Seven Distinguishing Habits of Highly Effective Pastors

Posted by | February 03, 2016 | For Pastors, Latest Blog, Ministry Life | No Comments
Man holding bible and notes

By Thom Rainer

Determining the effectiveness of a pastor is a highly subjective exercise. While certain metrics may prove helpful, they do not tell the whole story. In that context, I reviewed my 40 years of serving churches in a variety of capacities and noted several very effective pastors I knew well. My list was lengthy: nearly 30 pastors total.

Since I knew each of these pastors so well, I began to write down traits that distinguished them from most other pastors. I wanted to know what made them tick; I wanted to know how and why they were so effective.

There are many characteristics most pastors have: prayerful; committed to the Word; dedicated to their families; high character; and others. My interest in this exercise, however, was to find the traits that set them apart from most others. When I finished this assignment, I found seven distinguishing characteristic or habits.

  1. They have genuine enthusiasm. I am not referring to the vocal cheerleader type. These pastors may be quiet, but their passion and enthusiasm for their churches, their families, and their ministries are evident in all they say and do. It is not a contrived enthusiasm; it is real and contagious.
  2. They are great listeners. When you are around these pastors, they genuinely want to focus on you. They seem to have little desire to talk about themselves; they would rather hear your stories. They can make you feel very important because they genuinely care and genuinely listen.
  3. Their identity is not their vocation. They don’t have to climb a perceived ladder of success because their greatest reward comes from serving Christ in whatever manner He directs them. You don’t have to worry about these pastors manipulating the network or the system for their own advancement. Their identities are in Christ, not their vocations.
  4. They are intentional about personal witnessing. These pastors don’t see the Great Commission as an abstract concept or something that others are supposed to do. They love to share the gospel personally with others. They are also highly intentional about personal witnessing.
  5. They have unconditional love of their critics. So many leaders, pastors included, have limited effectiveness because critics constantly hound them. They are drained emotionally and sometimes walk in fear of the critics. These effective pastors, however, include in their prayer lives intercession for their critics. They learn to love them because they are asking God to help them to have that love.
  6. They have a gentle spirit. We often forget that gentleness is part of the fruit of the Spirit. In this hypercritical social media world, aggression and negativity have become normative, even in our churches. These pastors, to the contrary, have a calm and gentleness that can only come from the Holy Spirit.
  7. They persevere. Ministry is not easy. Local church ministry can be especially difficult. There are too many wounded warriors in our churches. Unfortunately, most of their wounds have come from friendly fire (though I’m not sure the word “friendly” fits well in this metaphor). Highly effective pastors hang in there. Sure, they get hurt. Sure, they get discouraged. But they ultimately keep on doing ministry in God’s power. Though it’s cliché, they look for strength to keep on ministering one day at a time.

At the risk of redundancy, let me remind you that these seven traits are not necessarily the same as the biblical qualifications of a pastor. They are, according to my subjective research, those traits that set them apart from most other pastors. They are thus the seven distinguishing habits of highly effective pastors.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 16, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

About Ron Cook

Ron and his wife Rodetta have been married 39 years. They have actively served the Lord together in ministry during the entire time and are co-founders of Care for Pastors. Ron ministers to hundreds of pastors annually through mentorship, counseling and by phone. He has been a Pastor for 39 years and understands the stress of ministry, and wants to share his longevity in ministry with other pastors and help them finish well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please fill out the form below to gain instant access to your FREE Care for Pastors Sunday Planning Guide.
*We hate spam and never share your details.
Thank You. If your download doesn't start automatically check your email.
Thanks for participating in Care for Pastors Sunday!
8% Contribution (Physical Products)
5% Contribution (Digital Products)

As the world's largest distributor of Christian products, Christianbook.com provides online access to their premier selection of Christian products--over 500,000 books, Bibles, DVDs, CDs, gifts, toys, games, and more.
0.5% Contribution (Per Purchase)

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.

Support your charitable organization by starting your shopping at smile.amazon.com
15% Contribution (Monthly)

Guard yourself and your loved ones with Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering.

Our goal is to equip people with tools that provide protection and encourage accountability and trust in the fight against Internet temptation.
4% Contribution (Monthly)

Everyone deserves affordable legal and identity theft protection. Including you.

With LegalShield on your side, you have the power to access legal and identity theft advice and services when you need them, all for one low monthly fee.