R U OK ?

Two friends are at the pub on a Thursday night. They are sitting at the bar having a conversation. One person is clearly doing most of the talking. From your nearby table, you overhear part of it:

“I don’t know if it has to be this way. But it has been for me. No one gets it. If they are trying to be helpful, they make suggestions and if they are from the Synod they just make a request that adds to my to-do list. Sarah sat me down the other night and was in tears; the money situation is just getting too much for her. She wants it to work but, having me not earning much and putting cash into it, its been 18 months now. People aren’t even joining us as much as I thought they would —I mean people from the community. Maybe we were crazy to even try this thing. It feels like nothing is happening, I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore. The cost is too high. I cant keep putting Sarah off and saying just two more months, just two more months…we’ve already been round that loop and she’s really worried.

“Honestly, most of the time I don’t even know what I’m doing…some days I don’t even want to see anyone. I don’t want to do the next thing, I just start questioning the whole thing. And if I don’t even know if want it, I can’t expect others to get on board. It’s been ages since I had one of those moments, you know, where it is happening, where people are connecting and they are showing up and I think “Yes, this can work, this is good”.”

“I think maybe we were wrong from the start, something’s not right in the mix….. Then I think about how excited everyone was and, honestly, I just want to throw up. I actually feel sick about it. Just sick about disappointing them. I’ve got another ‘checking in on the project’ meeting coming up and I don’t know what I’m going to say, I haven’t said anything to anyone.”


  • What do you think might be going on for the person speaking?
  • If you were the friend, what might you say to them? What might you want for them?
  • Have you ever experienced a period of doubt, exhaustion, defeat, a ‘dark night of the soul’?’
  • If an innovator is well supported, working as part of a team and has a community of prayer and accountability built into their ministry, does that mean that this kind of ‘dark night’ shouldn’t happen? Why or why not?
  • We know that innovation requires heart commitment and effortful risk taking. It is often described as a creative, or emergent process which means lots of unknowns and often no clear path forward. When results or outcomes take a long time to come to fruition, what is the impact on innovators and their families?
  • Is it possible to create a formal structure that supports innovators and their families emotionally?
  • What kind of wellbeing practices and self care are particularly useful for innovators?
  • Is it possible to know how a project is going, both in terms of the surface outcomes as well as the mental health & energy levels of those involved?
  • What might be alternative ways to assess how a project is going, outside of the innovators personal perspective?
  • Is it an innovators responsibility to speak up when they are burning out, or should someone from their network, community or support system name it when they see it?

Wisdom from the pews

“Our innovators, regardless of age need a committed person or persons who see them as whole people, not just as a worker, or ministry agent. Someone radically committed to their wellbeing; the maturing of their vocation and the guarding of their call. They need someone who can reign them in and also run ‘blocker’ or be a protective advocate at times. There is no substitute for a trusting, honest, committed, supportive relationship like this. ”

“By working in a team, some of this lonely dark night can be shared and results in a less isolated ministry experience for the innovator. It also enables personal cost and emotional heath to be more transparent, as close teams naturally take care of each other in informal ways that can be more powerful than formal supervision. ”

“Some form of regular, consistent supervision, spiritual direction or coaching is non-negotiable for innovators. ”

Going deeper

Poetry on Pioneering by Sarah