Clergy Effectiveness: Skill or Style?
By Herb Miller
Someone asked a researcher, “What is the most important skill a pastor should have? Is it preaching? Is it being a sensitive and caring pastor? Or, is it organizational leadership?”
“I can’t answer your question without enlarging it a little,” replied the researcher. “All of those skills are important, but pastoral effective ness depends as much on Style as on skills. Perhaps more.” Each of us can test the truth of that researcher’s observation from his or her own experience. Think back to the most capable pastors you have known. Then, review the two lists below to decide whether their ability was in their skills or in their styles.
All pastors, according to research, need these professional skills: preaching, pastoral concern, organizational management, teaching, worship leadership, evangelism, community service, and denominational relationships.
In pastors whose congregations have shown numerical growth and ministry effectiveness, researchers have observed these leadership styles:
1. Balance. Effective pastors focus on all of the biblical responsibilities in the preceding list. Ineffective pastors tend to ride one hobbyhorse (often justifying this by saying that if they do it well, the others will take care of themselves).
2. Spiritual vision. Effective pastors are not held prisoner by the perspective and traditions of their congregations. They are sensitive to where people are but are not con tent to leave them there.
3. Willingness to lead. Effective leaders are sometimes wrong, but they are not so afraid of the consequences of being wrong that they refuse to lead.
4. Spiritual enthusiasm. Effective pastors give you the impression that they want to lead you, not just some place, but to a closer relationship with God.
5. Spiritual optimism about the future. The Bible calls this hope. People who dispense this quality are the spiritual equivalent of the first rain after a long drought.
6. Indiscriminate affirmation. Despite a truckload of reasons to go in the opposite direction, the conversational patterns of effective pastors are praise-full.
7. Sense of humor. Cartoons collect more followers than turpentine bottles do.
8. Joyful attitude. Oswald Chambers once said, “Joy is the nature of God in my blood.” People are not attracted to a religious institution whose spiritual leader needs a transfusion.
9. Openness to consider new ideas. The initial response of effective pastors to new ideas from others is usually “Why not?” They then carefully listen to and examine the proposal. Ineffective pastors tend to immediately block the description of a new idea by citing several reasons why it will not work. Guess which kind of pastor people stop giving new ideas to?
10. A disposition toward delegation. Good leaders coach the team; poor leaders try to play all the positions.
11. High energy level. Morticians in small towns are among the few professionals of any kind who can succeed with a forty-hour work week. Low-energy pastors usually become ecclesiastical morticians.
12. Positive appearance. Neat apparel, shined shoes, and well-kept hair do not bring people into the Kingdom of God. But if the pack age is shabby, people may not bother to examine its contents.
13. Personal integrity. Remembering promises, functioning responsibly with tasks that are not especially enjoyable, serving without a demand for public recognition, and leading a disciplined moral life: These qualities do not bring people into the kingdom, either; but their lack can block people from wanting to
14. The iron fist in the velvet glove. Great churches are like great football teams: Their coaches must have both sensitivity to personal feelings and iron determination. Skills and style, what we do and what we are: Both are critically important. But if what we are offends or bores, the skills with which we do our work will have little impact. You have probably noticed by now that all of the above applies to church members as much as to pastors. Which of these styles do you possess? ,