Five Ways to Treat A Superman Complex

Hello, my name is Kal-El, the last son of Krypton, my home planet.  I crash landed on Earth, was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and gained superpowers from Earth’s yellow sun.  My adopted name is Clark Kent but you may know me by my alter ego name: Superman.

Ok, that’s a lie.  My real name is Darrin, I’m not from Krypton, and I’m no superhero.  

Nevertheless, my experiences in church work over the last 30 years have included battles with what I call Superman Complex:  the combination of physical, emotion, and/or spiritual drain that can be caused by excessive micromanagement.  

What does this sound like and look like in church?  It occurs when you rationalize micromanagement by saying “It’s faster to do it myself, then to train others” or “You’re too young: just wait awhile!”   It occurs when you’re the president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer of the same department or when you discourage others from active involvement in ministries.  This looks like an environment when people feel they’re entitled to holding positions until they die, rather than following the example of Moses publicly and passionately passing the baton to Joshua (Numbers 27:15-23).   

The effects of Superman Complex can be significant:  stress, sleep loss, transactional relationships, impatience, and emotional rollercoasters.   Sound familiar? Well, welcome to the world many church leaders live in!   
But this can be avoided.  There’s hope! And that’s the irony behind the “S” on Superman’s chest.  Contrary to what many think, the “S” doesn’t stand for “Superman” but instead refers to his family crest which means “Hope.”   
Here are five ways I’ve found that help treat a Superman Complex.

Practice deal, ditch, and delegate

  • I discussed this in an earlier blog series called What’s the Deal with Delegation.
  • Learn to say “Let me pray about this” before accepting additional responsibilities. 
  • Help others understand that “No” is a complete sentence even though they feel they are entitled to a lengthy justification about you declining.

Surround yourself with an inner circle of spiritually mature Christians

  • You need a support group who can pray and fast on your behalf.  They’re the people who tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.
  • Don’t feel guilty about having an inner circle.  Although we often refer to Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, there was clearly a hierarchy.  How so? Did you ever notice how the disciples were listed in three groups of four and that His “inner circle” of Peter, Andrew, James, and John were always mentioned first?  It wasn’t because He loved them more than the other eight but rather because of their closer relationship forged by the weight of their Apostolic work.

Establish protected time

  • Years ago, I heard Steven Lawson advise preachers: give your mornings to God, your afternoons to man, and evenings to family.  In other words, study the Word of God during the morning when you’re least distracted, then complete the duties of your employer, and then spend quality time with family afterwards.  I think this principle should apply to all church leaders, not simply preachers.
  • Establish consistent time for date night, game night, movie night, or “me” time to help maintain a well balanced lifestyle.
Take mini (and many) vacations
  • There’s a careful balance between quality and quantity of vacations that varies with each person.  Some prefer staycations and others prefer awaycations. The main purpose is to schedule these as a reward for hard work and to recharge your batteries.  Vacations–short or small–should not be accidental.
  • Inform church leadership when you’re taking vacations and establish clear boundaries about you not doing “church work” during this time.  

Find and maintain hobbies unrelated to church leadership work

  • Recognize that Christ should be the center of your life but He shouldn’t be used as an excuse to avoid enjoying life.
  • Continue to have fun by nurturing and trying new things.


Remember, we can’t be Superman but we can have hope.  It’s also a good habit to remind yourself of who you are.  “Hello, my name is Darrin…”  

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