Common Sense in Pastoral Leadership

By Israel Galindo, Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning

Emotional Intelligence is a field of research currently being applied to pastoral leadership, to great benefit. I think it holds great promise to effective pastoral leadership because the nature of leadership in the relational context of congregations is more about understanding emotional process than about anything else typically associated with what constitutes “leadership” (management skills, education, intellect, good looks, personality style, 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 factors that too many congregational leaders, whether pastors or staff, seem to not “get”:

  • Visit in the homes of your members.
  • Accept people where they are on their journey of faith.
  • Be sensitive to the problems and realities of “lay” members who live in a “secular” world. While clergy work for a living, they tend to forget most of their congregational members work different for their living.
  • Learn when to speak and when to keep your mouth shut.
  • Be tactful. Never embarrass another person—even if they deserve it.
  • Greet people when they are in church.
  • Never take sides in personal issues between church members. Ever.
  • Be responsible in keeping confidences, but don’t get caught in the “bind of confidentiality.”
  • Listen to your critics—they are not always 100% wrong.
  • Apologize when you know you’re in the wrong.
  • Visit your members in the hospital and those who are shut-ins.
  • 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’s 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 lose a congregation) by lacking the common sense to do those things.

For more common sense insights from an emotional systems theory perspective, join us for the Leadership in Ministry Workshops and the Clergy in Mid-Career Colloquy experiences at the Center for Lifelong Learning.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. 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 and Don Reagan.

His books on Christian education include The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice), and A Christian Educator’s Book of Lists (S&H).

Galindo contributes to the Wabash Center’s blog for theological school deans and to the Digital Flipchart blog.

 

4 thoughts on “Common Sense in Pastoral Leadership”

  1. This is a wonderful list. The only one that does not make sense to me is in home visits. I would note that visiting members in their homes does not happen as often in larger churches. Some if it is simple math, a great deal more members does not leave as much time for those visits. As the Head of Staff of a larger congregation if I did in home visits with great regularity it would be all I would have time to do. I think it is a 1960’s model of ministry…

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  2. These are such valuable and common sense things for pastors to do as a minister. Thank you for sharing them I wish that we had a minister that would get positives on half of these comments. He is too busy trying to lead our church into leaving the Presbytery USA and being a friend to certain members in our small congregation.

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