At the church I pastor, our elders have been reading through a powerful book called Uproar: Calm Leadership in Anxious Times. It’s the final book written by Peter Steinke, whose books I’ve interacted with here and here.
Why am I leading our leaders through Uproar? Among other reasons, because anxiety confronts us at multiple levels:
- our own individual insecurities that we don’t measure up or aren’t doing enough
- anxieties that unwanted patterns from our family of origin will just repeat themselves in other settings
- congregational anxieties: building space, attendance, an aging congregation, the absence of younger/newer folks, still not seeing some of our folks who attended before the pandemic
- societal anxieties: take your pick! COVID-19, racism, inflation, Putin/Ukraine, social media, violent rhetoric from public officials
Steinke uses family systems theory to help us know how to be a non-anxious (or less anxious) presence in the midst of all these multiple anxieties. Understanding how to respond maturely and faithfully to anxiety will make us more effective leaders, not to mention better and fuller versions of ourselves.
On a personal level, family systems theory and the practice of a non-anxious presence have been powerful helps for me in pastoral ministry the past few years. I want to share with my fellow leaders what I’ve learned on my own leadership journey.
And I’d like to share those lessons, too, here at Words on the Word.
Our church’s leadership is five chapters in to Uproar, and even though it’s less church-specific than Steinke’s other works, we’ve been finding powerful applications—in a congregational setting and beyond. In the midst of life’s anxieties, family systems theory and especially the idea of being a non-anxious presence can help us build individual and organizational capacity. This is true whether we’re in conflict situations right now, or even if any of our life spheres are relatively conflict-free. In fact, it’s in conflict-free times that conversations about reducing anxiety can be most powerful—certainly easier. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I didn’t set out to do it at first, but I’m creating short study guides for the chapters we discuss, and I’ll post adaptations of those here in coming weeks. In the meantime, check out Uproar here or at your local library. Below is its full Table of Contents. Let me know in the comments if you have read or are reading this book.
Full Table of Contents
PART I: THE NEW CONTEXT
1 Living Nowhere between Two Somewheres
2 Anxious Times
3 Societal Emotional Process
PART I: THE LEADER’S PRESENCE
4 Heads Up!
5 The Non-anxious Presence
6 Impacting the Emotional System
PART III: THE LEADER’S FUNCTIONING
7 The Balancing Act
8 At the Edge
9 The People of the Charm
PART IV: THE LEADER’S CHALLENGE
10 Rocking the Emotional Boat
11 We versus They
12 Staying Calm and Courageous, No Matter What