What to Do When You’ve Lost Your Confidence as a Leader

You’re not alone. Twenty-nine percent of pastors have given serious consideration to quitting full-time ministry in the last year.

So many leaders have lost confidence in themselves over the last year or two.

Sound familiar?

It’s deeply understandable.

Things are changing so quickly and remain so unpredictable that almost everything that used to be effective isn’t, and just when you think you might get it figured out, things change again.

Add to that the fact that the next decade isn’t looking very predictable either.

So how bad is it?

According to data David Kinnaman shared on the Church Pulse Weekly podcast, not only are leaders discouraged, but 29% of pastors have given serious consideration to quitting full-time ministry in the last year.

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Not just changing churches, but packing it in and doing something entirely different.

That’s a lot of pastors thinking about throwing in the towel.

There were a few times in my ministry where I was ready to give up, and looking back, I’m so glad I didn’t.

Eventually, I did transition out of full-time vocational ministry, not because I quit, but because we put together a well thought through succession plan.

Quitting when you feel defeated sets you and your church up for defeat.

So how do you keep going when you’ve lost confidence in yourself? Here are three things that have helped me.

1. Look to the Confidence of Others When You’ve Lost Confidence in Yourself.

I’ve thought about quitting more than once.

I remember one particular board meeting over a decade ago when I started the meeting by offering my resignation. I didn’t think I could do it anymore and felt like I had come to the end of my ability to lead.

Our church was stuck underneath a big growth barrier. We’d had a significant staff member leave. I was tired. I was frustrated, mostly with myself.

So I went into the board meeting and told the elders I thought I was done. They needed a better leader.

I’ll never forget what they said.

We have confidence in you. We believe you have it in you. You’re going to get through this. You have our full confidence.”

At that moment, I had to look to their confidence in me to make up for my own lack of confidence in myself.

The point? Somebody still believes in you. Find them, and let them tell you what you’re good at instead of dwelling all day on your failings.

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Since that moment, I’ve kept a handful of people close to me who get to speak truthful feedback into my life. Not just cheerleaders who say what they think I want to hear. But people who see things accurately who can call me out when I need calling out, but who can also build me up when I need building up.

Find those people and hang on to them.

Every leader needs someone who believes in them when they’ve stopped believing in themselves. That’s what community is for.

2. Know That the Greener Grass You Imagine Is Spray-Painted.

You know that green grass you see when you think about what you’ll do next? It’s spray-painted.

The moment you get into that perfect job/career you’ll discover that it’s got a whole host of problems you didn’t anticipate.

And you’ll soon realize you brought another problem with you—you brought yourself into the new situation.

I did switch assignments a few years ago to build into leaders full time (see Point 3 as to good conditions for that). But guess what? I soon realized all the lids I was facing at the church came with me into my new venture.

If you’re the leader, you’re the lid.

You bring you with you everywhere you go. And when you don’t resolve the issues that made this difficult, you just import them into the next season of your life.

You bring you everywhere you go and into everything you lead. And the biggest leadership challenge I have in my life is, well, me.

Solving your problems where you are rather than in the future does one or two things.

First, solving your problems now might be the very thing you need to be able to lead well through the next season where you are.

Second, even if your season is coming to a close, you’ll be in a much better position in the future if you deal with your issues today.

Just know this: Leaders who run from their problems always find themselves with bigger problems.

3. Leave on a Good Day in a Better Season.

It’s not that you can never leave, it’s just if you step back, do it after you’ve prayed, consulted with the wisest people you know, considered all the options carefully, prayerfully considered it some more, and developed a well thought through plan for yourself and your church.

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That’s what I did a few years ago when I chose to step out of the lead pastor role of the church I founded to hand things off to the next generation.

The result? I left the church when it was the largest and healthiest it had ever been. My successor built on that to make it even stronger.

Obviously, we’re not in normal conditions right now. But even when things aren’t at their peak, never quit on a bad day.

Leave on a good day, or better yet, in a good season when you’ve had plenty of time to set the church up for a stronger future.

Finally, don’t make the decision in isolation, or, if you’re married, only with your spouse.

Find some wise people who love you, love the church, and want the best for both. Pray with them. Submit to their wisdom and make the decision when you’ve got a clear enough sense that you’re not doing anything rash, impulsive, foolish or damaging to the people involved.

I’ve had to tell myself over and over again, never quit on a bad day.

And lately, leaders, there have been a lot of bad days.

The sun will rise again. Hang in there.

WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?

I hope this helps you stay encouraged or at least avoid any decisions you might regret later. I’m praying and cheering for you.

Let me also say that I realize there was a widely circulated stat in the fall of 2020 that said 70% of pastors were thinking of quitting.

After some meaningful research and checking with original research sources, it seems that was an urban legend. There’s no actual data to back that up, and the quote sources have denied ever issuing that number. Such is the internet.

But still, 29% (a verified number) is a seriously high number.

What keeps you encouraged when you feel like giving up?

Read more from Carey Nieuwhof »

This article originally appeared on CareyNieuwhof.com and is reposted here by permission.