Self-Care and Emotional Intelligence for Pastors

This month I’m reflecting on an article by Bill Wilson that was featured in the Fall edition of in Ministry from the Palmer Theological Seminary. “14 Pieces of Advice for New Ministers” originally appeared online at ethics.com, and I’m honing in on five points in particular.

Last week, I discussed point #6 about finding an escape hatch – an avocation that takes you away from your vocation. Today I’d like to look at two other points.

#4 says: “Take care of all of you. Your family, your body and your mind matter to God and to your life in the church.”

I often speak about the importance of self-care. I know that pastors feel overloaded at this time of year. That’s why last December, I urged you to take time to celebrate and rest, and I’m repeating the same message this year.

Making time for your hobbies is a start. Then while you’re taking a break from helping other people tune into God’s wisdom, put your focus back on listening to God for yourself.

You’ll be a better pastor, spouse, parent and coach if you do what’s necessary to take care of your mind, body and soul. Another key element for getting along with the other people in your life is addressed in Wilson’s point #9:

“Remember, EQ (emotional intelligence) usually trumps IQ.”

Unfortunately, the outdated “sage on the stage” model of ministry is still the default for many pastors who just haven’t learned a different way to be. They tell instead of ask, talk instead of listen, and assume instead of clarify.

All of these styles of interaction creates barriers between people and can defeat a pastor’s goals even if he or she is “doing all the right things.”

An emotionally intelligent pastor is one who can step out of his or her own perspective and seek to understand where someone else is coming from. From that place of understanding, the other person will feel heard and appreciated, and will be more open to participate in a dialogue.

In order to tap into the emotions of others, we also need to notice and understand our own emotional responses. This kind of self-examination and self-care doesn’t always come naturally to pastors, and is part of the changing landscape we are seeing in ministry today.

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J. Val Hastings

J. Val Hastings, MCC, is the Founder and President of Coaching4Clergy, which provides specialized training for pastors, church leaders and coaches. Val is the author of the book The Next Great Awakening: How to Empower God’s People with a Coach Approach to Ministry and the e-book The E3-Church: Empowered, Effective and Entrepreneurial Leadership That Will Keep Your Church Alive. Val currently holds the designation of Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, the highest coaching designation.

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