Core Qualities of the Pastor
By Dave Gemmell
There are two days in a congregation where pastors can make everyone happy. For some, it is the day we arrive, for others it is the day we leave.
Pastoring should be easy. Right? The congregation needs a pastor. I am a pastor. End of story. The challenge is that everyone in the congregation, including me, has a different definition of the word ‘pastor’. The result is that we never entirely live up to everyone's expectations, consequently we have great difficulty in becoming effective pastors.
It gets worse. Young people spend ten years of their lives training to be a ‘pastor’ and flame out when they discover their definition doesn’t match up with what conferences are looking for.
University professors pour their pastoral ideals into students but conferences may be looking for other qualities.
Seminary students coming from a variety of colleges repeat some of the exact same courses they had at undergrad while missing out on vital learning.
It gets still worse. Interns preparing for ordination don’t know how to prepare because but each conference has different ideas of what qualities they are looking for in a pastor.
And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you’re suddenly moved to another congregation and have to start all over again, or move to another conference and have to learn their definition of ‘pastor’.
It is amazing that any pastors are effective in ministry! Some of have figured it out; perhaps on our own, through reading, going to conferences, good mentoring, or maybe we just got lucky enough to pick up the essential qualities along the way. Some didn’t figure it out, and dropped out leaving wrecked congregations, careers, and families behind.
But all of us, whether we have figured it out a little or a lot, still struggle with the question of what makes for an effective pastor? Does there exist a standard of qualities, that if a pastor possesses, gives him/her a high likelihood of success? Is there, or could there be, a professional standard for pastors? Or are we all just playing a guessing game?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Other professions have discovered standard qualities that make for effectiveness in their vocations. Physicians have a set of core qualities that define what makes an effective doctor. Teachers have a set of core qualities that describe an effective teacher. Even plumbers have benchmarks as to what qualities make for an effective plumber.
What if we could find out what core qualities make for an effective pastor? And if we could, would it be helpful?
Our president, Dan Jackson thought so. He commissioned NAD Ministerial with the task of discovering core qualities that make for effective ministry, and how these qualities can be the key to unifying expectations.
Research. After more than two years of research and tens of thousands of pieces of data, the North American Division Ministerial department identified an initial set of seven core qualities of truly effective pastors.
Validation. We then asked to find out who were the most effective pastors in the conference and rated their qualities against the average pastor in the conference. What do you suppose we discovered? --That the most effective pastors in the conference were the ones that possessed these core qualities.
These seven core qualities are the foundation of the pastoral profession. Not only do they provide a framework of occupational expectations, but also identifying these seven core qualities allows the Church to promote ministerial excellence and most importantly essential skills for the winning of souls for Christ. Wouldn’t you like to know what those core qualities are?
After all that research what came out was really quite powerful. There are six core qualities all built on the foundation of the quality of Character.
Character, the foundational quality, allowing the character of Christ to be formed in us and modeled through personal integrity that aligns with biblical ideals
Evangelism, skilled and passionate about making disciples, helping people accept, internalize, and share in a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ the Seventh-day Adventist message
Leadership, building a Church vision and equipping members to learn, grow, and serve
Worship, facilitating an enriching corporate worship experience that brings people into the presence of God
Management, executing responsibilities in a timely and well-organized fashion
Scholarship, diligently and carefully studying the Bible and professional resources for continuous personal growth in Christ
Relationship, relating well to others regardless of faith, age, ethnicity, personality, or gender
Why Now? What is different today than all of the other iterations of pastoral formation that we have attempted since 1863?
1) Demographic opportunity: We have an unprecedented opportunity as 50% of pastors will be eligible for retirement over the next few years. We will need to double the number of theology students. Double the number of pastoral hires. Double the number of internships. Double the number of Ordinations. With all of this change in place, what better time to reexamine our pastoral formation journey.
2) NAD Leadership: Dan Jackson has made this a priority. He has insured that we have a full compliment of staff in NAD Ministerial, not just a partial position. He has authorized meetings such as this CALLED convention where we can get the best minds together to reimagine the future.
3) Substantive Change: We have the real potential of substantive change. Not just tweaking things about, but real groundbreaking innovation.
4) Systemic Change: Too many times we have tried to tweak out one part of the system without looking at how the whole system works together. We now have an opportunity for systemic institutional change that could live far beyond this convention. This is our chance to make a real, enduring, significant, positive contribution to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
‘Pastor.’ So now, at long last, we have a starting definition of an effective pastor. It is no longer just anyone’s definition. It will soon be everyone’s definition.
Unifying. We all can draw toward a unifying definition, so when you say the word ‘pastor’, when a church member says the word ‘pastor’, when a conference president says the word ‘pastor’, when a young person says the word ‘pastor’, when the college or seminary professor says the word ‘pastor’, when the ministerial secretary says the word ‘pastor’, we all are thinking the same thing. Despite our differences in age, personality, language, gender, or ethnicity, we all share these same core qualities
Guesswork. Can you see what a powerful concept this is? As we move to a common definition you don’t have to be guessing what qualities you have to possess to be an effective pastor! You already know what the congregation is looking for. You know what the conference is looking for. You know what is effective.
Portable. And you know what the next congregation is looking for, and what the next conference is looking for.
Growth. You know where you need to grow professionally instead of having to guess.
Impact. But most of all, it gives us the power to reach our potential as effective pastors.