Revival is the fruit of sons and daughters walking in intimate connection to the Father and one another! As school leaders, we have the great privilege of creating school environments where students not only experience the supernatural; they experience acceptance and intimacy in the presence of God and His Body of believers.
Today, we have invited BSSM First Year Revival Group Pastor, Sheri Downs, to share an important key to pastoring students: leading from a place of vulnerability! In her tenth year of pastoring at BSSM, Sheri has learned how to invite students to pursue wholeness and receive the fullness of love a revival community offers!
As you draw from Sheri’s wisdom and experience, may the Holy Spirit unlock a greater hunger and capacity inside of you to create a culture of vulnerability. He desires to anoint you to lead students into greater levels of freedom!
Invite Vulnerability through Vulnerability
Before pastoring at BSSM, I lived and worked out of a place of performance. For years, I lived from this facade of “having it all together.” I was a worship leader, youth pastor with my husband, and had the seemingly “perfect family.”
However, behind closed doors, I was a mess. My marriage was struggling. I kept that part of my life hidden by performing with my anointing and gifting. Then, when my husband left me, everything was exposed. I couldn’t hide anymore. It took a divorce (unfortunately) to finally let go of the facade I created.
God used this season of my life to teach me about the power of vulnerability. In fact, He used my circumstances to bring me freedom and help me take responsibility for the brokenness in my life; calling me into a lifestyle of transparency and vulnerability.
And now, God is using my story to bring freedom to the students I pastor.
I have learned to build intimate relationships with people that are complete strangers by first trusting who I am in my relationship with the Lord. I am real with myself by paying attention to what’s going inside of me. As my inward life has become completely uncovered in the presence of God, I can be real with others and they can be real with me.
My students are invited to walk in vulnerability and experience freedom because that is the way I live! I am not afraid to share my story with them. This communicates to my students that I am not afraid of the “real stuff.” I accept them. As a result, they share who they are with me; their dreams, their passions, and the areas that need healing.
The greatest way you can invite your students to be vulnerable is to first be vulnerable yourself.
Build Connection Intentionally
As I pastor my students, there are some practical ways that I connect with them and invite them to be vulnerable.
- Meet One on One: I meet with each of my students individually towards the beginning of the school year. I use these meetings to find out who they are, listen to their dreams, and discover how I can encourage them throughout the year. These meetings help my students feel heard. Also, they create a value for vulnerability on an individual level that then transfers to our group.
- Create a Vulnerable Atmosphere in Group Meetings: As I shared earlier, when I am vulnerable with students about what God has brought me through and even how He is currently working in my heart, I am inviting them to be vulnerable! As I am fully me, it creates safety and freedom for my students to share who they are. To create a vulnerable atmosphere, I take time to share my journey at the beginning of the year. I also intentionally create space in our group meetings for students to share.
- Build Trust with Interns, and/or Volunteers: A culture of vulnerability is created amongst my students when I build such culture with those who are helping me lead! I am really intentional about creating opportunities for my interns and volunteers to know me and feel known, whether it be one-on-one or group meetings. In turn, they impart that value to the students in my group.
Don’t Forget Healthy Boundaries
During my first two years pastoring at BSSM, I took on too much responsibility for pastoring my students and quickly learned that I needed healthy boundaries. Those couple years taught me how important it is to know my grace and capacity for pastoring.
I learned to create boundaries to protect my time and energy.
For example, I give my students my phone number if they need to connect with me, but I also give them parameters of how they can use my number. They can only call or text before a certain hour at night (unless it’s an emergency). No one has ever abused having my number because I clearly communicate those parameters.
I am also really intentional about not taking my job home with me! I have asked God to give me the grace to leave conversations with students at the office so that I don’t carry them as a burden. Also, I will only discuss what students have shared with me outside of the office if I need someone’s expertise or wisdom to deal with a situation. Otherwise, those conversations stay at work, which allows me to maintain balance in my life.
Pursue Growth as a Leader
If you desire to grow in vulnerability as a leader, I encourage you to pursue a lifestyle of vulnerability! Seek out trusted leaders and friends with whom you can share your struggles. For me personally, I have 2-3 fellow BSSM pastors that are part of my core group. I also have a friend outside of our school environment that I process with who gives me a healthy perspective on things.
I also constantly pursue growth as a leader by reading books, researching topics, spending time with the Lord, and asking other pastors great questions. When I hear testimonies from pastors that are seeing a specific breakthrough, I will ask them questions of how it happened or what they’re doing. I am constantly learning by drawing from the people around me. I have learned so much about vulnerability and relationships by sitting under Danny Silk’s ministry, Loving on Purpose
Love Unconditionally Like Our Father
As you pastor your students, remember that the best way to love is with the heart of the Father. He does not condemn or judge. He is gracious and slow to anger. He is not afraid of his kid’s messes!
Pastoring students does take a special grace. Know that it is fully available as you tap into His heart for your students. He will be faithful to lead you well!
To hear more from Sheri Downs, we invite you to watch her share more of her wisdom and experience on this episode of School Leaders Revival Chat.
- What’s Love Got to Do With It? by Sheri Downs
- Recognizing and Protecting Levels of Intimacy by Danny Silk
- The Top 7 Habits of Relationally Intelligent People by Danny Silk
- The 7 Pillars of Healthy Relationships by Danny Silk
- 3 Approaches to Healthy Communication by Danny Silk