Character Matters In Pastoral Leadership

Those of us who invest ourselves in training, cultivating, and otherwise supporting clergy are crystal clear on one insight – the person of the pastor matters.

Wherever the pastor goes, whatever the pastor does, whatever the pastor is thinking….all this is directly influenced by the character of the pastor. Though some other professions may pretend like character in leadership is insignificant, pastoral leaders are sunk without it. How so? We can consider varied areas of life to quickly determine the character of the pastor directly influences the quality and nature of his/her pastoral ministry.

Spirituality – When a pastor grows spiritually dry and brittle, then living in the Way of Jesus is described as boring, duty-bound, and dull. When a pastor is spiritually invigorated, captivated by this way of life described by Jesus, then passion rises and infuses every aspect of this pastor’s communication. These pastors believe the Way of Jesus is this world’s best hope.

Emotional Maturity – When a pastor is underdeveloped emotionally, then this pastor unconsciously uses the church to help him/herself feel better about one’s self. Those with leftover, unresolved emotional wounds from early experiences are especially vulnerable to this character deficit. When we watch closely, we recognize this pastor’s tendency to subtly turn things toward him/herself, focusing attention there in an ill-disguised effort to feel good about self.

Personal Integrity – Does this go without saying? Plenty of pastors experience lapse in judgment, falling into sin, just like the rest of us. Those who have the integrity to recognize this, take responsibility, change (repent), and restart (redemption) serve as role models. Those who continue their financial cheating, tax evasion, pornography use…and plenty of other secret sins will undermine their ministries.

Relational Health – The primary and most influential context in which we learn how to be in relationship with others is our families of origin. When pastors do not do their personal maturing work, the act out their unresolved family of origin dynamics in their congregational relationships. Low levels of differentiation lead to high levels of emotional fusion and enmeshment, diminishing this pastor’s ability to challenge or lead healthy change.

Theological Filtering – Everyone interprets the Bible through layers of cultural and personal filters. Those pastors who avoid personal development become victims of their personal filters when it comes to theological thinking. On the other hand, those who invest in maturing themselves discover greater freedom to let the text speak for itself.

We could go on naming areas of pastoral life and performance which are directly influenced by the person and character of the pastor. This is why we at Pinnacle focus our coaching and training on the person of the pastor first, followed by skill development second. We use Emotional Intelligence Inventories and training, personality inventories, vocational histories, and any other useful tools we can find to help pastors raise awareness and address their personal character and maturity. Pastors can learn effective leadership skills, when they have a healthy personal base upon which to develop skills. Without the personal character in place, even the most effective skills will not suffice for long.

When it comes to pastoral leadership, character matters.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle President