8 Ways to Bust Leadership Discouragement

8 Ways to Bust Leadership Discouragement

Discouragement is a universal experience for ministry leaders and the word self-defines itself…dis-courage meaning no courage. Some of the Bible’s greatest characters faced it: Moses, David, Paul, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the apostles. Nehemiah, the great Old Testament leader faced it when he led the Jews to rebuild the wall. Yet, his response offers us hope when we face it.

 

Nehemiah had been hammered with criticism and it was taking its toll. Discouragement had set in. Nehemiah 4:10-21 tells us what Nehemiah did in response to it. This part of the rebuilding story gives us 8 discouragement busters.

Buster 1: Monitor your thoughts

This buster is perhaps the most important one. An unconscious chatter is always active inside our minds because our mind simply wanders a lot. When we are not thinking about anything else, it wanders off into worry, fear, anxiety, or discouragement.

A key concept gaining greater prominence today is something called metacognition which simply means thinking about what you are thinking about. To battle discouragement, we must discipline ourselves to be aware of this constant chatter that often leads us into discouragement. I believe the Apostle Paul understood that when he wrote this verse:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. – Philippians 4:8

So, to bust discouragement stop and ask yourself, “What am I thinking about?” Monitor your thoughts, your self-talk, the inner chatter. Change your thinking if it’s going negative.

Monitor your thoughts, your self-talk, the inner chatter.

Buster 2: When you feel discouraged, call it what it is, don’t stuff it, ignore it, or rehearse it

Nehemiah didn’t ignore the discouragement the people felt (Neh 4:10-12).

When we name our negative emotion we decrease its power, contrary to what we often tell ourselves, “Just ignore it or stuff it.” Neuroscientists have discovered that when we stuff our emotions it reinforces them over the long term. But when we name them, it decreases the power of our emotional centers and engages the thinking centers of our minds.

Buster 3: Guard against emotional pig-pens

Pig-pen, one of the characters in the Peanuts cartoon was always dirty and carried around a cloud of dust wherever he went. And he seemed to spread his dirt everywhere he went. Pig-pen is a great word picture for some people who carry around a cloud of discouragement with them wherever they go. In Nehemiah’s day, some of the Jews living in the surrounding areas would come into town and bring their discouragement (Neh 4:1-3). When you know someone around you is an emotional pig-pen, keep your distance.

Buster 4: Do nothing

Nehemiah had to stop the building for a time to re-group and re-focus the Jews (Neh 4:13-15). Sometimes as leaders we get so tired or sleep deprived we simply need to stop, rest, sleep more, or simply take a break.

Buster 5: Do something

Nehemiah responded to this discouragement and resistance by getting the people to be intentional about doing something to move them from their negativity. He gave them a common goal. He did something constructive by setting new plans in place to deal with his enemies (Neh 4:16). So, when discouragement comes, don’t wallow in it. Rather, do something constructive.

When discouragement comes, don’t wallow in it.

Buster 6. Be specific with your plan

Nehemiah was specific in what he did in response to the discouragement. He made many changes in how the work was done (Neh 4:13). The same holds true for defeating discouragement. We know that discouragement may come our way, so be prepared. When it comes, act upon your predetermined plan. Such a plan may include calling it what it is, going for a walk, calling a friend, doing something nice for someone, or spending 10 minutes on a short-term project you’ve been avoiding (like cleaning off your desk).

Buster 7: Count your blessings, not your burdens

Nehemiah often reminded the people of God’s faithfulness to them (Neh 4:14). In doing so he was helping them count their blessings. Neuroscientists are learning that when we count our blessings and shift our attention from the negative we decrease the chemicals in our brain that make us feel blue. By counting your blessings, you are intentionally shifting your attention off the source and emotion of discouragement. The Psalmists counsels us with these words:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. – Psalm 77:11

Buster 8: Don’t face your discouragement all alone

Nehemiah would keep his trumpeter at his side and if he saw the enemy marshaling forces in the distance, he’d sound the alarm to bring everybody together (Neh 4:18). The beauty of the body of Jesus reminds us that we don’t have to bear our burdens alone. When you face discouragement, take the initiative to be a friend, get into a safe small group, or see a counselor. Don’t bear it alone.

Every ministry leader will face discouragement. Nehemiah’s response gives us hope in our discouragement.

What has helped you battle discouragement?

Share

More

Charles Stone

Both my wife Sherryl and I have a heart for pastors and pastors’ wives. We’ve taught hundreds of pastors and their wives in the United States, Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico.

I earned an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’m completing another masters degree in neuroleadership. I’m also an avid Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan.

I’ve been professionally trained in these areas by these organizations:

Life Coaching through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute
Strategic Planning through Ministry Advantage (certified)
Vision Clarity through the Church Unique Process (certified)
Conflict Management through Peacemakers
I’m the author of 4 books – Daughters Gone Wild – Dads Gone Crazy (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them (Bethany House Publishers, 2010), People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (Inter-Varsity Press, January 2014), and my brand new book, Brain-Savvy Leadership: the Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, 2015).