Check out

6 Reasons we wrote “Raised”
Also download Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson’s free eBook on the resurrection.

Let us not be cruel to ourselves
The bold sentences in this Richard Sibbes piece are some of the most soul-encouraging words I’ve read in a long time.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Thought provoking piece on when preachers should apologize.

Robot helps teach kids with autism
Now that’s a great use of technology.

Depression and the business owner
Rarely discussed connection.

Despite America’s consumerist pace, leaders must rest
Works well in conjunction with previous link.

Don’t Sandwich Negative Feedback

When I wrote on 10 Ways to Give Constructive Criticism, I agreed with Pastor Sam Crabtree that The Sandwich Method is a Baloney Sandwich. Yesterday’s Management Tip from the Harvard Business Review agreed that this particular sandwich has passed its “eat-by date.”

When you must deliver criticism about someone’s work, it’s best to be direct rather than diplomatic. Avoid the all-too-common practice of mixing positive messages with negative ones. It’s confusing to the recipient. Steer clear of the classic feedback “sandwich,” which goes like this: good news, followed by bad news, ending with good news. Eating a sandwich with good bread — but bad meat in the middle — isn’t too enjoyable. And while giving someone feedback in a considerate, contextualized, and balanced manner is good practice, you need to be very clear on the poor performance part or your message might get lost. It is often the most important aspect of a feedback session, so don’t muddle it.

As I said before, for criticism to have any hope of accomplishing anything, it should be set in the wider context of praise. There should be praise in the bank, before we start drawing down with any criticisms. But there does not always need to be praise in the immediate context of delivering negative feedback.

Why do rookie pastors get fired?

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?

Check out

5 Reasons I don’t read your emails
Wish I could write this.

7 Lessons from the world’s most captivating presenters
Great lessons for educators everywhere.

After Steubenville: 25 things our sons need to know about manhood
Ann Voskamp: “When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys — girls will be garbage.”

The cost of our chosen entanglements
If you only read one post in the Thabiti Anyabwile /Doug Wilson debate (and I’d encourage you to read them all), read this one.

Real leaders apologize
I’ve never regretted any apologies, but only that I’ve given fewer than I should have.

Believing God: New teaching series from R.C. Sproul Jr.
Watch the first lesson free.

Podcast: Jeremiah – The Weeping Prophet

Download here.

If you’re not one of the almost 1500 people (from 51 countries) who signed up for the free Ligonier Connect Course, you’re now too late. Sorry! But you can still benefit from what the rest of us have been learning from the book of Jeremiah by tuning into this week’s Connected Kingdom podcast.