What Makes a Good Pastor?
by Lawrence W. Wilson
November 09th, 2016

A few years ago, Pulpit & Pew Research  published “What do Lay People Want in Pastors?” Here is a summary … see what you think.

Demonstrated competence and religious authenticity.
Search committees want pastors who have the ability to do the work required and a genuine religious life that brings together both “head and heart.”

Good preacher and leader of worship.
Regional leaders and lay leaders differ regarding what constitutes good preaching. Lay leaders generally care less than judicatory officials whether the sermon reflects careful scholarship and organization and are concerned instead that it relates to their own life and engages them personally.

Strong spiritual leader.
Lay leaders want a pastor with a deep commitment to religious beliefs and an ability to inspire spirituality in others. But many judicatory executives regard this as problematic because of the difficulty of determining who will be a good spiritual leader for a particular congregation.

Commitment to parish ministry and ability to maintain boundaries.
Lay members and search committees generally expect their pastor to be primarily devoted to ministry and take minimal time for other pursuits. This criterion, Lummis suggests, is a key place where lay visions of ideal ministry run counter to current thinking among those who counsel clergy about the importance of maintaining boundaries and the need to find time for other interests.

Available, approachable, and warm pastor with good “people skills.”
Regional leaders across denominations cited the pastor’s ability to show church members he or she likes and will care for them as an essential quality search committees try to find. This quality, however, can be situationally specific to the culture of a particular church or region.

Consensus builder, lay ministry coach and responsive leader.
Lay leaders want pastors who are responsive to their concerns, pastors who can initiate ideas to revitalize the church, while soliciting opinions of members and engaging them in putting ideas into operation.

Entrepreneurial evangelists, innovators and transformational reflexive leaders. 
This area often presents a disconnect between what churches say they want and what they really want. Many say they want a pastor to help grow the church but don’t want to undertake or think about the necessary changes that will be required.


Lawrence Wilson is former editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, and served as a pastor and denominational leader for over 25 years. He is the author of A Different Kind of Crazy, and writes a weekly blog offering encouragement for ministry and insight into current issues affecting the church. 

More of Lawrence W. Wilson: http://www.lawrencewilson.com/