That’s the question Josh Tandy, a real rookie pastor, asks here.
I have a simple two letter answer.
Or rather the lack of it.
EQ is the emotional equivalent of IQ. Sometimes called “emotional intelligence” or “social intelligence,” and the lack of it is the primary reason for the majority of pastoral failures.
That’s right, the main reason for rookie pastors getting fired or, even worse, rookie pastors destroying a church, is not intellectual, moral, or theological failure, but failure in basic common-sense humanity.
We’ve all seen it, haven’t we: exceptionally clever, technically skilled, and self-disciplined people utterly fail in pastoral ministry. They just couldn’t connect with people at even the most basic levels:
- Saying hello/goodbye/please/thank you (especially “thank you”)
- Asking people “How are you?” (and waiting for an answer)
- Being friendly
- Remembering names
- Showing interest in people’s children
- Listening without interrupting
- Teachability (especially learning from elders)
- Apologizing for failings
- Avoiding unnecessary offense
- ABOVE ALL – Understanding the vital difference between what you say and what people hear.
Having spent a lot of time with Seminary students and young pastors over the past ten years, I find it’s getting easier to identify those whom the Lord is most likely to use to bless and build his church in pastoral ministry. The Lord is sovereign, of course, and can blow all our analysis and predictions out of the water, but usually He uses “ordinary” means. And EQ is one of the major means. (Have a look at the comments on the Rookie pastor article for vivid confirmation).
Which raises a huge question: How can we train for this? Robert Anderson offers one suggestion in The Effective Pastor:
In the seminary in which I teach, as a part of a course in philosophy of ministry I regularly bring in our assistant librarian to teach a class in etiquette. Unfortunately it probably is one of the classes that is received the most poorly. I say unfortunately because it is the class that often is needed the most.
Not many of our graduates fail in the ministry because they fall prey to doctrinal errors. Numbers, however, have made an improper impact on the ministry simply because they are “klutzes,” are continually making themselves offensive to people—and they will not change.
If they learned a few social graces in addition and were able to remember to express gratitude to people for every kind action no matter how small, they would be making major progress toward becoming the type of respectable person the Bible demands for the position of pastor. The person who basks in his crudeness and considers it a necessary part of his “macho” image probably should seek another vocation besides the pastorate.
Etiquette classes? Hmmm.
One friend I mentioned this to, suggested “living in the Proverbs more, having mentors, and having friends who are willing to critique and correct you in love.” I agree wholeheartedly and would add:
1. Internships: Multiple, structured internships in local churches.
2. Growing in grace: Greater focus on spiritual formation in Seminary years (this can be done in the Seminary or in the local church). To the traditional emphasis on “growing in knowledge” we need to add “growing in grace.” Why so many knowledge courses with multiple specific learning outcomes, and so few (if any) “grace courses” where specific graces such as humility, patience, teachability, peace-making, gentleness, are taught/cultivated/tested?
3. Personality testing: Working on the assumption that no one can counsel others without some measure of self-knowledge and self-understanding, the first few weeks of my counseling courses are taken up with “self-counseling.” We’ve used Myers-Briggs, DISC, and other helpful tests and encouraged a strengths/weaknesses self-analysis, which also build understanding of other personality types and learning styles. The difficulty is that the ones who need it most are usually most skeptical of such tools and just go through the motions.
4. Work experience: Wherever possible, students should spend a minimum of five years trying to hold down a job and even progress in a career before studying for the ministry. I know there are exceptions to this rule, but they are very rare. It would root out a lot of doomed candidates and it would tell us a huge amount about whether they have the EQ for the ministry. As a bonus, the work experience would also be worth any number of seminary classes in terms of preparation for the ministry.
I have to admit, though, every time a young man has told me that he’s called to the ministry and I’ve recommended that he go away and work for five years before Seminary, not one has taken my advice. Thus far, the results speak for themselves.
5. Tougher love: Churches and seminaries should be much more ruthless in who they admit for training. Accepting obvious “klutzes” does no good to the “klutz” or his future “victims.”
Any other suggestions to help seminaries and churches better pick and prepare men for pastoral ministry?
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