Pastoral Ministry

Learning People Skills (Part 2)

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2013.

(Earl Brubaker continues sharing some of the people-skills lessons he learned during his years of ministry as a pastor. Read Part 1.)

A third lesson

On another occasion, in what could have been a major church crisis, Ray and Goff taught me to respond with compassion and understanding to the negative reactions we sometimes face. Ray, one of the church trustees, taught in our Christian Day School. Goff, the church treasurer, was a retired Los Angeles County fireman.

I sat in my study that Monday morning with a heavy heart reflecting on a Sunday evening congregational meeting that turned ugly. No violence, no overt threats, just ugly. Midway through a building expansion, we discovered that an additional piece of property was available. Most folks saw it as a great opportunity to complete the block of property already owned by the church. Others thought adding that final corner to our property was a merely cosmetic, large, unnecessary expense. The discussion got heated, voices raised. Charges of waste, deceit, and trying to control the church through private negotiations were all aired in the tense exchange. In the end, calm prevailed and the congregation voted by a large majority to complete the purchase.

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People Skills & the Pastor

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Mar/Apr 2013.

I was talking to a young pastor recently, and after our lengthy conversation I commented on his wisdom and warmth. I told him many pastors fail in regards to dealing with people (something we often refer to as people skills). When I said this, the young pastor was surprised and asked me to elaborate further. So I provided him some specific sad examples of ungracious pastors and their interpersonal blunders. At the close of our conversation, he said something quite profound: “That’s so strange. Why would you become a pastor if you don’t love people?”

That young pastor asked a great question which summarizes the basis of pastoral interpersonal skills…love. Love is the bottom-line way to define people skills. And the pastor’s life must be characterized by love in the same way that Jesus’ life was characterized by love.

The pastor needs the ability to interact with people in a friendly way and with courtesy, compassion, and empathy. He needs to be “others oriented” as opposed to being self-absorbed or task driven. He needs to notice people (without looking past them) and look them in the eye and smile. He needs to be able to call the people of his congregation by name like Jesus said a good shepherd does (John 10:3). The pastor must interact with people and ask sincere questions demonstrating concern, communicating both verbally and non-verbally in ways that demonstrate courtesy and love. The pastor needs to be able to listen effectively, handle difficult conversations, discipline his anger, and help resolve conflict. And if he fails at much of the above his ministry is hindered and he may even be fired from his church!

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Book Review - When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search

A few years back I enjoyed reading a little book about a missionary’s experiences while on deputation. Anyone who has been close to a missionary knows the joys and trials of trying to raise support. I have often thought someone should write a book for mission committees on how to handle the deputation process. Having been a pastoral candidate a few times, I am glad someone has written a book for pastoral search committees. Chris Brauns has done churches and pastoral candidates a great service with this book, subtitled Biblical Principles and Practices To Guide Your Search.

Having profited greatly from Brauns’ first book I was anxious to read this his second. Additionally, the fact that my son-in-law was going through the process as I was reading the book heightened my interest. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences with various search committees, some of which were more effective than others, but none as detailed as Brauns prescribes (perhaps good for me or I may have never received a call).

A Word-centered church

He begins with a much needed emphasis on the part prayer must have in the process. He believes that prayer should be fervently and consistently offered for the search committee, the next pastor (whomever he may be) and the congregation. He even offers some specific requests (which also allows him to express a few caveats).

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