Leadership Lessons from Ministry in Mental Health. Pt.1 God’s Vision not my Own

Bush trees fence manuka fern flax

It was years ago now that I sat under some tall Manuka trees on our newly acquired section of land. We hadn’t even built our house. At the bottom of our hill were some scraggly looking tall trees under which was grass.

I had recently taken up a call to be a Church based Chaplain to people with Major Mental Illnesses, particularly the top 3% of those with severe Mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar, Depression, Anxiety, Personality disorders etc. 

Also it was a call to minister to people who had other disabilities and people who were marginalised and just found typical church life difficult.

I was full of excitement at the prospect of what I was venturing out on, but now I was struck with the reality that I was the one that had to set the direction. 

What do I do?

I had been involved with Mental Health for about 7 years as Support Worker and had learnt many of the basic social worker themes such as empowerment, boundaries, problem solving etc… 

That was all well and good, but what was God wanting me to do? I was not a Support Worker any more I was a Chaplain, a Pastor. 

How would Christ want me to show His love to His people in His way? 

I needed a story that I could reflect back on time and time again to give me direction. I needed a metaphor, an analogy, a vision. 

So I prayed, there and then under those tall trees. 

I opened my eyes and it was like Christ was sitting next to me looking at the portrait of what was in front of me and revealing the details, the fine brush strokes of his plan. 

Over the next few blog posts I am going to share with you the leadership lessons I was shown on that day and some other leadership lessons I have learnt along the way. 

For now though let me take you to where I was sitting on that day and what I saw. See if you can discover the leadership lessons Christ revealed to me.

I was looking at the trees and the grass under them and it looked so barren, bare,  and quite stark. The neighbours horse was able to come down and walk through the trees and eat the grass and anything else that grew up. Fine for the horse, but what about those native plants small and fragile that needed to be allowed to grow?

Then I looked across to the neighbours property where they had fenced it off and allowed it to naturally and organically grow.

There was life!

Birds flew in and out of the trees. Tui sang their songs, spiders spun their webs. Small plants grew and gave to the ecosystem what they had been designed by God to give. Mosses, ferns, flax all grew exactly the way God had intended for them to be. The tall trees provided shade, shelter and leaf mulch. 


There was life and I was drawn to it.

So really all that was needed was a fence, some time and maybe some weeding of some non-native plants (Gorse).

Questions to Consider and leave a Comment

  • What visions or stories inform your direction in life, beliefs and values?
  • What did you hear in my story that may be a leadership lesson for you? How could you apply it?

Barry Pearman 

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