We All Crave Control: Avoiding Anxiety & Pastor Burnout : Sharon Hodde Miller
Jason Daye | Church Leaders, Culture, FrontStage BackStage, Leadership, Mental Health, Pastors, Podcast, Soul Care
As ministry leaders, most of us aren’t power hungry, over-controlling pastors or making the latest news headlines. But as humans, all of us can gravitate toward a desire to control. And as pastors, we often want to control how others perceive us, our ministries, and even our families. In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Sharon Hodde Miller. Sharon is a teaching pastor who, along with her husband, planted Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina. Sharon has also written a number of books, including her latest, The Cost of Control. Today, they discuss our cravings for control, and look at healthy ways to avoid anxiety, broken relationships, and even pastor burnout.
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Additional Resource Links
The Cost of Control: Why We Crave It, the Anxiety It Gives Us, and the Real Power God Promises by Sharon Hodde Miller – Sharon’s latest book
Nice: Why We Love to Be Liked and How God Calls Us to More by Sharon Hodde Miller
Managing Leadership Anxiety: Yours and Theirs by Steve Cuss
Connect with Sharon Hodde Miller – Instagram
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Complimentary 1-hour Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Our desire to control costs us
- When we reach for more control than God has given us, we experience the consequences, such as anxiety, relational brokenness, shame, pain, etc
- Seizing control may ‘feel’ good initially, but it is just an illusion. It will eventually shatter us.
- Oftentimes our desire to control a situation or to control others does not accomplish what we hope and actually makes things worse
- We cannot control what others think about us, which can be painful in ministry, but we must not let this consume us
- If someone leaves our church, but they are still good with Jesus, we count that as a win. We are not simply building “our” church but we are pointing people to Jesus.
- It is tempting as pastors and ministry leaders to be inauthentic in an attempt to control how others think of us, or our families, but this is dangerous
- “Image management” can be toxic to our relationships, especially when we include our spouses or kids
- When reputation becomes your God, you sacrifice honesty at the altar
- Our desire to control how others perceive us can lead to deception, especially as pastors and ministry leaders, because we do not want others to see our brokenness
- Every pastor should have safe, trusted people outside of their church with whom they can talk and confide
- The difference between privacy and secrecy is that secrecy is intentionally hiding, allowing sin to continue, whereas privacy is withholding so that you can heal without the weight of public opinion
- You should have someone in your life, who is not your spouse, and does not have the power to fire you, that you are committed to sharing openly with. If you find you are keeping something from this person, that is a red flag that you are hiding something in secrecy.
- We cannot control our churches. If we work so hard at trying to hold everything together, we will get exhausted and reach a state of burnout.
- Jesus tells us “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Ministry is meant to be light. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard. That doesn’t mean we’re not called to suffering, because we actually are. But it does mean that the outcome is up to God, not us. We are called to be faithful, but God is responsible for the outcome.
Questions for Reflection
- As I reflect on my ministry, are there areas where I am overreaching in my desire to control?
- What is an example from my past where my desire to control resulted in making things worse?
- How do I handle my feelings when someone in my church thinks poorly of me? How can I better handle these situations?
- Have I put on a mask in order to better control what others think of me? If so, why?
- Is there any deception in my life or ministry that I am justifying because I do not want others to be unhappy with me? If so, what will I do?
- When someone leaves our church but I know they are still good with Jesus, how do I respond?
- Have I sacrificed honesty on the altar of reputation?
- Who do I have in my life that is safe and trusted that I can be open and real with? If I do not have anyone, what is my plan to find someone?
- Describe the difference between privacy and secrecy. Am I hiding anything in secrecy? If so, what will I do?
- Am I feeling exhausted or burned out in ministry? Why? What can I do to overcome those feelings?
- How can I experience the “lightness” of ministry?
- Am I trying to control the outcomes of my ministry?
As ministry leaders, most of us aren’t power hungry, over-controlling pastors or making the latest news headlines. But as humans, all of us can gravitate toward a desire to control.
And as pastors, we often want to control how others perceive us, our ministries, and even our families. In this episode, I’m joined by Sharon Hodde Miller. Sharon is a teaching pastor who along with her husband planted Bright City Church in Durham, North Carolina. Sharon has also written a number of books, including her latest, The Cost of Control. Today, we are going to explore our cravings for control, and we’re going to look at healthy ways to avoid anxiety, broken relationships, and even pastor burnout. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another amazing episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye, and we’re so excited to have you joining us today. FrontStage BackStage, every single week, we bring you insightful conversation with a trusted ministry leader. And it’s all designed to help you and other pastors just like you to really embrace healthy, well-balanced, sustainable leadership, both in life and in ministry. And we are blessed to be a part of the PastorServe network. And every single week, you can dig more deeply into the conversation at hand and the topic that we’re discussing by going to PastorServe.org/network. And you can go there, we have a complete toolkit with insights, questions for reflection videos, audio that you can go through, and you can share with your team, and your ministry leaders and dig more deeply, and, again, just really see how today’s topic relates to you, and you, personally, and the context of your church and your ministry. So be sure to check us out at PastorServe.org/network. And for those of you joining us on YouTube. Hello, it’s good to see you. Please give us a like and drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love to get to know our audience better. We’ll be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, be sure to follow, to subscribe, and to share this with other pastors and ministry leaders so that we have the opportunity to impact even more. And as I told you, every single week, we bring you a great conversation and this week is no different. I am very excited to be welcoming onto the show Sharon Hodde Miller. So Sharon, it is a joy to have you with us, and welcome to FrontStage BackStage.
Sharon Hodde Miller
Hey, it is super, super cool. I love the fact that you are involved in a lot of things. You are a teaching pastor, you and your husband are church planters. And you’re an author, you’re a speaker, you share so much of what God’s doing in your life, you have such a great voice and needed voice, I think in the Church today, so we thank you for all of that. One of the things, the big thing that we’re going to talk about today is maybe not everyone’s favorite subject, right? Because, Sharon, no one likes to admit that they are controlling yet all of us, right, we all have tendencies to seek out a bit more control in our lives, control over our ministries or situations in which we might find ourselves. And so today, Sharon, you and I are going to talk about how control can really lead to things like burnout, or anxiety, deception, even broken relationships, and none of these things are things that we would have seen our lives, as pastors, as ministry leaders. So I think it’s going to be wise for us to begin a bit with talking about what undergirds, really, our desire to control. Right? So can we begin with you sharing briefly about maybe the psychology, the illusion of control? Why really, Sharon, do we crave control?
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah. Yeah, there’s a number of different reasons why, you know, we crave control and some of it I think we’re all pastors, you know, talking so we know some of it is idolatry. You know, some of it is. And some of it is a belief that our lives would be better, our church would be better, if people just did what we knew was best for them, you know? Right. And, you know, there is perhaps some wisdom in that conviction, but mostly pride. And so there’s the idolatry of it. But there’s also just the reality that we live in a broken world and that the world is not as it should be, and that we were created for security. And we were created for stability. And so were our people. We were created for wholeness. And so when we see our people making self-destructive decisions, and we wish that we could redirect them, you know, we wish we could steer them in a different direction, I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to say, that’s just arrogance and pride on our part, I think that’s also love. And I think we’re reflecting the heart of our Father. And that is why, you know, he sent his Son in the first place, is to heal those things that you know, we’re aching over. And so there’s a number of different things at play. But it was really fascinating researching this book, because you mentioned the illusion of control. And that is a phrase that I think we’ve all probably used, the illusion of control. And I discovered in researching this book, that that is an actual psychological term, that was coined in the 70s. And it was used to describe this belief that we have more control than we actually have. And so they’ve done tons of studies on this, about how they’ve shown that, in casinos, that casino players, they will roll the dice harder when they want a higher number, and they’ll roll it softer when they want a lower number. And that doesn’t do anything. But we have this illusion of control that I’m doing something. And so they’ve done tons and tons of studies about how humans do this in different ways, you know, players that wear the same socks during the playoffs, that kind of thing. But part of the reason that we do it and, and research has also shown this is, that we actually experience measurable psychological benefit from it, that when we feel in control, it actually helps our anxiety, it lowers our anxiety, it lowers our depression, when we feel in control whether or not we actually are, which seems great. You know, that’s, that’s why we constantly are trying to, you know, run after that, that feeling of being in control is that when we do feel it, we feel powerful, we feel at peace. The problem is, it is an illusion. And so what happens whenever that illusion is inevitably shattered, is we’re back at square one again. So it was really fascinating to learn about that.
Yeah, that is cool. And, and one of the things that’s very true, you mentioned there, Sharon, is that in ministry, we have this… we have this sense of responsibility, right? I mean, we have this, God has entrusted us with with a flock, right. So there is that piece of it. And it is a delicate balance between this idea of responsibility, and how that can bleed over into, you know, control and craving control, right. In your book, there are several things that you touched on. And one of the things that really stood out to me was this kind of desire to control and how it leads to a variety of unhealthy directions. And you write about several of them, but one of the unhealthy outcomes of our cravings for control is increased anxiety. And, you know, as as I was reading through, specifically, that chapter, and actually a couple of chapters in there, they related to one another, I was thinking, you know, much of that anxiety stems from our desire to control how others might perceive us, right? And this can be debilitating for ministry leaders, right. It’s very challenging for pastors, for ministry leaders, for us to not feel as if we’re living in a glass house, or as if we somehow have to keep up appearances in in some manner, because of kind of the visibility because of our position, you know. Thinking through, you know, what my kids wear to church or how they’re doing at school, or, you know, if we are having some financial struggles? Can we even share that with anybody? Right? How are they, how are they going to look at that? How could that reflect on their view of me as a leader? So Sharon, help us really kind of think through our desire to control other people’s perceptions of us, and really the impact that that has on our mental and our emotional health in terms of anxiety?
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah, you know, when you think of a controlling leader, at least for me, I tend to think of pastors that are making headlines, you know, that they’re the ones that created these really toxic work environments. And part of what I had to confront in the last couple of years was my own, the ways control was manifesting in my own leadership and how it was affecting me and how it was affecting our church. And one of the things that I realized after really digging into this, and it’s in the title of the book, is that it’s not just that control is an illusion, it’s not just that we don’t have control, or that we shouldn’t try to have control, but that it costs us, you know, whenever we try to have it. And this is a law of the universe that was written into creation in Genesis 3, because as soon as Adam and Eve, you know, reach for more knowledge, more godlike stature than they had been granted, they’re essentially, you know, reaching for more control than God has given them. Immediately following that they experience shame, they experience anxiety, they experience relational brokenness. And so every time we reach for, to control something that God has not given us to control, we reenact that moment again, and again, but we also reenact its consequences. And so it became really helpful for me to understand the anxiety of trying to control, the relational brokenness of trying to control is inescapable, and I need to just reconcile myself to that reality. And I was seeing it, I was seeing it whenever I was trying to, you know, everyone can relate to this, especially in the last two years, when we were making really difficult decisions where we felt like we were in these lose-lose scenarios, you know, you knew, I’m going to have to make a decision about whether or not we mask or how we talk about race or, you know, whatever. And there’s going to be someone in my church, multiple people in my church who are unhappy with me, and don’t just disagree with me, but impugn my faith and my character, you know, that was the stakes we’re all dealing with. And so I started going to this place of thinking, Well, what if I just lay out the scripture for them? You know, what, if I walk through it with them? What if I point them to all the experts in our church that we have been seeking wise counsel for, you know, what, if I explain all the different reasons why we made the decision that we made, maybe then they will change their minds, and they will see it the way that I see it. And that was me, trying to feel in control in that situation. And to some extent, trying to control them, I was treating knowledge, like it was this power to direct when it is not. And so I ended up realizing what was happening was I was not changing people’s minds at all, what was happening is I was laying awake at night rehashing these conversations and thinking through, if I could just say it this way, if I could just say it that way, then you know, and so I was creating a lot of anxiety for myself, and then I was also straining my relationships with them. And so once I started to see this pattern, it was really helpful for me to stop, honestly, because I realized not only is this not accomplishing what I want, but it is actually costing me greater in the long run. And so I think all pastors have, have dealt with that frustration. But then you also mentioned the pain of not just experiencing disagreement, but people thinking badly of you. And that is so painful, when you have earnestly and humbly and thoughtfully, and prayerfully, you know, made these decisions, to the best of your ability, knowing that not everyone is going to agree and then to be accused of, you know, being whatever, all the things that people have probably been called, and by people that you trusted, you know, by people that you thought you were gonna to be doing this forever. You know, you thought you were on mission together, you thought you understood the gospel the same way, you thought you were both submitting yourselves to God’s Word, and then to suddenly be accused of, you know, abandoning Christ, whatever it is. And so that is something that I also really had to wrestle with, because the control piece of of using scripture and all that wasn’t just about changing their minds, but also controlling how they see me. And I, at some point, you know, reach this moment. And it’s not to say that I am totally at peace with this because this is something I have to really walk myself through again and again, but just realizing I can try and control how people see me, but it’s not going to work. It will cause me greater anxiety in the long run, or I can simply receive the truth that Sharon isn’t getting anyone to heaven. I’m not saving anyone in the end, you know. What my priority must be is, are they good with Jesus? At the end of this, are they still good with Jesus? And even if they leave my church, if they’re still good with Jesus, that’s actually a win. And that is so hard. It’s so painful. But that has been for me what the last couple of years it looked like.
Yeah, and that’s good, super helpful, and super timely and relevant. Because, I mean, I’m sure everyone watching along, everyone listening, every pastor, you know, they’re like, “Yes, you know… that’s me. That’s been our experience.” Because you’re right, there’ve been so many, so many decisions that had been made, where, you know, no matter what is said, no matter what decision is made, there’s fallout, period. You know, there are people that, and again, as you said, it’s not just people saying, “Oh, well, that may not be the wisest leadership decision. Let’s see how that goes.” It’s people who think, “Okay, you really don’t love Jesus anymore.” It’s not, you know, I mean, it goes to extremes, which has been very, very challenging. And I would love to dig in a little deeper if we could, Sharon, on this idea. Because the show this show is called FrontStage BackStage, and, you know, the front stage of our ministry, you know, what people are seeing on our weekends and that sort of thing. But then there’s the backstage, right? There’s our own relationships with our spouses, with our kids. You know, we as pastors and ministry leaders, we’re humans. We are navigating the same world that everyone else is right. And when we think of this idea of wanting to control what people think of us, there is the piece that is the kind of front stage, you know, how we’re leading as pastors. But then there’s this other much more personal piece, the backstage piece, you know, how am I as a dad, how are you as a mom, you know, how are we as spouses? And I don’t know about you, but I know that as a pastor, there were lots of times where, you know, you’re kind of processing through and thinking through if my kid is not doing well in school, and people in the church find out, what are they going to think of me, like, the guy can’t even help his kid in school, let alone how’s he going to lead us, You know, those types of things. I know, every pastor friend, I have, everyone wrestles with these kinds of these backstage, personal pieces that tie directly into this whole idea of, of, you know, controlling what people think of us. Right? So can you talk to us a little bit about that backstage side? Because that can be just as debilitating, right. And it can make us, you know, live a life that’s not completely authentic, because we’re fearful of, you know, what people are thinking?
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah. Yeah, you know, it’s especially, I think, all Christians wrestle with that, to some extent, you know, image management. I think we all know, those of us who have been Christians for any amount of time, learn how to perform Christianity. And we become, the better we become at that the easier it is to become disintegrated people, you know, where that outward facing exterior is disconnected from, you know, your interior life. And I actually wrote, so my second book is called Nice, and the subtitle is “why we love to be liked and how God created us for more.” And it’s, it’s really a deep dive into how we’re discipled into this nice Christianity. And one of the metaphors that I use in that book is that a lot of us are these Christmas tree Christians where we look beautiful, you know, are covered and these ornaments of you know, spiritual activities and whatnot, but we’re uprooted you know. Christmas tree has just been chopped off from its roots. And over time, it starts to dry out and die and smell. And, you know, we can only hide that for so long. And just how many of us are these Christmas tree Christians. But with pastors, it’s especially tricky because this is one of the only jobs in the world in which you can be fired because of your personal life. And that creates such a really precarious dynamic that I think the enemy also really seizes on because I think there’s also times where it’s easy to wonder, will I be fired or just rejected, you know, whatever, not because I was unfaithful to my spouse, not because you know, I have a substance abuse problem, but simply because like you mentioned, my kids aren’t behaving very well, you know, things like that where that’s not actually a fireable. That’s not disqualifying. But we still have this fear that I’m going to lose my authority, I’m going to lose my credibility, if I’m not performing, you know, in the ways that I should in all areas in my life, and how toxic that becomes how it encourages deception, you know, where we are hiding, we’re intentionally hiding. But it also puts, you know, you mentioned your kids. The thing about image management that I’ve written about before is what ends up happening when we incorporate people into our image management, you know, when you treat your spouse as a part of your image, or when you treat your kids as a part of your image, how toxic that becomes for your relationships with them, because you’re saddling them with your insecurities, and just how dangerous it is with our kids. You know, when we ask “what will people think,” it’s just the worst question, you know, we could possibly ask as a parent. So yeah, I mean, it’s very, it’s, it’s complex. And it is, it can become toxic very, very quickly. But those are my initial thoughts.
Yeah, no, that’s helpful, Sharon, the piece of you know, about what our kids you know, what people think of our kids. The reality is, you know, that there are a lot of pastors, ministry leaders, who have been wounded by people in their church, because people in the church come at them over their, or they confide in someone that they trust, over, you know, an issue they’re dealing with, it can be any issue, personal issue in life, but you know, you confide in someone that you’ve been doing life and ministry with for years, and then suddenly, they treat you differently. Or suddenly they, you know, look at you differently and distance themselves and that can be so painful, as a ministry leader, because as, as you’ve said, multiple times already in this conversation, you know, these are, you know, we’ve given our life to, you know, really proclaiming the goodness of Christ and pointing these people whom we love toward wholeness of life, right? And then that wounding happens. How do we, how do we kind of process through this idea of… because it goes back to, then that puts us in a mode where we want to control what people are thinking, which leads to putting on the mask, which leads to, as you just said, the deception, which, you know, as you write about in the book, the deception can lead to moral corruption, right, so it becomes this very slippery slope. So what are some… one of the things I’m going to paraphrase you, I’m not going to quote you directly, because I don’t remember directly, but you said something along the lines of “when reputation becomes your God, you sacrifice honesty at the altar.” So what are some, you know, when we think about this, and when we’re looking at us in ministry, none of us are in ministry because we want to deceive others or we’re okay with falling into moral corruption. Yet it happens, you know, it does happen, and it happens in the headlines. But it happens multiple, multiple other times in churches across the country and around the world that never make the headlines. Right. So Sharon, how can we approach these cravings to control what people think of us in a healthy way? So we do not begin to idolize our reputation? So we are not sacrificing our honesty, we’re not sacrificing our integrity.
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah. So I can tell you what we have done because we’ve not been leading our church terribly long. Our church plant is just under four years. And so I want to speak in this area a little less like an authority and just you know, share what we have practiced ourselves. So we have people, safe people, outside of our church that know everything. You know, we have our marriage counselor that we’ve had for most of our marriage. So about 12 years now. She knows everything. We have overseers that is, we planted with ARC, and that’s part of their model is that you have pastors outside of your church that serve as overseers and we tell them, you know, the nitty gritty of everything. And then we also have just a handful, not many, like I have one friend here who, and then a couple across the country who, they know everything you know, and so that has been really important to make sure that there are eyes that are on all of us, like the whole of me and my husband, that are not in our church, there’s nothing for them to, I’m not pastoring them in any way. Yeah. And so that is something that we practice. But the thing that has been really helpful about having our overseers in particular, is that we have relied on them to guide us a little bit about when to share more candidly with our church. And so one part of our story is at the beginning of the pandemic, Ike, and he’s, he’s written about this, I’m not sharing anything, he hasn’t shared himself or with our church, actually. But he just hit a wall in the summer of the pandemic, where he was just in a ton of pain. He was feeling depression, he was feeling, we later realize he’s an adult child of an alcoholic, and one of the consequences of that, one of the patterns in adult children of alcoholics is codependency. And he had developed that actually with our church, where he was really trying to manage the, you know, feelings and anxieties of everyone in our church in a pandemic, you know, and was failing to do that. And so, you know, it was just getting him in to this depression. And so he hit a wall real hard in the summer o,f that first summer, the pandemic, I guess, summer of 2020. And it was bad, it was hard on our marriage, it was just really, it was the hardest thing that’s happened actually, in our marriage so far. And so we went to the overseers and told them, you know, everything that was happening, and their counsel to us was really interesting. They said, You know, you need a break, you need to take a sabbatical, you need to rest, you probably need to spend more time in counseling. But they also said, you know, you don’t need to tell the church, everything right now. Right now, what you need to do privately is process this yourself, so that you can understand it better yourself before you’re taking it to the church. And that was such wise advice. There was another friend of mine who’s been in leadership a long time, she had talked about how the difference between privacy and secrecy is that secrecy is intentionally hiding, so that the sin can continue. But privacy is withholding, you know, everything so that you can heal without the weight of public opinion. And those are two different things. One is a posture of repentance. The other is, you know, continuing on in your sin, essentially. And that was really helpful, too, in this, this season of the #metoo #churchtoo you know, reckoning, I think that makes it really confusing when we’re struggling thinking, okay, am I hiding this? You know, is this going to be another story about, you know, the church, the pastor that was unhealthy and hid it? Or is this actually just being wise so that you can share this at another time when you fully understand it yourself? And that was really, really wonderful wisdom for us. So that’s been something we’ve practiced. And then the other other wise counsel that that we were given that I, I’ve gone back to again and again, is Are you familiar with Steve Cuss? Oh, yeah. Okay. Yeah. So I cannot recommend him enough. His book Managing Leadership Anxiety, and his podcast, Managing Leadership Anxiety was really, really helpful. But he has this one episode where he’s talking about different types of critics. And he talks, Steve really encourages leading with with vulnerability and leading with, you know, sharing people who are concerned or upset, you know, how you came to your decisions, or, you know, what’s going on with you that kind of thing. But he said that once someone weaponizes your vulnerability against you, that you you no longer share vulnerably with them from then on, that it is wasted insight. And so that was also really helpful in terms of just having boundaries when someone becomes, you know, unsafe in that way to know okay, this is just unfortunately, this relationship is going to look different now.
Yeah, yeah. No, that’s all very helpful and a lot of good wisdom there. A lot, a lot of good, good thoughts on and I love the secrecy versus privacy, you know, distinction there and just kind of thinking through because, you know, as pastors we know, there’s this idea of vulnerability and authenticity. I mean, these are words that are used a lot, but I love what you said there that, you know, wisdom that you received about, you know, you need to understand it before you can really adequately share with others, right? You need to take the time to process so you can more fully understand what is it you are experiencing. Because if you don’t do that you could likely share something that you’re, that’s more emotionally driven, but you haven’t taken the time, you know that self-soul care time to dig in and really see what is what is going on here and how is God at work in my life? So I think that’s some incredible wisdom. I love the idea of having a mentor, having a coach, having an overseer, having someone else that you can kind of process these things through. I think that is so helpful.
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah, one other thing I would just add is the importance of there being someone in your life, who is not your spouse, and does not have the power to fire you, that you are committed to sharing openly with. And if you are unwilling to share openly with someone who does not have the power to fire you, you know, there’s no consequences for them. If they they know they, you know, probably aren’t going to like call your elders or whatever. If you are unwilling to share what is going on truthfully, with that person, I would say that is a red flag that this has entered into the territory of hiding instead of privacy, because in that space, I mean, we experienced this, you can justify a lot, ya know about why this is privacy and not hiding. And so I would you know, when you’re healthy, I would go ahead and say this is someone who is going to know everything, and they don’t have the power to fire me. And so if I’m making an excuse not to share with them, then that’s on me.
That is so good. I love that. That’s excellent. Excellent. All right. So we’ve talked a little bit and kind of danced around this topic, just a bit just through this conversation. But one of the things that you write about in the book, The Cost of Control, is how our cravings for control can actually lead to burnout. And, you know, and we see this, we see this in the church, we see this idea of burnout, an increasing rate of burnout in pastors and ministry leaders. So Sharon, can you just give us a little synopsis on how, and again, we’ve touched on this to some degree, but how how that controlling behavior, you know, can can lead to this this burnout?
Sharon Hodde Miller
Yeah, well, it’s it goes back to that illusion of control. You know, part of the reason why it’s so tempting is that it is effective for time, you know, you can actually experience some success in control. And this is true in so many different areas of our lives, like I have a chapter on the cost of controlling your body. And that is another area of our lives where we can actually experience some success for a time, whether it is you know, you’re able to keep your weight down or, you know, whatever it is, but you cannot escape aging, you know, there’s nothing you can do to you know, outrun the fact that your body is, you know, getting older and in frailer and sicker, you know. And so, at some point in time, that illusion begins to crumble. And so you might scramble after trying to resist it. And there’s a similar component that can happen in our churches where you might even experience some success, or, you know, in the most, you know, unhealthy church cultures, it’s because they have created this culture of control, you know, where it’s a very high control environment where the pastor is, you know, domineering, and there’s a culture of fear. But even that we have seen that illusion is shattered at some point or another. But the fact of the matter is, as long as you are having to hold this together, it gets to be exhausting, you know, you’re you’re going to burn out because we can’t, we can’t control our churches. And it really, I mean, we experienced this so much. Church planting is a wonderful way to be disabused of that illusion, you know, it’s so like, you can you can think I’ve covered all my bases and then, you know, your production person just doesn’t show up. And so you can keep thinking like, this all rests on me, this all rests on me to like, hold this together. But another way I think it actually does lead to burnout is if you are really good at at building a church and leading a church and it’s thriving, it’s really tempting to start thinking, because I did this, because I did this, right. And if I go on vacation, you know, if I take a sabbatical, if I start having boundaries, whatever it is, that the church is going to suffer, because deep down you believe I’m the only one who’s actually holding all this together, everyone else is volunteer, no one else believes in this the way that I do, or no one has, you know, the gifts that I have whatever it is, that that will run you into the ground.
Yeah, that’s so true. And just kind of as you were talking, you know, thinking through it, it’s so interesting how there are so many things that are just a delicate balance between being very passionate about what God’s called you to do and tipping into that temptation to go overboard, right, with being controlling and burning yourself out. I mean, it’s very, and so kind of as we’re closing our conversation down, Sharon, I would love for you to share some words of encouragement to pastors and ministry leaders who are watching along, who are listening in, as they’re reflecting, just like I’ve been reflecting as I’ve been listening to you, reflecting on on ministry and those delicate balances. And so, talk just a little bit about, as we’re closing, just some encouragement about, really, how do we approach this whole idea of control? And, and the beauty of, you know, God’s promises in the midst of this. How do we rest in God? And don’t get, you know, so caught up in all this, because it’s easy, especially when we’re in ministry, right? Because we’re passionate about it. So, give us a little encouragement as we close down here.
Sharon Hodde Miller
Well, the the words from Jesus that I’ve really returned to a lot in this season is My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. And I’ve often asked myself, How do I restore the lightness of ministry, you know, that it is actually meant to be light. And that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. That doesn’t mean we’re not called to suffering because we actually are. And that’s another piece of this calling I’ve been really prayerful to receive well is that if we’re following Jesus, then we’re following him and suffering. And I think a lot of us are experiencing that. But in terms of the heaviness of it, is just remembering that at the end of the day, we are not responsible for the outcome. We’re not responsible for the outcome. You know, whatever happens with our people, whatever happens with our church, that we are to be faithful stewards, and cast out that seed, but we cannot bring the growth we can’t. And that that is hard, but it is also a gift, where God is saying, You are not responsible for the outcome, it will crush you, it will crush you, if you make yourself. Or you will like, like every person in Genesis that tried to engineer you know, an outcome, Sarah and Abraham, you know, all these different stories, how it just broke everyone, you know, it just causes massive relational brokenness, and so to just release the outcome to God, and be a good steward of you know, what He has given you, but that has given me a lot of freedom.
Yeah, I love that. It’s a great word. It’s great word of encouragement. And, man, it’s, it’s so so challenging in ministry, right? Because of that balance, right? It’s always returning to Okay, I just need to be faithful, what God’s called me to do and, and leave the outcomes to him. It has been a joy to have you with us, Sharon. I want to remind everyone of your latest book, The Cost of Control. And I encourage you guys to pick that up, absolutely fantastic. Much of what we discussed and what Sharon shared, has come out of her research and her writing there. So thank you so much for making the time to be with us. We certainly appreciate it. And if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way that they could connect with you, your ministry, those types of things,
Sharon Hodde Miller
I’m most active on Instagram. So you can find me @SharonHMiller on Instagram.
Perfect, perfect. And we’ll have all that information available for you, including links to Sharon’s books in our toolkit that we provide for you at PastorServe.org/network so you and your team can dig more deeply into this very important conversation, this idea of control and the temptation of seizing control, as opposed to relaxing and resting in what God has us and what God’s called us to do, so be sure to check that out at PastorServe.org/network. Thank you so much for being with us. Sharon, certainly appreciate you and your heart for God and for His church. So we appreciate you. God bless you. Thank you have a great day.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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