15 Common Sense Practices for Pastoral Ministry
Emotional Intelligence is one of the fields of research applied to pastoral leadership.
I think it holds great promise for effective pastoral leadership because the nature of leadership in the context of congregations is more about understanding relationships in the emotional field than about anything else typically associated with what constitutes leadership (e.g., management skills, education, intellect, good looks, personality style, gender, expertise, etc.).
But I think in many cases, common sense may be as valuable an asset for the leaders as a high score on any emotional intelligence inventory.
Here are some common-sense practices too many congregational leaders, pastors, and pastoral staff, neglect:
- Visit in the homes of your members.
- Accept people where they are on the journey of faith.
- Be sensitive to the problems and realities of “lay” members who live in a secular, real world. Appreciate that what they need, want, and get out of “church” may be different than for you.
- Learn when to speak and when to keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to have an opinion on everything.
- Be tactful—never embarrass a church member or a child.
- Greet people when they are in church.
- Never take sides in personal issues between members. Ever.
- Never take credit for the accomplishments of your staff.
- Be responsible in keeping confidences, but don’t get caught in the “bind of confidentiality.” Confidentiality is about people trusting you with information, not about keeping their secrets.
- Listen to your critics—they are not always 100% wrong.
- Apologize when you know you are in the wrong.
- Visit your members in the hospital and those who are shut-ins.
- Show up and be present with family members when someone in the family is in surgery.
- Be a responsible steward of your money—including your financial giving to the church.
- As often as possible, express genuine appreciation and encouragement to members and staff.
If those sound rather basic and self-evident it is because they are. Anyone with common sense will do those things.
But that’s the point: more pastors and staff lose their effectiveness in ministry (and not too few have lost a congregation) by lacking the common sense to actually do those things.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).