The Imposter Syndrome and Pastoral Ministry

“While the following points can easily be applied to those outside of vocational pastoral ministry, I want to specifically address how the Imposter Syndrome is directly affecting the state of pastors today.” - C. Today


This “syndrome” looks completely made up. Another explanation: those plagued by the feeling that they are imposters are probably just imposters.

(Another possibility: some may be afflicted by taking too seriously people’s assumptions about how they ought to think and feel. So… fake standard+not measuring up = “I don’t feel real”? My advice: a. spend less time thinking about you feel about things, b. sharpen your ability to differentiate between between popular notions and actual fitness-for-duty.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

I’m certain Carl Henry, CTs first editor, would have been proud that his publication put out such a … thoughtful … article.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

How the Imposter Syndrome is directly affecting the state of pastors today.

1 - The Imposter Syndrome is influencing pastors toward an unhealthy obsession with achievement

2 - The Imposter Syndrome is influencing pastors toward an unhealthy obsession for the platform

3. The Imposter Syndrome is influencing pastors toward an unhealthy obsession for networking

About the author:

Daniel Im is the Director of Church Multiplication for and LifeWay Christian Resources, Teaching Pastor at The Fellowship, co-host of three podcasts, and author of No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry and co-author of Planting Missional Churches.

I’ll admit that sometimes at work, I’ve got a bit of “we’re not worthy” syndrome, and part of me wonders whether that’s healthy—a bit of humility that drives us to be our best. For example, when researchers tried to correlate self-esteem metrics with actual achievement, they found the correlation was negative—the higher one’s self-esteem, the lower one’s achievement. They also found it correlated pretty well with criminality—those with high self-esteem apparently reacted rather badly to the market’s signals about their actual abilities.

And that might be the key to what’s going on here. There is a very healthy “I’m not worthy” syndrome that drives one to reasonable effort, and that occurs when it is “safe” to be imperfect. People know and accept one’s weaknesses. Then there is a very unhealthy “Imposter syndrome” where it is not safe to be imperfect, and that drives ever-greater efforts to hide one’s weakness, even to the point of willful sin against those who notice.

Along those lines, a few of Deming’s 14 points deal with this, #8 explicitly. If it’s safe to make a mistake and learn from it, that will be exactly what happens. If mistakes are greeted with a harsh response, like our proverbial “right boot of fellowship”, people tend to hide in their silos and adopt the bad side of “imposter syndrome.” Make your choice, as (another Deming quote) “survival is not mandatory.”

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

This “imposter’s syndrome” is probably real for some, perhaps many. Since I don’t hang around big “success” pastors, all I can say is that it is not an issue in my circles. But I can see how many in the author’s world (as T. Howard implied) might struggle with this.

So I am not ready to throw this article away, just perhaps consider it directed toward a specific bunch.

"The Midrash Detective"