“‘Leadership personality,’ ‘leadership style’ and ‘leadership traits’ do not exist. Among the most effective leaders I have encountered and worked with in a half century, some locked themselves into their office and others were ultragregarious…..Some were quick and impulsive; others studied and studied again and took forever to come to a decision. Some were warm and instantly ‘simpatico’; others remained aloof even after years of working closely with others, not only with outsiders like me but with the people with their own organization….The one and only personality trait the effective ones I have encountered have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.” -PETER DRUCKER, IN THE FOREWORD TO THE LEADER OF THE FUTURE: NEW VISIONS, STRATEGIES AND PRACTICES FOR THE NEXT ERA.
These statistics have been around for some time and the research was done in the 1990’s but they do strike a chord for us even today and in Singapore. The research was finished by the Schaeffer Institute, but quoted in Thabiti Anyabwile in a post titled, “Don’t Make Your Pastor A Statistic”. In the post he quoted the research of the former and I reproduce part of it here:
But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of my fellow pastors do not feel this way and are not receiving proper care from their people. Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:
Hours and Pay
90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness
90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being
70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Marriage and Family
80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
#1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
These statistics are startling and sad. Dr Richard J. Krejcir commented about this epidemic:
“After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays).”
However if you want to get further depressed, read the original article on why U.S. pastors leave their churches in Statistics on Pastors by Dr Richard J. Krejcir. Needless to say, we need to pray for all our pastors. And give them regular sabbaticals!
New media connected
“I have read his blog. Then we became friends on Facebook.” That was how Pastor Richard Wong introduced me as the guest speaker in his church. New media is changing the way the world and the church works. More often than not people may meet online before they meet physically. This has been very much my experience in the last two years. We knew each other from afar and off-line, but recently we had lunch and we hit it off and shared our lives easily.
Richard is hungry for the spirituals and yet is down to earth and a good administrator. He has been pastoring the church for close to two decades and still remains hopeful and enthusiastic. He sees himself above all as a servant. This serving heart has been his hallmark since the days of his youth, and it has been imparted to the church too.
The Singapore Christian Canaan Church had come a long way from conservatism to Third Wave openness. This year they were moving into healing. This is a church of about 200 over and they have a building and worship team I envied. The worship team comprised half Filippinos and half locals. The elder Steven attributed their improvement to the training implemented by the youth and worship pastor.
About 30 of the integrated congregation are Filippinos, mostly from the professional and service industry. The rest were mainly locals from youths to adults in their 50’s. The church was a family church: warm, welcoming, hospitable and all-embracing. This is their great strength: the love, unity and happy family feel was palpable. The congregation responded easily and positively to the message I preached, “The Church of the Prodigal Son.” This is a word I have been bringing everywhere I can as I feel it is a word in season for the church.
At the entrance to the worship hall, I caught sight of a large painting the size of a large notice board. This was evidence of how adventurous this church is. The pastor told me the painting was done by a Japanese couple, during an art rendition at the Good Friday service, as the congregation sang two songs in worship of Jesus the Lamb of God.
Later Richard and his wife Josephine brought us out for lunch at Sushi Teh in the City Mall. Never did I know a relatively new mall existed in Little India, other than Mustapha’s. We talked about the missions work of the church in Bangladesh, Chiangmai and Sulawesi. We talked shop and about our families. It was wonderful to know how God worked in the world. Many are the risks taken but the Lord watches over His people.
We reached home after 3pm, satisfied and glad to have the privilege of serving the Lord and this happy church.
John Maxwell is well known in the church world and in the secular organizations. He is a trainer and motivator of leaders. As an author he has sold 13 million books. His training organizations have trained more than 5 million people. He left Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego to concentrate on training leaders. He has enough distance from his pastoral ministry to offer insights that would help younger, and even experienced pastors. Here is his reflection on what he would do differently if he had a chance to, fifteen years after he has left the pastorate. This extract comes from an interview done by Michael Duduit and was published in the Preaching magazine (Jul-Aug 2010).
Question: You have been at this for a long time- you have been preaching since you were a young man and you continue to preach. What are some things you have learned about preaching, things you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
John Maxwell: Well, something interesting has happened. I resigned Skyline in San Diego, Calif.- this just shocks me – 15 years ago. when I left the local church after pastoring it for 25 years and loving it so dearly, I felt pretty satisfied, successful. I felt that my churches grew, that a lot of people came to faith in Christ. I felt I had the respect of the Christian community as far as being a “successful pastor.”
Now that I’ve gotten away from it 15 years, I get more disillusioned with my work every year. I told Margaret, “I’m not sure I can live long enough here in this process. I just feel like I didn’t do a good job.” I wish now that I had done this differently.
Just like I was talking about – I would talk to my people about how to share their faith. I didn’t teach them how to get respect in their business world. I didn’t know how to do that. I didn’t do nearly enough social stuff that really would get into their world – help people with hunger, clothing needs or whatever. I didn’t do that enough. Now I look back and think, “I could’ve done so much better in my teaching and communicating.” I just came from my perspective all the time. I never would do that again.
If I was developing messages on a weekly basis, I would find un-churched people – hopefully uninterested people – and I would ask them to meet with me on a monthly basis. I’d bounce ideas off of them and see if I ever sparked their interest, see if I ever connected with them in any way. I would put a lot more of that teaching into my messages. One of the things I love now is that I don’t have to develop a message weekly, so I have more time to let it work in me.
When I was younger, I wanted to do a great work for God, which I over-emphasized and under-emphasized God doing a great work in me. I see it now, my shallowness. I get disappointed. I thought, “Wow, If I had been more interested in God doing a great work in me, my messages would’ve been more transforming. They maybe would not have been applauded as greatly, because they maybe wouldn’t have been as well honed, but they sure would have been from the heart. They would’ve been out of brokenness and out of a journey I was taking.” I wish I had known that when I had that opportunity.
Again, I look back and am very surprised at how disappointed I am in where I was. The only comfort I get out of it is that I know I did my best. I didn’t lack integrity in trying to give my best effort; I just lacked direction and wisdom about things that I could’ve done a lot better.”
Who is Sumiko?
Can a pastor learn anything from Singapore’s “most famous single woman”? Ms Sumiko Tan, 46, is a Straits Times editor. Her Sunday Times column, which began in July 1994, is famous and with it she has grown a mega fan base. Like a confession booth to which the public has access instead of a priest, she bares her soul and pours out the angst of a successful but lonely single career woman. The public always grants her absolution. The single woman identifies with her pain; the single man wants to rescue her from her emotional plight; the marrieds feel they have made the right choice in getting married and having children.
One blogger, Jeremy Yew, says this about her:
“Let’s face it folks, Sumiko Tan’s column is Singapore’s favourite and most well-known real-life soap opera. Her musings on life, and especially on love, or the lack of it, have been well-documented in the Sunday Times. We all read her columns because she’s the only one who dares to bare her soul to the nation. Very few things in life resonate better with an audience than someone telling the world that she has not been able to find true love. Sumiko wasn’t afraid to tell Singapore about her inability to find a life partner and her immense regret that she may have missed the proverbial boat”.
People want authenticity
In a way, she was a blogger ahead of her times. She shared her life as it was. No mask. No veneer. It took courage to be open and honest, for it made her vulnerable to personal attacks from online hate forums. The rewards of doing so are greater than the risks. Her fans feel a close emotional bond to her. Thousands of singles could relate and identify with her feelings and that alone was very helpful for them. With her recent plan to marry, many found joy, comfort and hope. She helps her readers because of her transparency in sharing her trials and tribulations and secret feelings. Look at this example from “Feeling Half A Woman”:
“Again, it’s not that I look on enviously at couples. I really don’t. I’m happy with my life. But once in a while, it hits me that maybe there’s something wrong with me. It doesn’t matter how I love my single life. It doesn’t matter that I have all the personal space in the world. It doesn’t matter what I’ve achieved in my career. It doesn’t matter how I know it’s better to be alone than to be alone in a marriage. It doesn’t matter that I’ve seen how marriage isn’t a binding contract or a guarantee of a happy-ever-after. It doesn’t matter how many boyfriends I’ve had or might have. It doesn’t matter if there are men who care for my well-being. The fact remains that I am not married, and I say this not in a self-pitying way but as an acknowledgment of a, to me, puzzling fact. And the fact remains that no one has been mad enough about me – and I for him – for us to embark on a journey together. The fact remains that no matter how fun singlehood is, there are nights when I lie in my nice big bed all by my lonesome self (well, actually my dog sleeps with me), and think: Is there something wrong with me? Is this all there is to life? Why aren’t I married? Am I not good enough? Am I not lovable enough? Am I not capable of loving deeply and permanently? Have I been too fussy? Do I have bad karma? Don’t I deserve more? My mother was married, my sister is married, Michelle Obama is married, the woman who cleans the office pantry is married, so many ‘normal’ women are married, why not me? Have I failed as a woman? Am I inadequate?”
A dash of transparency in the pulpit
We need a little of this kind of transparency from our pulpits. Not every Sunday please. Just occasionally. Pastors do not share such personal disclosures because they feel it is unprofessional. Or they are plain afraid to let people know who they really are. They fear they will lose the trust of the congregation and therefore their ability to disciple them. The vulnerability and risks are too much for most to accept. Or their church culture does not allow it. They do not want to be misunderstood of navel-gazing. Or they subscribe to a teaching that frowns on confessions of weakness or negativity.
The Bible gives a few examples when great men bared their souls without shame. It was said of Jesus at the garden of Gethsemane, “…he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”(Matt 26:37,38). Paul the apostle bared his heart, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death” and, “we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…”(2 Cor 1:8,9; 7:5,6). They talked about overwhelming sorrow and pressure, the feeling of hopelessness, of fear and depression. They were secure and did not feel like they had to project success and victory all the time.
Pastors baring their souls
We pastors should bare our souls every now and then about our journey. Our congregation needs to identify with us in our struggles and weaknesses, our journey of failure and not just victory. This will build solid bonds of intimacy and trust. It will also lubricate discipleship and spiritual formation. In addition, authenticity is what modern believers are searching for and they know instinctively that the “know it all” and “have sorted it all” kind of preacher are not real but fake projections. We need to own up.
This is what pastors can learn from Sumiko Tan: allowing the church family to know us as we really are; and allowing them to accept and love us despite what is known. This is healing and wholeness for us and for the church.