The following is a rough excerpt from a resource I am working on. In this chapter, I argue that “managing our household well” does not mean we will have no problems. It does not mean we have to appear as we have it together all the time. But it does mean that when the storms come, we will handle them in a godly manner.
Understanding the storms will come, how does a leader respond in a godly manner? I would suggest there are at least three steps in the cycle.
First, we seek to prevent problems. Rather than having a reactive leadership, a wise father and pastor tries to think ahead. Some problems come because leaders are reactive and not proactive. We exasperate the flock through poor leadership when we merely respond to issues.
Just as a regular oil change keeps a car’s engine healthy, so some actions “oil” the natural frictions of life. Whether leading my family or church, there are rhythms I can establish that keep everyone healthy. For example, as a pastor, I might schedule a regular marriage or parenting conference. I do this, not because of any specific problems, but because I know the nature of sin and the need for regular training in the home.
For a parent, this might mean not keeping our children out too late so that we don’t have issues the next day. For a wise dad or mom, it might mean connecting to the heart during the tweenager years because you know that there will be bumps when they become a teenager. A smart person looks down the road. As a leader, I want to prevent exasperating the people under my care.
However, though poor leadership can cause problems, good leadership will not eliminate problems. And that brings us to the second principle.
Second, we seek to lean into the problems. Since I am not expecting family life or leadership to be problem free, I am not surprised when issues come up. I will see these issues as coming from the Lord’s hand to sanctify me and to mature me. This is why a church or family has leaders. By way of analogy, we understand the true skills of a commercial pilot, not when the weather is smooth, but when it is stormy.
For the family leader, this means I do not ignore an issue hoping it will go away. I learn to move toward hard conversations. I let the messiness of my family come out. I make sure I am responding appropriately – not overreacting harshly or passively under-responding. I learn to discern what is important and what is not. I ask others for help as appropriate. It means I move toward the problem even if I don’t know what to do. I realize I am in a providential storm that the Lord has allowed for my good and his glory. And he has put me in the pilot’s seat.
But handling conflict in the moment is not where I stop. What happens after the crisis is over?
Third, we learn from problems. Someone has said, “Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me.” The point? That a person should learn from mistakes. A wise leader will analyze the problem and create structures to eliminate those problems.
In other words, a wise leader has the self-awareness to ask, “Why did we get into this mess? What can I do differently next time? How could this be prevented?” A wise leader is constantly learning lessons about himself, about others, and about helpful and unhelpful environments. He or she is developing convictions about leading others that can decrease problems.
Families and churches will all have issues and conflicts. But wise leaders will lead with a steady hand through the storm and learn lessons for next time. Managing your household well does not mean you have no problems, but that you handle those problems well.