Two Leadership Lessons I Learned in 2020

There is never an easy or uncontroversial time to lead. It just doesn’t exist. Let’s face it, leading in 2020 has been a challenge (and that’s clearly an understatement). But along with all the new and different ways of ministry thrust upon us, we’ve had new opportunities to learn and be stretched as leaders. In fact, of all the things I’ve learned over the past months, the first lesson is this: being a leader is tough, so I’d better know why I’m leading.

Right Expectations for Leadership 

Right and realistic expectations are helpful. Make that essential. Realizing that leadership is going to be difficult and that it will include trouble, pain, and strife is actually freeing. 

Jesus spoke to this very fact, assuring us of His ultimate victory over undeniable troubles in John 16:33: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

While we’ll never be prepared for every trial and tribulation (certainly 2020 has taught us that), realizing that difficulties will come shields us from shock, sets our perspective, and girds us for a right response. Following Christ’s exhortation in John 16:33, we can have peace and be courageous if we are focused on His sovereignty and eternal plan. 

I fully admit there were moments and even days throughout the past year when I felt catatonic as I faced yet another disappointment, complication, or controversy. I wasn’t always filled with courage and peace or focused on God’s plan. But the Spirit and the Word graciously guided me back to an eternal perspective and an expectation of difficulty, which produced right, godly responses to the people and circumstances around me.

God’s Glory Is Worth It

The second essential leadership lesson instilled in my heart in 2020 originated from a verse in Deuteronomy that I’ve come back to over and over. In fact, I’ve shared it so often that my fifteen-year-old daughter who has a talent for hand-lettering created this artwork for me:

The lesson? God’s glory and renown is worth it all. The reality of all that surrounds us points the way to the only One who is able to sustain us through it all. And we are meant to share that hope with others. The mourning of those we lead who have lost loved ones in this pandemic is deep. But by God’s grace, they’ve been given the opportunity to know there is no One besides God to bring comfort and purpose to their suffering. The seemingly endless changes to the routines of daily life—including all those that impact our local churches’ worship, classes, events, and groups—also reveal our utter dependence on the Lord. 

The Inconvenience of “Worth It” Ministry

Our church family recently returned to in-person gatherings including women’s Bible study classes. The core essentials of our classes remain the same: a sharp focus on engaging women with the Word as they interact with and are taught by other women. But there have been adaptations, too. Entry and exit procedures. New room capacities and seating configurations. Offering a Zoom option alongside the in-person gathering—plus no buffet of coffee, tea, and treats (gasp!). 

Preparing for the changes, connecting with women who teach and lead, communicating the new procedures, and carrying them out in real time has been a lot to bear. 

So why go through all that? 

  • Because God’s glory and renown are worth it. 
  • Because God’s people coming together to worship Him, to know Him more, and to be shaped more into the image of His Son is worth it. 
  • Because His Word is powerful.
  • Because His ways are superior. 
  • Because His people—including me—desperately need Him.

I expect that you have examples of “worth it” ministry in your own life. I also predict you’ve had—or may even be having right now—overwhelming days like I’ve had. You may be doubting your mission, your service, even your God. May I come alongside you to speak these lessons I’ve learned as a balm for your mind and heart? Being a leader is tough. So remember Who you are ultimately serving, and know that His glory and renown are worth it all. 

We are wholly dependent on the Lord for all things, at all times. This year has given us more opportunities to understand and apply that truth. As you live it out, as you focus and refocus on God’s eternal glory, and as you encourage the women you lead to do the same, God will be made known. To you and through you. 

“You were shown these things so that you would know that the Lord is God. There is none other besides Him.”

About the Author

Heidi Jo Fulk

Heidi Jo Fulk desires to know and live God's Word, then teach and challenge other women to do the same. Heidi and and her husband, Dan, live in Michigan with their four children where she leads women's ministries at her church.