A leader once told me “every great fall is preceded by a series of small missteps.” These words became real to me as I saw four of the pastors on our staff experience moral failures in the first two years of vocational ministry. They all exited the ministry. I processed through hard questions… 

How do I not respond in fear? 

How do I not hide when I’ve seen the devastation? 

Is anyone safe to follow?

The last two years of my life have been highlighted by my beautiful and hilarious daughter, Eden Mae. Nearly a year ago Eden began to walk. When I say “walk” I’m being generous. There was a lot of wiggling, waving arms and plenty of plops down onto her behind. My wife and I were constantly jumping off the couch ready to catch her when she wobbled. The process was memorable…tears, baby proofing and our dog getting her hair pulled. 

As young leaders we experience similar patterns in our first couple years. The first five years of our leadership provide some of the most vital lessons. Are we sustainable? Are we setting healthy boundaries to protect our witness? Do we have a healthy community encouraging us, cheering us on, and sharpening us? Even though I have seen one or two emerging leaders plop down and cry (no joke), these wobbles and falls are nothing to kid about!

So, what are some ways we can protect ourselves as we learn grow into our leadership role? Here are some questions to ask…

Who have you given permission to? 

I have seen many brothers and sisters surround themselves with people who have no permission in their lives. Give them permission to ask you hard questions! Give them ways to know you in your mess so they can encourage and challenge you out of it.

Are you “leaning out” and isolating when you stumble?

Whats your natural inclination when you stumble? Do you hide and choose shame or do you lean in and share honestly with others?

What barriers can you set up before crossing a boundary? 

When you’re crossing the border from one country to another you have to do a few thing. You wait in line, present your documentation and answer a few questions. When you’re waiting in line, are you in the new country? So what barriers do you have set up to act as a warning or gap before a boundary is crossed?

What are your “on ramps” and “off ramps”?

When you are stumbling, do you have clear off ramps into your next right steps? What’s your plan when you’re insecure and intimidated? When you’re stressed and anxious what’s the clear on ramp to get back in the groove?

What are the yellow warning lights on your dashboard?

How are you continuing to grow in self awareness? What are the indicators of approaching issues? When you see or feel them, don’t wait…you know what to do.

Young leaders; the journey you’re embarking on is no joke. Create structures now so you can win later. Establish sustainable rhythms during this season to protect your from yourself in the next season.  Be bold. Take the next right steps now so you can lead healthy later.