The Single Question All Leaders Must Ask When Stuck in a Rut

It’s inevitable. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a rut as a leader. Sometimes it will be a sudden and dramatic shift right after a spiritual high, and sometimes it will be a gradual drift directly into the proverbial rut. You know the feeling… All leaders do.The Single Question All Leaders Must Ask When Stuck in a Rut

The simplest of things about ministry become complicated and uninteresting. People all of a sudden seem to be out to get you. Your sermon preparation is a fight that feels like you took one too many punches to the gut. Your ability to lead becomes hindered by your location in the rut. It’s so deep that when you open your eyes to see, all you see is the rut you’re in. And so the cycle continues. Unless…

The Single Question All Leaders Must Ask When Stuck in a Rut

I believe there is one powerful question all leaders must ask when they are stuck in the rut we all know exists. I believe when we ask it, its effectiveness will be determined by the action we take in response.

Here it is.

How am I investing in, focusing on, or encouraging someone else right now?

Think about it this way.

When you drive off the edge of the road for whatever reason and into a ditch (or a rut), sometimes you need to call for a tow truck. Your focus must go to finding the number, calling the number, and asking for them to come get you out of the ditch (or rut). This is the act of asking this simple, but powerful question.

But once the truck gets there to help you, the truck and its driver must take action. They must connect to your vehicle and pull it out. This is the act of responding to that question with action.

What I’ve learned about leadership is that if I am only focusing on myself (my concerns, my dreams, my preferences, my mood, my whatever) then I am going to EASILY fall into the proverbial rut. It’s a guarantee. You can write it down and watch it play out right before your eyes. When a leader becomes self-centered, they’ll become

When a leader becomes self-centered, they stop leading. Especially in the Church. 

When You’re In a Rut, It’s All You See

This shouldn’t surprise us. If, while driving on the road, we constantly focus on the reflection in the drop down mirror in front of us, then we will end up off the road and completely stuck (and maybe even injured). And when we find ourselves in that rut, we HAVE to be propelled to get our focus on something beyond the rut.

And this is what this question does for us. It corrects our vision to be outward rather than inward.

A POWERFUL Leadership Truth

 4 Ingredients Jesus Used To Hold An AudienceAsk yourself, how am I investing in, focusing on, or encouraging someone else right now? And then proceed to take action in response.

Your answer may be, all I feel like I’m doing is investing in, focusing on, and encouraging others, but you may be thinking, and I wish someone would do the same for me.

And in that moment, your thoughts reveal your true focus – yourself.

Consider this: you can do all the actions of leadership while still focusing on and being consumed by yourself; and when this is the case, you have forfeited the effectiveness of your leadership. 

We Shouldn’t Be Surprised

As pastors, we should know this is the case. Our model for leadership has shown us the truth about effective leadership time and time again. The Spirit of God is guiding us toward effective leadership. If, now, we would simply follow Him there.

Jesus showed us that true and effective leadership is about doing the work the Father had sent Him to do. It begins there. And it is manifested through the sacrifice of self for the sake of others. Love is an outward and selfless thing to do. Serving someone is a selfless act. Leading someone is a selfless act, too.

In the Kingdom of God, the sacrifice of me, myself, and I, and to put on Christ is the only way to live. And truth be told, it’s the only way to lead.

Sure, you may not hear this in the next leadership book you read. You may not be taught this in the next workshop you go to, but this leadership truth is foundational.

Pastor, get the focus off yourself and get it on somebody else. Your priorities must be in this order: first Christ, then others, then yourself. If you’re not ready for those priorities, you’re not ready to be a leader.

What Will You Do?

So, the next time you’re in a rut, what will you do? Will you ask the question and take outward action or will you sulk about your situation, wishing someone would help?

To my fellow pastor, let’s look beyond the rut.

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.


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