I looked down.
I was shaking.
My wrinkly toes curled over the edge of the diving board as it gently rose and fell under my 12-year old frame. The pool below seemed like a twelve-story drop.
To matters worse, Susan was watching.
I couldn’t look like a wimp.
I couldn’t go back down the ladder.
That would be the worst.
I had to jump.
Every KidMin leader is afraid of something. But being a great ministry leader doesn’t mean that you’re never afraid. It means that you recognize fear, name it, and push through it.
Here are five fears you can feel free to leave on the diving board:
“What if I look bad?”
Preserving your reputation is rarely a healthy motivator for remarkable leaders. There may be times when you have to be sensitive to how you’re perceived, but that certainly won’t sustain you for very long. If your ability to move forward is tied to your self-perception, you’ll never jump. Paul urged Timothy against this kind of timidity as an emerging leader (1 Timothy 4:12), but it’s true of leaders regardless of age or experience.
“What if I blow it?”
This fear actually might have some merit to it. At first. Fear of failure can come from a heart that holds two realities in tension: “I don’t want to squander this opportunity” and “I’m not sure I’ll be any good.” The first statement is solid. The second statement probably isn’t. Taking a cue from Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the main who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”
Just a friendly nudge here: You are where you are because others have recognized your gifts and because God has made a way for you to lead. You’ve got this (Joshua 1:9).
3. Backward Mobility
“What if I have to start over?”
Backward mobility means you’ve been demoted. Ouch. This fear is linked with the fear of failure, but has a more visible overtone to it. Thinking, “If I can’t be on top, I just won’t be here…”, a lot of leaders quit when faced with backward mobility. But God does His best work when we’re out of the spotlight. Taking a few steps back might lead to fresh vision, a new approach, or innovative way of seeing things. Even though you’re taking a step back, your best days are ahead of you.
“What if they’re better than me?”
Have you ever seen someone doing something you love and thought, “Man, she’s so much better than I am….” “Better” is a poisonous word for leaders. Like gifts on Christmas morning, spiritual gifts aren’t meant to be compared. Competition shows contempt for the Giver and slowly steals the joy of the recipient. By contrast, great leaders aren’t worried that someone is going to steal their show. They measure success in faithfulness.
“What if I don’t get recognized?”
A friend of mine has been a pastor at the same church for over 30 years. On a recent visit to his church, I noticed that the flooring tile outside of men’s restroom had been redone. Noticing how good it looked, I asked him about it. He said, “Have you ever seen something that needed done and just did it without letting anyone know?” He smiled, winked, and then walked back to his office.
He saw a need. Met it. And no one even knew about it.
Great leaders are more interested in moving ministry along than necessarily getting recognized. They’re not afraid of anonymity. It nourishes them.
All five of these fears have something in common: they’re all about you. And fears that are all about you will immobilize you.
My toes eventually left the diving board.
I’m not sure if Susan even saw. But it didn’t matter.
Launching out into the air in a rough semblance of a cannonball felt absolutely incredible.
How about you?
What fears motivate you?
What fears immobilize you?