How Homeschool Leaders can Avoid Burnout
- Friday, June 27, 2014
Remember how, when you were little, your mother would say, “We don’t talk about that in public”? Usually her comments referred to bathroom issues or the fact that she and your dad had a fight the night before and for some reason you felt compelled to share it with the neighbors. As leaders in the homeschool movement, our churches, and in our homes, we often feel as though there’s an unspoken rule prohibiting us from talking about certain things. Burnout is one of them. We mistakenly believe leaders shouldn’t struggle.
Not only is this unrealistic, but when we fail to talk about issues like burnout, they simmer like an unattended pot of rice on the back of the stove until it boils dry, scorching our pan and possibly our home in the process. When we burn out, either as a leader, educator, wife, mother, or church member, people and ministries suffer.
In the following paragraphs, I’m going to apply some suggestions and observations to those who serve as leaders in the homeschool community, but the principles apply to whatever leadership role in which we find ourselves.
Three Ways to Prevent Burnout
Delegate instead of dictate.
One of the biggest lies is that a good leader has to do it all. This expectation is impossible, impractical, and a sure path to burnout. The most effective leaders are those who have a clear understanding of their calling, are able to motivate others to come alongside them, and can effectively match personnel with positions to form a team.
Once you’ve identified God’s calling for this season of your homeschooling life, you’ll have a clear sense of the role you are to play. In the early days of my homeschool journey, I served as the newsletter coordinator of our homeschool support group. Later I was the group’s leader. God never called me to fill both roles at the same time. And there are some seasons God sets apart as times of rest.
A productive leader is one who recognizes that her greatest contribution to an organization is not to fill all the job descriptions, but to equip others to fulfill their individual roles. Lest you misunderstand, one who delegates doesn’t just sit back and watch others work—that’s a dictator. Delegation involves identifying your members’ interests, passions, and giftedness, matching them with appropriate areas of service, and providing the training and resources they need to accomplish a goal.
This is an effective way to handle many of the suggestions we receive for field trips, special events, and programs. Suppose Fran and her children are physical fitness enthusiasts and propose that the support group hold a field day. A leader who is well versed in the skill of delegation will thank Fran for her idea, affirm the importance of physical fitness, and say, “I’d be glad to propose your idea to the leadership board. If the board approves the idea, are you willing to head it up?” How Fran responds will tell you whether this is truly a passion for her or just a passing idea she’d like someone else to make happen.
To avoid burnout, a good leader DELEGATES.
Decide what’s important.
Just like a clear sense of God’s calling keeps you on target in your leadership role, so a mission statement helps your group remain focused on God’s purposes. It’s crucial that your support group, committee, or team develop a mission statement that clearly identifies its purpose. When I led our homeschool support group, defining our purpose gave us a valuable plumb line for decision making. Ideally a mission statement can describe a group’s purpose in one or two sentences.
My support group’s purpose is to “encourage and equip parents in providing a quality Christian education for their children.” This mission statement clearly determines what our priorities are. Because we are committed to encourage and equip parents to provide a quality Christian education for their children, our focus is on parents, not children.
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