Lately, I’ve been thinking about emotions and pastoral ministry—particularly, when it comes to qualities like managing self-awareness and developing relational empathy with those I’ve been entrusted to lead. Pastors often pride ourselves on having a high IQ (intelligence quotient) even as we flaunt our indifference to EQ (emotional quotient, or our skill in handling emotions). Many of us rightly reject elevating feelings above truth, but we must be careful not to swing the pendulum to the other extreme. Managing and understanding the role of emotions is critical for every leader, especially those who shepherd God’s people.
Unfortunately, numerous pastors would call emotional intelligence a “feminine quality.” Some even argue that men are the intellectual epicenter of the church and women are the emotional one. This demeans emotional intelligence as unnecessary at best, and at worst a liability reserved for women who can’t control their tears.
This line of thinking can be especially dangerous in church leadership because it can cause leaders to disregard the emotions of others and railroad everyone around them. Pastors with excellent preaching and teaching gifts and no major moral failings can still do damage beyond measure if they are emotionally and relationally bankrupt.
What sorts of sentiments does a low EQ produce in church leadership? See if any on this list ring a bell. Maybe you’re like me and have caught yourself saying or thinking a few of these.
- “It doesn’t matter how you feel; it matters what the Bible says.”
- “I’m a pastor, not a therapist.”
- “I need to keep distance between the people and myself.”
- “Don’t come to me looking for empathy. Talk to my wife.”
- “Get on board with my vision or get out.”
These statements all point to the same misconception: High IQ is the mark of a true leader fit for entrepreneurial work and life at the top of the totem pole. High EQ is unimportant and antithetical to dynamic leadership.
What is so wrong with this line of thinking? For starters, it does not belong anywhere near a church. It’s been said time and time again that emotional intelligence is the currency of relationships. What part of shepherding doesn’t involve building relationships with people and speaking into their lives? During their workweek, pastors spend 40 minutes in the pulpit and 40 hours outside of it. That’s a short time focused on a one-way monologue from a stage, and a whole lot more time engaged in two-way conversations with the saints.
Recently, Jared C. Wilson sounded off on this issue with a series of social media posts:
We like strong personalities, fiery pulpiteers, theologically rigorous thinkers. And then we’re shocked when they don’t know how to speak to a man struggling with same-sex attraction or a woman struggling in her marriage, etc. They’re awkward, unrelational, unempathetic…
It’s why we must insist that our pastors actually be *pastors*, with preacher/theologian a subset of that office. Low EQ pastors do untold damage b/c they see the church as an audience or a followership, not as a flock to be cared for…
And personality type has almost no bearing on this. Many introverted pastors are great in counseling/visitation/discipling and many extroverted pastors are terrible. It’s not about introvert/extrovert—it’s about emotional intelligence. The ability to empathize, relate, connect.
For many of us, this issue can stir up all kinds of insecurities. But I believe most pastors want to grow their EQ. For every pastor who bashes emotional coherence, there are likely 10 pastors eager to be challenged in this area.
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Source: Christianity Today