DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Vulnerability

Written by: on April 12, 2019

Vulnerability is a word I have always had trouble pronouncing and sometimes difficulty practicing. Growing up in an urban environment, vulnerability was associated with weakness and weakness will get you killed. It is not that I grew up in such a bad neighborhood, but it is just that vulnerability implies trust, and trust is not a commodity that is easily given away.

In Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., by Brene Brown, she discusses how there is a myth that one can go at it alone; it is a myth because we are hard-wired for connection (Brown 2018, 25).  However, admitting that you need connection means admitting that you are lonely which brings one back to vulnerability. It does take courage to admit that as leaders, we can get lonely. I often fall in the trap of thinking if I admit the things that I am struggling with as a leader then I should not be in a leadership role because leaders are supposed to be tough or so I was taught. I realize that I was letting fear guide me as well as shame. As Brown says, I was listening to the “shame gremlins whispering you don’t belong in this job, you study leadership but you can’t lead” (Brown 2018, 51).

Perhaps working with children and youth is a way to not have to deal with vulnerability or loneliness in many ways. Children do not judge you when you sing off key; they are just happy to be singing with you. Children do not have expectations of how much Bible you know, criticize you if you did not pronounce a Biblical name correctly, or have a lukewarm response to the sermon you slaved over. I think these are many of the reasons I like working with children. The only problem with this is these children have parents that I need to work with.

Leading children means leading and teaching the parents as well and being vulnerable. I have to have the courage to speak truthfully to the parents but first develop a level of trust with the parents and listen to their feedback. For this, I found the BRAVING tool helpful (Brown 2018, 224-225). Respecting each other’s Boundaries includes me letting the parents know that I am not a baby sitter, but I love to minister to their children. Being Reliable means I will do what I say, including going to children’s events when I say I would. Being Accountable means owning my mistakes when I misjudge or make a mistake and I apologize. Being a Vault means not sharing with others the family problems of the children and practicing Integrity. Nonjudgement means I can ask what I need to run the ministry and the parents can ask what they need from me. Finally, extending the most Generous interpretation of the parent’s intentions will help to build trusting relationships with both parties.

Vulnerability may always be counter-intuitive for me, but it does not have to get me killed. Using the proper tools can help me learn to lead with courage and maybe lead to whole hearts in children’s ministry.

Reference

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

About the Author

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Mary Mims

I am a licensed and ordained Baptist minister and have worked with the children and youth for the last seven years. I have resided in the Washington, DC area for the last 30 years, but I am originally from Michigan. I am also bi-vocational and work at the US Patent and Trademark Office in the Scientific Library.

9 responses to “Vulnerability”

  1. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Mary,
    It was so helpful to see your application of Braving in your children’s ministry context. Your comment, “I often fall in the trap of thinking if I admit the things that I am struggling with as a leader then I should not be in a leadership role because leaders are supposed to be tough or so I was taught.” prompted me to reflect upon my own development as a pastor. We were taught to not be open to anyone in your congregation and stay in control of all things at all times. Not surprisingly, I have struggled to unlearn these bad leadership habits and instead grow in health both as an individual and a leader. I must admit at times under stress, I default to my initial formation. Thanks for reminding me of this and how you are braving in your context!

  2. Mario Hood says:

    I so resonate with this blog post and understand the feeling of “being killed” or at best “losing” through vulnerability from the life I grew up in. I also understand the tension with working with students and parents, so I am clapping from Orlando with the integration you have applied here from this weeks reading!

    On the flip side do you find that kids are willing to be more vulnerable with you? How do you handle that with the parents if so? Great post!

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Mario, thank you for your comments. I do not think children have a problem being vulnerable. They tell everything. However, I do think I need to be careful about asking questions where children may feel vulnerable about their family situations. I need to be mindful that everyone does not come from a traditional home. My biggest challenge is being vulnerable with the parents. This is something I need to grow in and will continue to practice.

  3. Thank Mary, It easy to understand vulnerability from your application in your own life. It drew me to my own experience as a pastor but also now as the leader in our ministry where the people see us as special and as if we do not fall into temptations. I realise how important it is for people to know that leaders are also ordinary people with weaknesses like themselves, so that they can take the courage to initiate change in their lives and be ready to be used of God. You’re in a great place Mary as a leader working with children, to see their potential and have the courage to develop the potential they have. I always thank God that He took me away from the corporate world to work with children who give me access to their families to empower them holistically, its an honour that I’m forever thankful to God for.

  4. mm Jenn Burnett says:

    Mary thank you for your thoughts, but more than that, thank you for your ministry and the way you build the Kingdom by caring for little ones. How blessed the children in your ministry are to have someone who knows the cost of having to be tough from a young age, and who is intentionally offering them an alternative. Your willingness to learn, grow and give at the same time will nurture beautiful vulnerable leaders.
    You and Mario raise an important question though; how do we care for those who genuinely live in circumstances that demand guardedness to survive? I remember ministering to kids in a camp setting where we would spend a week and half caring for them and inviting them to shed their defences, but in the end, we had to send them back to the same circumstances. Were we disarming them just to have them more deeply hurt? How do we navigate these tensions?

    • mm Mary Mims says:

      Jenn, I think one thing Brown said was that over-sharing is not the same as vulnerability. I think we can teach being vulnerable without teaching disclosing unnecessary information that would put one in danger. What we really need to teach is courage, where these children in vulnerable situations would be able to speak up.

  5. mm Sean Dean says:

    When I was a youth pastor working with the parents was often more difficult that working with the kids. I completely agree that learning to be brave with parents is something a leader needs to learn. Thanks for your post.

  6. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Thank you for this, Mary. I appreciate the courage and vulnerability you demonstrated in your writing. I do feel more at ease and less insecure with children and youth. Those parents on the other side of you are blessed to have someone so awake and aware.

  7. mm Nancy VanderRoest says:

    Great blog, Mary. You have such a precious writing style – down to earth and without fear. I appreciated your quote from Brown that “there is a myth that one can go at it alone; it is a myth because we are hard-wired for connection.” I agree with you that our lives intersect and we need connection to survive.

    I also enjoyed the quote that the “shame gremlins are whispering you don’t belong in this job, you study leadership but you can’t lead.” Haven’t we all been there at times in our lives? I know I certainly have! Sometimes that inner voice can be sooo misleading. Thankful that the Holy Spirit is still in charge, as I know that ‘my’ leading doesn’t always bring me to the right destination! lol. Loved your post, Mary! I know the kids that you serve are so truly blessed by your leadership!

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