“Kevin, you are all things to all men.”
I thought, “What a nice thing for him to say”, but he wasn’t giving me a compliment. You see, everything that came my way was another thing to do. The immediate need became my immediate focus. I felt that I needed to fix it because I was the leader. And the other things that I had started got put off to the side. By the end of the day I was tired, having accomplished little. I was in crisis management, quickly heading towards burn out. Sorry, but this is a very easy place for leaders to get to, especially in pioneering.
I can picture Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law watching Moses and thinking the same thing. I love how the Message puts Exodus 18:17-18. “This is no way to do it. You’ll burn out and the people right along with you.” Did you notice the phrase “and the people right along with you”? Not only do we hurt ourselves when we don’t stay focused, but we tend to burn out those around us.
Another time the same friend said, “Why are you avoiding people?” He continued, “I have watched you over the years and you’ve always had people around you. Either a bunch of them were asking question or you were just having fun together. But people were always by you. Now you are walking most of the time by yourself.” I had to admit he was right. Whenever two or three people would come towards me I wanted to run, because I saw it as another potential problem. My lack of empowering and releasing others in their roles and not setting personal boundaries and focus, was now affecting my family and staff.
Jethro was willing to speak truth into a man he loved and was concerned for. Thankfully, like Moses, I had someone around me who was willing to say. “You need to stop, refocus, and set boundaries.” Sue and I debrief so many leaders who are at burn out. The number one thing that we have noticed is that many of them do not have that person in their lives who will say, “Slow down” or even, “Stop!”
Moses listened to his father-in-law, and from that encounter he began to empower others to do the things that needed to be done. He was challenged to teach and train others so they could become leaders. And the nation of Israel benefited. But first Moses had to be willing to listen to wise council from someone who loved him and his family and believed in his leadership and ministry.
As leaders, we need to look for men and women who love us and want what is best for us and are willing to tell us of areas to watch out for. And as leaders we need to trust those who are on our team. We must train and release them. When we do that well, our ministries and staff will grow and we as leaders will be healthy.