Imposter Syndrome

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“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” ~ 2 Chronicles 1:10, NIV

Not all of us who lead in the area of special needs ministry have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate in this field in which we serve.  We may serve by having this type of ministry thrust upon us because there is a need in the church and the pastor has picked us to spearhead the mission.  We may have suddenly found ourselves living with a disability and noticed a void in the church.  We may have begun by volunteering in an organization, found it gratifying, and worked our way into a leadership position.

Regardless of how God called us into His service to those with special needs, there are times in our service where we may feel inadequate.  In a relative sense, “disability ministry” is still a newer area of service.  When problem-solving in unchartered territory, it can be easy to feel as if we are completely unqualified to lead.  Having our ideas diminished or opposed by colleagues can make us question our competency.  “What makes me think I am worthy of serving in this ministry?  Why should my opinions matter to people infinitely more qualified or experienced in this arena?”  Thoughts like that can nag at us.

Imposter Syndrome is the name commonly given when we have a certain level of skill or expertise, yet fail to realize we possess such acumen.  There can be an underlying uncertainty as to whether we are accepted by our colleagues and a fear that “the mask may come off,” or we will be exposed as a less-than-credible resource.  All of this is wrestled with internally while still attempting to advance in the areas of need revealed to us.

Combating this malady requires a heavenly remedy.  How can we be certain that we are not leading astray the vulnerable population we are called to serve?  Start by following a biblical example like Solomon’s.  It is thought that Solomon assumed the throne at age 18.  How vulnerable he must have felt with a tumultuous family situation coupled together with his youth.  Yet, he made a brilliant maneuver in seeking God first for wisdom and knowledge.  He leaned into the One he knew to be the true source of his leadership abilities.

You see, we are not made capable because of any degree or experience we have.  Yes, those things are valuable tools that the Father uses us to prepare us for His ultimate purposes.  But what truly makes us qualified is HIM.  You must have heard many times by now, “Where God calls, He equips.”  However, in practice, we still can feel like imposters.  We may not feel like an authority on the topic, but we are ambassadors of THE Authority.  Knowing that should give us confidence to know that He is faithful to connect us to any resources where we are lacking, and that He pours His authority through us using several different tools.

To encourage you, let me share that when we began our ministry a decade ago, I was the one who wanted to be served, not to serve.  I still joke to this day about being a dumb, obedient servant.  I happen to like that because then, hopefully, I don’t get in God’s way.  Yet, the Lord began this amazing ministry to parents of children with special needs through a woman with a 2 year old child with hemophilia, who knew barely a thing about special needs.  A decade later, I even surprise myself with how much I know and how many connections I have!

On the opposite side of that, let me admonish those of you who have advanced degrees or unwittingly project an attitude of superiority.  Sometimes, people can be intimidated by you.  Be gentle with them.  We need fresh blood and fresh ideas in this area of service.  Don’t diminish that.  Our strong abilities as leaders can often come across too strong to colleagues, so be mindful of that.  Remember, there is only One expert who holds all the answers.

I pray this was a thought-provoking post for you.  We’d love to hear your thoughts…

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