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2021 Leadership PTSD

I don’t know about you, but this last year have given me a little twitch in my eye.

The amount of times we had to switch, rethink, redo, cancel, adjust, or create something brand new out of nothing has left me just tired tired going into the new year. I feel like many are like me. When thinking about heading into leading our ministries into 2021, there is a little PTSD thinking that this new year is going to be like this last year.

And if you are honest with yourself, you are anxious. I know I am.

A few weeks ago, I accepted a position at the church to be the Director of Kids & Youth across all our campuses. So I am taking the baggage of this year and going into this new year leading a few extra teams more than I had last year. I already struggle with anxiety. Thinking through this new year and the uncertainty it could bring for ministry – on top of leading more teams – has got my mind churning like crazy.

So for you, what is the thing you are worried about going into this new year?

Better and more important question…

What are you doing to prepare your heart, mind, and soul for leading in 2021?

Like, what are you ACTUALLY doing, if anything, to make sure you are best set up as a leader to take on this new year?

Even though 2020 was nuts, I am still blown away by how God moved in spite of how unprepared we were to do youth ministry in the midst of a pandemic. Even though 2021 will be different, our world and how we do ministry moving forward will not and SHOULD NOT be the same.

As leaders it is our responsibility to take some of the things we have learned from this year and, even though it won’t be a repeat of 2020, prepare our minds as if it will be.

Why is that important?

  • This year forced us out of our comfort zones on how to do church services.
  • It forced us to focus on online ministry and that’s where youth have been for years.
  • It forced us to find better and more effective ways (and ways that are not so effective) of connecting to our youth.
  • It forced us to be more creative than we ever have been.
  • It it forced us to hold our ministry plans loosely.

All of those points are awesome things. So if we are thinking we can’t wait to “go back to normal,” we are dreaming. We would be doing a disservice to our churches and our students if we did not take the things we learned from the craziness of this last year into this new one.

I’m not a therapist, but here are a few things I am bringing into the new year in hopes of battling this 2021 leadership PTSD from last year:

  • Daily reading of Scripture – Jesus answer I know, but I can’t tell you enough how important this is. As of the day I’m writing this post, I am 64 days straight in the Bible reading plan. That might seem like a lot, it might not. But for me I have always read it weekly but I would miss a day or two or week from time to time. This year more than any year of my 13 years in full-time ministry has showed me I need to depend on God more than my own skill set or passion. I tell you what, I have noticed a big difference in my leadership confidence and thinking because I am in the Word daily.
  • Getting rid of sideways energy – This year has forced me to look at what I spend my time doing. Sideways energy is things I would spend time on, meetings I would be in, projects I would be doing, conversations I would be having that do not help the main thing be the main thing. I have been ruthlessly getting rid of things that will not matter in the long run or affect the outcomes of how our ministry runs or disciples students. Get rid of it.
  • Blocked-out heads-up time – There is head-down time where you are in the trenches, figuring things out, reacting to situations, fixing problems, removing road blocks for others; and then there is head-up time where you are not working on immediate things, but you are thinking about the long-term future of your ministry. Too many times we are so head-down all the time that when things happen and we need to adjust, we have not been up long enough to see where we need to go. I have scheduled intentional “heads-up” time where all I do in those blocks is dream and think through only things coming months or years from now. It allows us to “see into the future” a bit and hopefully be prepped for adjustments because we already know where we should be going long term.
  • Delegating more than ever – This last year forced me not to be a control freak. Why? Because there was so much to do I would have literally died if I didn’t delegate to others. It’s the truth. The crazy awesome thing is that most of the stuff I gave away to our very capable team turned out better than if I were to have held onto it. I feel like one of the reasons leaders feel the heaviness of leadership is because they hold onto too much thinking because they are the leader, they need to do it. Stop it. Delegating and empowering others will only help you recover from the PTSD of last year and help take your ministry and leaders to the next level. It will help you do what only you as the leader can do.

I feel a heavy weight going into this year, mostly because I have experienced last year. The advantage we have for 2021 is we have done a lot of adjusting and maneuvering to help train us to be better leaders this year. I feel in doing some of these things I will have less anxiety knowing what I know and seeing how our team tackled this last year.

The question again is, what are you doing to prepare your heart, mind, and soul for leading in 2021?




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By |2021-05-18T14:12:45-07:00January 4th, 2021|Leadership|0 Comments

About the Author:

Justin Knowles is the Director of Kids & Youth at Sandals Church in Riverside, CA. He oversees the kids and youth ministry teams across all 13 Sandals Church campuses. He hosts Youth Ministry Hacks Podcast with Matthew Ferrer, loves to write about his ministry journey on the DYM Blog and he teaches at all sorts of camps, retreats or training. He and his wife Kristin have 2 sons (Graham & Wade).

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