Recently I have been reading Beth Allen Slevcoe’s Broken Hallelujahs. It is subtitled “Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life." In working with campus ministers, we often talk about campus ministry being a constant grieving, in that just as we often get to a rich and deep point in relationship with students, they are graduating and moving away. As leaders, we often help others through grief and loss, but pay little attention to its effect in our own lives, and in our leadership.
Paying attention to loss and learning to grieve well and openly are important if we are to lead well. Grief invites us to recognize that we, no matter how strong a leader we are, are not self-sufficient, and that loss is every bit a part of our lives and leadership as it is for those we have the privilege of leading. I am sure we can all think of examples of loss in our own lives and ministries. Loss comes to us when key people move away to other locations, or people leave because we failed to live up to their expectations of a leader, or because they felt they couldn’t live up to ours. Loss comes to us when we realize that a dream has died, when we know we have let others down, and even when successful projects or programs come to an end, or colleagues retire or move on. And of course, loss comes to us in the form of challenges to health, and because of death, both reminders to us of the brokenness of this world.
Beth Slevcove suggests 3 ways of dealing with loss. First, pay attention to and understand what has been lost. What is at the root of the loss we are feeling? Secondly, listen to our losses. What are they telling us about ourselves, and our leadership? Lastly, she challenges us to invite hope in the face of loss. Loss is part of the rhythm of life, and so we need to learn how to rise up from it and continue to live in hope. In her book, each chapter offers prayer practices that we can take up to help us grieve and live well with loss.
Along with these, is the important role that community plays. Facing loss is not a solitary pursuit and is best done with others before God. As leaders, we need others to help us deal with loss, to help us grieve, and who can help us be drawn again into hope. What are the losses that are currently affecting you as a leader? How can you listen to them, what are they telling you and how can you invite hope? Who are your companions helping you on this leadership journey, and who is helping you grieve? Spending time pursuing the answers to these questions can help us become better leaders, and better followers of Christ in this world of broken hallelujahs.