Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Skin in the Game

Written by: on April 12, 2019

What a truly refreshing book to wrap up this semester with! Though we have had some very thought-provoking reading materials lately, I believe this book summed up a number of places that can be a challenge in ministry; and evidently, even in graduate school. For the point of this paper, I decided to highlight on two principles that have actually been discussed way too recently in our own church bible classes. The first one had to do with the comment in our reading which stated, “What stands in the way, becomes the way[1].” We had a discussion in class regarding Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 4:15-16, which reads, “but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together…” The point of the discussion (at least the point I was trying to make), was that we need to learn to encourage rather than discourage; we need to use love when offering suggestions rather than contempt. Sadly, to my dismay, two comments were made immediately after these two suggestions of mine. The first person said, “people just need to have tough skin, so they don’t take things so personal.” To this, my response was, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the one safe place that we didn’t need tough skin was amongst our church family?” At which, the second person replied by saying, “Yeah, that’s never going to happen!” The even sadder reality is that the first person was simply identifying the truth that Brene had made; we have allowed those that criticize the ministries of the church to control the ministries of the church. Why is it that church leadership seems to always bend to the most insulting, critical, and usually non-Christian behaving people, rather than support those who are doing the actual work? I am not even speaking of ministers…though we usually take the greatest hits; to the contrary, I have seen more people stop serving as a result of some insulting “brother” or “sister” in Christ. The other reality of the above conversation was that the second person I quoted, has been one of the most insulting, back-stabbing, gossiping people in our church since I began working there 8 years ago. For me, the comment, “That’s never going to happen,” was more an affirmation that the past behaviors were not going to cease; regardless of how much I preached on love and kindness.

The first conversation actually prompted a second conversation between our youth minister and me. He too has grown frustrated and discouraged…and at times, angry, regarding the behavior of a few very negative individuals. He then stated to me, “I just don’t know how you put up with it.” Well, the reality for me is that I do not believe in bowing to acts or words of evil. I recognize the danger of allowing bad habits to become “the way” a church operates; preferences do not always get to dictate pattern. In the workbook that was connected to our reading online, Brene made another statement that forced me to do some pondering; because this too had come up in the same discussion with our youth minister. The comment read, “We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.” But it was the question that came next that left me with the four boxes, instead of a single box (shown below).

Write the names of the people whose opinions really matter to you within the square.[2]

(Graphic would not transfer…so imagine 4 boxes below)

Box 1: GOD – The only ONE whose opinion I try to live according to.

Box 2: Wife – My partner and friend for 26 years – her happiness always matters to me

Box 3: Elders – They are the overseers of our church; their guidance and role matters to me

Box 4: Church – They are whom the Lord sent me to minister; their souls matter to me

The reality of my life as an individual, and I suppose as a minister too, is that there are only about 3 people that I truly trust completely; there used to be one more, but he passed away last year. I have had too many church members turn their back on me for stupid, selfish reasons, that I am very guarded as a result. My own extended family members love gossip more than they love their kin, so every bit of information is dangerous. After 26 years, I trust my wife; it doesn’t mean we always agree or see eye to eye…but I trust her completely. The second is my best friend Brandon; we have endured very challenging times through the years and not once has he given me cause to doubt him. The last is one of my sons; don’t get me wrong, the other three of my children are wonderful and great and trustworthy…but they have not learned self-control like the first one has. So what does this information have to do with the list above? Well, we tend to bend to those who influence us. The four boxes represent the influence each one has over me; but I just want to state…the only ONE whose opinion really matters to me, is God’s.


Eric Geiger gave leaders one of four different types of skins, and then posed the question, “Which type are you[3]

(Second graphic would not transfer either…again…imagine 4 boxes below)

Thick Skin                      Thick Skin                         Thin Skin                   Thin Skin

Tough Heart                  Tender Heart                    Tough Heart              Tender Heart

Then he asked the question, “Is it even possible for a leader to have both, to possess thick skin and a tender heart?[4]” Sadly, I believe the inevitable truth of the matter is that ministers who are too soft skinned will not last in the ministry; Christians are just too brutal! However, as I thought about this book and this post, I realized…that is why we are ministers in the first place. I have heard it said a 1000 times, “I don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there!” My response is always the same; “Can you think of a better place for them to be?” I found the following quote in Pat Williams book on “How to be Like Jesus;”

“Change is what leaders are all about. They turn visions into reality through people. Leaders accomplish goals and realize visions by influencing, training, inspiring, empowering, and motivating others[5].”




Brown, Brene. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.New York: Random House, 2018.

—. Rumbling with Vulnerability .October 22, 2018. https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/DTL-Read-Along-Workbook-v2.pdf (accessed April 12, 2019).

Geiger, Eric. Thick Skin, Tender Hearts, and Four Types of Leaders.October 15, 2015. https://ericgeiger.com/2015/10/thick-skin-tender-hearts-and-four-types-of-leaders/ (accessed April 12, 2019).

Williams, Pat. How to Be Like Jesus: Lessons on Following in His Footsteps.Deerfield Beach: Faith Communications, 2003.



[1]Brown, Brene. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.New York: Random House, 2018. Pg. 6.

[2] —. Rumbling with Vulnerability .October 22, 2018. https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/DTL-Read-Along-Workbook-v2.pdf (accessed April 12, 2019).

[3]Geiger, Eric. Thick Skin, Tender Hearts, and Four Types of Leaders.October 15, 2015. https://ericgeiger.com/2015/10/thick-skin-tender-hearts-and-four-types-of-leaders/ (accessed April 12, 2019).


[5]Williams, Pat. How to Be Like Jesus: Lessons on Following in His Footsteps.Deerfield Beach: Faith Communications, 2003. P. 283.


About the Author

Shawn Hart

12 responses to “Skin in the Game”

  1. Hey Shawn, thanks for your post.

    I’m really struck by your statement that you really only trust 3 people. I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately, and reading a few books on it, because while I am one who generally trusts someone unless they give me a reason not to, I have a really low level of trust for my missionary organization. All the things I’m reading keep repeating things like “trust begins with you.” In other words, I can’t expect someone else to put their trust in me if I am unwilling to put my trust in them. It’s a two-way street. I’m just wondering how that works as a pastor. If you don’t trust the people you are leading, do you think that they are able to trust you?

    I do think thick skin and soft heart are possible–not by human means, but because of Christ. My security and my hope are in Him, and I am perfectly loved by Him. While people may wound me, He is my healer. And because I am fully satisfied by Him, I’m willing to risk being hurt and betrayed by people. And I know that I’ve been guilty of hurting others, so as I receive grace and forgiveness for my brokenness, I’m learning to offer others the same.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      I should state Jenn, I hate this personal quality of mine. Part is from my upbringing, part from my family, part from a series of people I did trust making me regret that decision. I am not content, nor am a I boastful concerning the fact…just admitting the reality of where I am. To answer your question though; I am not sure that I agree with the trust statement though; sometimes the willingness to be vulnerable…which I try to be for others…can build trust for someone else. I believe I am trustworthy…just struggle with surrendering to others completely.

  2. Mike says:

    Excellent introduction and good job personalizing the fight against flesh and blood that exists in the church. You have the same problem I do with spiritual warfare, people don’t want it, don’t believe in it, don’t want to be bothered by it, and think the devil is no more than Mayhem commercials, Walking Dead TV series, and are so desensitized that they don’t and can’t see it. This description might fit your “that’s never going to happen” person in your church.
    I agree so much with your statement, “The only ONE whose opinion really matters to me, is God’s.” I apply that to the vulnerability movement too. Yes, thick skin is a gift from God who knows what, when, where, and how we need it. The armor of God is a great addition to being thick skinned, so keep that on too!
    Stand firm,

  3. Jay says:

    Hi Shawn!

    So thankful you have your wife, Brandon, and son for trust. I wrote about a Pastor this week that never trust ANYONE. I only wish he had three like you. Thank you Lord!

    The end of our semester draws nigh, and it has been another good one. Thanks for your contributions!

    I don’t know much about Brene Brown, so was thankful to find this site,


  4. Jason Turbeville says:

    You ask if thick skin and a soft heart are possible, only through God’s leading but as a fellow pastor that is what I strive for. Not always the mark I hit but I strive towards that goal. Keep fighting the good fight and love as Christ loves, that is what my mentor told me before he passed away and it has been my goal. Good job brother.


  5. Dan Kreiss says:


    I think Christians are brutal as you say but I also wonder about Brown’s suggestion that genuine leadership requires vulnerability. If vulnerability does not occur in the absence of trust does that mean we can only lead people we trust? The church is full of people I don’t trust completely yet I think they need me to demonstrate vulnerability in some measure. How do you do it? How do you maintain the think skin that is sometimes necessary at one and the same time with a willingness to be open and vulnerable so that you can lead effectively?

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Dan…honestly…there are a lot of Christians I don’t like very much. With that said…I love them all; and for that reason, I am happy to go out of my way for each and every one of them, simply because God leads me to do so. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you stand next to a brother and sister in Christ at 2 am in the morning as they watch their house burn down; or when you give up a Saturday night to counsel a couple who is dealing with infidelity. Where my trust may be lacking, I pray my love and kindness are excelling.

  6. Kyle Chalko says:

    Shawn, great post. Excellent point about the church being the place you don’t need thick skin. its interesting to hear you write about leading your congregation through the change. It sounds like you modeled good leadership and gentleness in your responses to them. great example!

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Thanks Kyle. To be honest, God did all of that. I pray that God will soften hearts when it comes to the problems that face the church…one of those hearts has to be mine as well. God is Good…and He delivers!

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