Leading Through Challenges

It’s very difficult to predict when challenges and crisis will happen.  But one thing is certain, if you are in ministry for any time at all, they will occur.  And we as leaders must be ready to lead through those uncertain times.

When we show ourselves to be real and approachable, it earns the respect of those we lead and work alongside

Some challenges are definitely bigger than others.  On the low end of the challenge spectrum you might have issues such as a team member who’s attitude has become toxic or an unhappy parent.  On the full-crisis mode end of the spectrum, what happens when there is a moral failure on your team?

Although every situation and ministry will and should handle these issues in somewhat different ways, I believe that are elements of leadership that must remain constant throughout these times.  Here are five that I humbly submit: 


Be Prayerful - As a leader, if you are not regularly praying over your ministry and for those under your charge, you are already behind the game.  But especially in times of struggle, it is important for us to stay in close communication with the Savior. 

As you lead through uncertain times, begin and end everything (meeting, phone call, e-mail, etc.) in an attitude of prayer. 

“Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually” – 1 Chronicles 16:11


Be Intentional - Leaders must constantly cast a vision for those we lead.  Let your people know how and why the decisions you are making during this tough time fit into the overall vision of your ministry. 

Leading well through a time of challenge or crisis can strongly reinforce your vision; while leading poorly through the same time, can do long-lasting and possibly irreparable damage to it.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” – Proverbs 29:18

Be Decisive - Few things are more frustrating than looking to a leader who refuses to make a decision.  Decisions by their very nature divide, and too often this fact causes hesitancy.  When your team is looking to you, you must be decisive. 

That does not at all mean we must rush into a decision.  It is okay to take your time and prayerfully consider your options.  But when we drag our feet in making a decision because we are afraid of failing or becoming unpopular, we paralyze our team and render them ineffective.

Our job as leaders is to make key decisions through whatever processes we have in place and lead our teams to carry out those decisions. 

“For the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – James 1:6-8

Be Honest - Quite often, when times are difficult, people can be over-sensitive.  But don’t use this as an excuse to not deal with issues that need to be dealt with.  Don’t sugar coat things for the sake of feelings. 

When we as leaders don’t openly and honestly deal with hard issues facing our ministries, we leave them open to bigger and more dangerous problems in the future.  If we leave even a seemingly small problem alone because we feel like we might upset someone or hurt their feelings, all we do is leave room for that problem to fester and become even more serious down the road.

The honest truth is, as a leader, you are not always going to be liked. (I know shocker, right?)  But you cannot sacrifice the integrity of your ministry on the altar of popularity.  Leaders lead, even when it’s hard. 

“I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right; for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” – Proverbs 19:1

Be Attentive - On the heels of being honest, it is important for us to remember to “speak the truth in love.”  It is possible to be open and honest with people and still show that you care for them. 

Even when what we have to say can and probably will hurt initially, we can still offer correction in an attitude of kindness.  Remember to go back to our first point, and pray over the situation before you have what could potentially be a difficult situation with an individual or team.  Pray for wisdom and discernment as you navigate the conversation. Another aspect of this element is actively listening to people.  In some situations, we might be part of the problem (Yes, even you).  It is important for us to evaluate ourselves and look for areas in which we can improve.  Apologize and accept blame where needed.  When we show ourselves to be real and approachable, it earns the respect of those we lead and work alongside.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:15

 There are certainly more elements of leading effectively through times of struggle.  These five are where I chose to begin the conversation.  What other leadership qualities would you add to the list?


Jason is the Minister of Worship & Students at First Baptist Church, Joplin, MO. He and his wife, Christy, have three, Abbye, Ainsley, & Adlee; and are expecting their fourth in June of 2017.  Jason is a 24 year veteran in full-time Student Ministry.  He is a die hard Oklahoma Sooners fan. He is a Husband, Father, Minister, & Friend trying to live everyday to make Jesus Christ famous.