “high risk” endeavors in our church, her teaching on courage and fear deeply resonated with the staff.

We all have ongoing fears and we all need high doses of ongoing courage to be effective in ministry, ESPECIALLY if we are leading something new or unprecedented.

Here are Kelly’s thoughts on courage and fear:

Unfortunately there is no COURAGE without fear.   Courage is really the discipline of overcoming fear. I want to make fear into FEAR because most of the time that is how it feels.  The fear is overwhelming and the courage is nothing more than continuing to say yes – or refusing to back down.  It is taking another step forward when you would rather run and hide.

The recipe for courage is

  1. Inspiration to do something new.  new to you or new to others.
  2. Taking the first step in that direction – telling someone you are planning to do it and so bringing it out into the light
  3. MIX in LARGE quantities of vulnerability (can I, should I, am I equipped?)
  4. MIX in SHAME and FEAR (who do I think I am?  I am not up to this, I am going to fail, because I am not equipped, or “right” I will make things worse for me or others, what will people think of me, or this will injury me or kill me – fear of death.  Bodily, emotionally or socially)
    1. oftentimes this shame, fear and ridicule is brought by other people.  People don’t like change and they don’t like to feel like another person’s sense of right, justice or courage doesn’t line up with their own sense of it and will try to tear down your idea – often because they are operating out of their own fear and shame – emotional transference.  So you could be on a HIGH and feel confident but their actions/words will try to bring you down to how they are feeling.
  5. ADD a propelling ingredient – Sense of JUSTICE, Confirming scripture, prayer time
  6. Take a step forward.  REPEAT cycle.

Fear and Courage is a CYCLE.  You grow in courage as you get acclimated to a climate of fear.  Fear doesn’t mean something is wrong, it just means you are vulnerable to hurt, ridicule, disappointment.

Some helpful logical questions to overcome illogical fear:

What expectations am I placing on myself or on the situation that are contributing to my sense of fear or dread?

Where is God in all of this?  Does he expect me to be perfect?  Can I control the other people who are generally part of the quotient?

What would happen if I don’t move forward?  Where would my ministry/cause be if I don’t step out in courage?

Quotes and Scriptures on Courage:

FDR – “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.”

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

Since courage and fear in church leadership often relate to criticism, here is a related helpful post.

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