What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary

I asked the 20 pastors assembled in the room, “What’s the biggest problem in your ministry?”

One pastor immediately blurted out, “People!”

The room erupted in laughter at the blunt honesty of his statement!

Of course, I’m sure that pastor loves people. However, time after time, in my training sessions and other interactions with pastors, they tell me their ministerial education left them unprepared for working with people.

Managing conflict, leading change, working with different and sometimes difficult personalities, and handling criticism can all tax body, mind and soul, especially if one does not feel adequately prepared and trained.

In short, learning theology, sacrament and ceremony makes excellent preparation for teaching, preaching, marrying, and burying. However, people skills make or break the pastor in the day to day work of leading a congregation. People are not necessarily easy to lead, can become difficult, whiny, or downright repugnant in their behaviors. Just ask Moses!

Pastor, you need every leadership tool and technique available to succeed in today’s complex and changing pastoral environment.

Emotional Intelligence is a term that encompasses the ability to be aware of and manage one’s own emotions as well as being able to pick up on and respond to the emotions of others.  

Research demonstrates that pastors who operate with a higher degree of emotional intelligence stress less and demonstrate more effective leadership. Consider that United Methodist Church pastors who successfully turned around churches scored high in emotional intelligence according to one study.

So, it may be that your theological education was superior, yet you find yourself desiring greater leadership acumen. Emotional intelligence development may give you that extra edge you desire.

Extra edge and incremental improvements often mark the champions in many domains of life.

Cyclists of the famed 2,200 mile Tour de France race compete for days over some of the most difficult terrain imaginable. Yet, in recent years, winners usually win by a margin of mere seconds. (The smallest winning margin in the history of the race is 8 seconds by American Greg LeMond in 1989over Frenchman Laurent Fignon.)

My challenge to you in the coming year: prioritize emotional intelligence as part of your leadership development plan.

It may just provide that extra edge you need.