Becoming an effective, emotionally intelligent pastor requires more than delivering a good sermon, making timely hospital visits and scheduling committee meetings.
Outstanding pastor-leaders lead from their heart and their head. Their passions and enthusiasm set a charge into their organizations. But this is not easy.
In my early years of ministry, I was so clever. Enough so, that I thought I could change the world.
But as the years added up and I moved into the dog days of tenure, I faced many challenges: declining attendance, shrinking volunteer pool, scarcity of leadership and insufficient funding.
Self-doubt, fear and uncertainty nipped at my heels, chasing me like a hungry hound. Some days I wanted to throw up my hands in desperation.
It happens to every pastor. And when it does, be sure you stop doing these five things:
1. Stop focusing on your weaknesses.
It can keep you feeling inadequate and unsure of yourself. Left unchallenged, your “inner critic” will stifle self-esteem and hamper your effectiveness as a pastor leader. This voice must be countered.
Choose a self-assessment tool like the Clifton Strengthfinder to identify your positive qualities. Balance your negative thoughts with positive ones.
Keep a list of your accomplishments throughout the year and when you’re feeling unsure of yourself, remember what you have already achieved. Focus on your strengths.
2. Stop trying to be perfect.
You don’t need to know everything when you start something new (or ever, really).
You may be telling yourself, “If I don’t know everything, then I know nothing. If it’s not absolutely perfect, it’s completely worthless. If I’m not at the top of my game, then I’m totally incompetent.”
Stop it. “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you” is a perfectly appropriate response. You don’t have to know the answer to every question.
There is no more powerful attribute than the ability to be genuinely honest about your weaknesses or mistakes.
Humility and graciousness are immensely attractive and inspiring in a leader. Nothing inspires trust in another human being like vulnerability.
So set your new standard as “growing” rather than perfect. Perfection is a mirage, so stop holding yourself hostage. You’re not failing; you’re growing.
3. Stop being your own worst enemy.
Don’t waste time and energy chewing on mistakes. When professional athletes lose the big game, they review it, learn what they can do better and get ready for the next one.
Achievements and accolades are great but keep in mind that your true value comes from within. Stay focused on the value that you bring to the table.
Stop comparing yourself to other pastors or churches. Celebrate your strengths.
4. Stop procrastinating.
Take action. Move forward. Quit thinking about what you know you have to do. Quit thinking about it and do it.
Often you feel stress because you freeze in panic. Putting things on hold only increases your feelings of incompetence.
Deal with issues head on. Check items off your to-do list. Taking the first steps will allow you to truly own what you are capable of doing well.
5. Stop going it alone.
It’s OK to ask for help. Call someone in from the outside to speak into your context. At the Center for Healthy Churches, we come alongside churches and pastors to do just that.
Surround yourself with people that recognize your talents and can remind you when you forget. Start or join a group of peers among whom you may share your passions, dreams and challenges.
Typically there is no one harder on you than yourself, so you need friends and family to give you confidence, especially when you don’t feel like you deserve it.
In my early years I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise(r), so I am changing myself.
Bill Owen is the south central consultant at the Center for Healthy Churches. He recently retired as pastor of Mount Carmel Church in Cross Plains, Tennessee, after 32 years of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on the Center of Healthy Churches’ website and is used with permission. He blogs at Learning to Live Like Jesus, and you can follow him on Twitter @owenrevbill.