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Close your eyes and think back to those sweet days of summer when you were a child. I know, some of us have to think back a bit further than others. I remember the freedom I had to explore and imagine all day, every day. Growing up in rural Vermont, spending the majority of my summers at a cottage in Ontario, Canada, I was either in the woods, climbing mountains or spending days by the lake. I vividly recall playing Huck Finn, making forts, learning to sail and using my imagination to create adventures that mirrored the novels I read on the shore of the lake. The only screen time that was available back in those days was a TV with rabbit ears, and we did not have one at the cottage. Yes, things have certainly changed, and don’t we all wish that this year, of all years, we could escape to the cottage?

 The middle six months of 2020 have left little room for escape. Screen time is at a an all time high for everyone. Recent days have been full of rapid fire information, decision making, shifts, starts, stops, and restarts. (I tried to take a vacation in July. That was an epic failure. All I did was change the scenery out the window.) Keeping up with moving targets has become the norm in California. For the first time in my life, if I am totally transparent, I am worn out and on some days, little use to my team. Not exactly a perfect picture of leadership. I’ve had to snap myself out of it a couple times. The silver lining, though, is that I’ve had to knock some sense back into my heart and soul. I’ve done that by:.

  1. Remembering that I am a human being and not a human doing. I have limits. Having limits is not a judgement on leadership ability. Keeping high expectations for yourself and for others while prioritizing the most important work is a big win.
  2. Reminding myself that a good leader is never too busy for people. Ever. Prioritize people because relationships breathe life into individuals. Slow down in order to see and hear others as we build and rebuild community.
  3. Realizing that the job of a leader is to see that “the work” gets done. That does NOT mean that we have to do everything. A good leader is surrounded by a great team to whom she can delegate. Delegating builds leadership capacity in everyone. It also communicates trust and sends a message that, “I believe in and value your ability to lead.” (More on that in a later blog.)
  4. Giving myself permission to refresh and restore my soul. This has been through physical activities, sabbath, phoning a friend or, dare I say it, a nap.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to be on the move all the time, making lists, completing projects, dreaming of what is possible and planning. Planning.  Remember when we could do that with some assurance? Often, we leave little time to rest. The truth is, we get tired because our schedules and lives are full. We become weary because our spirits and energy are depleted. A second truth is that quite often, our internal conversation is one of critique and judgment. Within each of us lives a soul that desperately needs renewal and restoration. We are reminded in Psalm 23 that God restores our soul, but we must turn our hearts and minds away from the noise of our everyday with firm resolve and intentionality.

Every leader possesses an acute sense of responsibility. Good leaders remember that it isn’t always about the doing. Great work is done with being; being present, being available, being open, being innovative. It is a great challenge for Christian leaders who have a sense that everyone is waiting for us to come in and do what we can do. Be heartened by the words from Exodus 13:13,14 that say, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Author Jenn Thompson

Jennifer Thompson has served in Christian education for almost twenty-five years in various roles from basketball coach to science teacher, elementary principal to head of school at schools in both Florida and California. A native of Vermont, Jenn has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Wheaton College and a master’s in science in Educational Leadership from Florida International University. She completed the Fellows program at the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools at Calvin University and currently serves on the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) board. Jenn is the chief executive officer of Christian Schools International.

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