“Organizational Stress : Ever Heard of it?”

Anyone in Christian school leadership can likely relate to the visual I am about to paint;

It’s a “typical” Tuesday morning, as a head of school I am just nicely getting through the “Monday crush” of new activities, demands, and incoming calls and emails……now I am actually hoping to get to the list of things I was “supposed” to do on Monday……and then it happens……that moment of trepidation when I look up from my computer and see one of my lead teachers leaning against my door frame, with “that look” on her face, as she says “can I have a minute?”…..

What usually follows is something that a) needs to be dealt with and b) wasn’t on my task list……so what do I do?

Of course, I DON’T blow this teacher off, because she matters and is valued, and her issue is important to her and therefore it should be important to me…….so I stop what I am doing and I invest the next 30 minutes listening, supporting and (hopefully) offering wisdom.

She leaves my office feeling heard and supported and I chalk this one up as a small victory! I go back to my task list for 20 minutes until another cherished teachers is leaning against the door and asks “for a minute” of my time…..

Sound familiar? Can you just picture yourself in this situation? Do you get tired just reading this?

This is the “reality” of many senior leaders in our Christian schools…….faithful servants who are pouring their resources into trying to support their teams, helping them be upbeat, on mission, focused, growing in their faith, of one accord, and effective…… While their efforts are well meaning, and they do create “victories”……they come at the expense of having the time to fulfill their own role, their own calling with diligence and excellence. Is it any wonder that our Christian schools experience organizational stress when many of our leaders are subordinating their own critical duties to the immediate needs of those who report to them?

Stress is a fact of life in any organization, not just in Christian schools……however what we DO with stress can differ. Effective organizations have built a culture where APPROPRIATE stress (like that induced by an upcoming deadline) is actually embraced, used as a motivator to bring people together, and to increase effectiveness and productivity. Effective organizations also have built a culture where INAPPROPRIATE stress (like when one team member is carrying too much of the load) is identified early and dealt with appropriately, with other team members coming alongside in support of that teammate that is unduly stressed.

Effective organizations by definition need to be ORGANIZED…..Christian Schools are no different. We cannot function to the best of our abilities when one or two key leaders are continually troubleshooting the needs and concerns of a staff of 40 others. We cannot function to the best of our abilities when one or two key leaders are continually tasked with ideation, initiation, and implementation of the new “things” that are going to change the trajectory of our school.

To be effective, we must FIRST get organized, organized in a manner where all our cast members know;

a) what their role is and (more importantly) WHY their role is vital to the vision and mission,

b) what they are accountable for,

c) who they report to, and who reports to them

d) who can they ask for support, and

e) what to do if something isn’t going well.

With this basic 5-point framework in place, we can now come together in support of one another, in an appropriate fashion, to JOINTLY tackle organizational stress.

God is the God of Peace. He is not the God of stress.

When I am feeling the burden, pressure, and loneliness of being the leader of our school, I am wise to follow the eternal wisdom of Matthew 6:33 which instructs us to “seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness…..”. Often even this simple redirection of my mind and heart seems like an impossible task in the midst of the “normal” run of a day at school……

To help me redirect my mind and heart and bolster my spirit, I have discovered a great set of passages, originally published in 2015 on BLOG.Bible (1) which I share with you to help you refocus and ORGANIZE your thoughts, and remind yourself of GOD’s qualities and promises.

  1. The Lord gives rest.

    Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 (GNTD)

  2. The Lord gives strength.

    But those who trust in the Lord for help will find their strength renewed. They will rise on wings like eagles; they will run and not get weary; they will walk and not grow weak. – Isaiah 40:31 (GNTD)

  3. The Lord gives peace. 

    You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3 (GNTD)

  4. The Lord gives hope. 

    May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13 (GNTD)

  5. The Lord gives wisdom.

    But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. – James 1:5 (GNTD)

  6. The Lord gives guidance. 

    The Lord says, “I will teach you the way you should go; I will instruct you and advise you. – Psalm 32:8 (GNTD)

Perhaps these six verses will help you in those moments when you feel more like the worker at the local deli counter who is continually yelling out “NOW SERVING #32, #33, #34…” than you feel like a leader, called by God, to the vital and impactful ministry of delivering discipleship infused education through your Christian school.

If we are to serve Him with the immense list of gifts and talents He has given all the leaders, staff, students, parents, Pastors, donors, partners and alumni of our schools, we had better be organized and submitted to His will.

Standing in our own strength, managing each of the servants that come and lean on our office doorway, “needing a minute” of our time is not a path to success, and its not a path to JOY, it is a path to DEBILITATING ORGANIZATIONAL STRESS.

This is why the IGC team is so passionate about “Strengthening Christian Schools for powerful Kingdom Impact”, helping schools we partner with become strong, organized, well managed, well governed, well resourced Christian Schools are in the best position to come alongside families.

Strong Christian schools are those that have a well defined and consistently articulated strategic plan, a well equipped strategic leadership team, a well thought out plan to create a strong discipleship culture, financial management systems which steward investment that fuels the future, and a fundraising plan which focuses on seeing the Vision and Mission thrive rather than the school survive.

If you are involved in leading a school that is struggling with organizational stress, gripped by a decided lack of Joy, know that you are not alone. The IGC team has “been” right where you are.

If you wish to explore the BLESSING and the JOY that comes from Strengthening your school, our team of experts are here to help.

(1) Hemming, Nicholas “6 Bible Verses For Overcoming Workplace Pressure. When responsibilities grow and expectations soar, turn to God’s Word”. Originally posted on “http://blog.bible/bible-blog/entry/6-bible-verses-for-overcoming-workplace-pressure”, May 26th, 2015.

About the Contributor:

Shaun Alspach was called by the Lord into pastoral ministry after a 20+ year career leading publicly and private companies ranging in value from a few million to over one billion dollars, and volunteering at his own children’s Christian school. Shaun was then called into the ministry of IGC after recognizing that even the best church in the world only has between 100 and 200 hours of access to students, paling in comparison to the discipleship opportunity afforded Christian Schools and their 1100-1200 hours per year. Over his tenure with IGC, Shaun has used his diverse “toolkit” of leadership, corporate governance, strategic planning, financial management, marketing, fundraising, preaching, teaching, counseling, and discipleship skills to strengthen Christian schools for powerful Kingdom impact. Shaun looks forward to glorifying the Lord by coming alongside schools in need. He can be reached via salspach@gen4christ.com.