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Leading in Crisis By Ed McDowell

Leading in a Challenging Time of Crisis

We are in a very challenging time of crisis.  Life as we knew it, has changed dramatically and abruptly thanks to a new threat, COVID-19.  The changes are substantial and rapid, with each day bringing about another set of variables and new information requiring rapid responses from leaders everywhere.

As leaders who follows Christ, take our lead from the scriptures, and declare complete dependence on God, what does it mean to lead in a crisis?  Here are a few considerations:

Lean into God’s Peace 

God’s word has much to say about His peace.

  • God’s leaves His peace with us.
  • God’s peace is beyond our own understanding.
  • God keeps us in perfect peace as we keep our mind focused on Him.

As leaders, let’s lean into God’s peace.  As we experience His peace, let’s lead with it.  While what we are dealing with right now is very serious, we will serve everyone else best if we are coming from a place of peace in the middle of an epic storm.

Seek God’s Wisdom

James chapter 1 reminds us that in matters of endurance and perseverance to ask God for wisdom.  He will answer in real time.  Right now, there is pressure on leaders to make rapid decisions.  In your decision-making process, give time for God’s wisdom to be known and applied.

Gather Good Counsel Around You

There is no substitute for good sound counsel, especially in a crisis.  Resist the leadership temptation to “go it alone”.  No leader can see all that needs to be seen in a challenging time.  It takes insight from other wise people to understand how to proceed.

Be Honest and Loving 

When hard news is, well, hard news; people value two things:

  • First, people want honest information that clearly lays out the challenges and the steps being taken to handle those challenges. Even if those steps require significant sacrifice to the people you are talking two, honesty is so important.  Avoid “spinning” a crisis or sugar-coating hard news.
  • Second, people want to be loved and cared for. Don’t be the leader who pulls compassion back because of hard news.  Organize for compassion in crisis.  Pour it on. In the season of “social distancing” and “shelter in place”, make more phone calls, meet people via video chat, write notes, and send texts with the simple message of care and compassion.  Pray with them.

Develop Response Scenarios with Action Plans

Leaders have a responsibility to gather people around a plan to respond to the realities being faced. These plans are action steps designed to guide through a hard time in a way that cares for people and keeps the ministry viable for life beyond the crisis.

Engage Organization and Community

It is important to understand that the community of a ministry can do far more than the ministry itself in responding to the needs of everyone involved. Any ministry can only do so much within the resources available.  The community of a ministry can do exponentially more to support everyone in a crisis the magnitude of COVID 19.

Rest in God

In the early hours of the morning just a few days ago, the Lord woke me up.  His challenge was simple and clear: “Ed, I want you to rest in Me during this Crisis.”  It seems like a counterintuitive thing to consider during a time such as this.  Yet, my need to rest is profound.  As I have added extra rest to each day, I am remembering simple things about God’s love, the times He has led us through challenging times in the past, and His desire to lead us now.  It is easier to trust God when rested.

Keep Vision for Life Beyond this Crisis

God plans to lead us through this.  We need to get up everyday with that truth in mind.  The people who look to leaders are counting on the vision God lives out through our words and actions.

My prayers are for all who lead as stewards during this challenging time.  May God’s presence be living so clearly in your life that Jesus is made known to people and others around you are supported, challenged and encouraged.


Ed McDowell is the CEO of Warm Beach Camp. He has extensive experience in overseeing and directing ministry organizations, including stewardship development, personnel and organizational management.

Outcomes Magazine Spring Edition 2020

Take this opportunity to explore articles on transformation and what it means to your leadership.

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