6 Surprising Traits of Effective Pastors

Thom Rainer
LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer gives a presentation during the annual SBC meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. |

This blog has looked at characteristics of effective pastors from different perspectives over the past few years. But this information may prove to be a bit surprising.

A couple of caveats are in order. First, the idea of "surprising" can vary from person to person. I think you might be surprised at some of these traits, but you might not be. Second, the term "effective" is nebulous. I am not speaking of size of church or level of fame. I have subjectively noted several dozen pastors whose ministries have been consistent and whose impact in their churches and communities has been positive.

By the way, these same traits could apply to other church staff. Indeed, some of them could apply to any leaders.

I'm omitting the obvious characteristics, like good preaching, strong morals, and faithfulness to family. Those would not be among the surprises.

What, then, are some of the surprising traits? I'm glad you asked.

1. They are persistent. Their lives could be characterized as "three steps forward, two steps backwards." They have setbacks, but they remain stubbornly persistent.

2. They have a good sense of humor. They take their ministries seriously; but they don't take themselves too seriously.

3. They are highly intentional about connecting with unchurched persons at least once a week. In fact, weekly intentionality is the norm. They put such interactions on their calendar. They take unchurched people to lunch. They are involved in non-religious community events.

4. They look in the mirror. These pastors have clear self-awareness. They are not only evaluating themselves constantly, they typically have a trusted advisor who tells them on a regular basis what he or she sees.

5. They are intentionally consistent learners. These pastors read a lot. They attend conferences. They expand their educational opportunities, both formal and informal.

6. Their most consistent discipline is daily Bible reading. This time in the Bible is beyond sermon preparation. This discipline is kept with greater rigor than any other discipline in their lives.

Again, these are some of the surprising traits I have noticed in effective pastors.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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