You can quickly and effectively stifle a church’s growth without actually trying. All a pastor has to do is be:

  1. Needy – constantly crave the attention and praise of others
  2. Inflexible– press on once you’ve decided a course of action, undeterred by new facts
  3. Pessimistic – stay vigilant against setback, discouragement or defeat
  4. Stoic – focus on what you do, not how you feel
  5. Self-negating – Don’t try to express yourself or your feelings to others

If the research is reliable – and it is – then all you have to do to avoid the hassle of dealing with the hassles that attend church growth is show those five deficiencies.

Or, to put it another way, if you want to increase the likelihood that you’ll be an effective turnaround pastor you’ll have to develop skill or competence in each of these areas.

Proficiencies of turnaround pastors

Recent research into the makeup of the pastors of growing churches has identified several unique characteristics. These objective, measurable traits distinguish those who pastor growing churches and those who don’t.[1]

  1. Independence (self-awareness and self-expression) “to be self-reliant and free of emotional dependency on others”
  2. Flexibility (Adaptability and change management) “to adapt and adjust one’s feelings and thinking to new situations”
  3. Optimism (General mood and self-motivation) “to be positive and look at the brighter side of life”
  4. Emotional Self-awareness (self-awareness and self-expression) “to be aware of and understand one’s emotions”
  5. Assertiveness (self-awareness and self-expression) “to effectively and constructively express one’s emotions and oneself”

Although every pastor in Roth’s research scored some degree of competence in each of these areas, pastors skilled at leading growing churches or turnaround plateaued churches around scored higher in each of these five competencies.

All pastors can increase their EQi

The good news in all of this is that EI is not “fixed”. It is not determined by genetics. Although we’re all born with an initial EI disposition, it is something that increases with age (is this wisdom?) and it can be developed with discipline.[3]

This means any minister can raise personal EQi scores in each of these five critical competencies. Although these improved social and emotional skills isn’t a panacea for all that ails a church, developing and using them will move the church in the right direction.

The need for further research

The relationship between a pastor’s personal profile and church growth hasn’t received the attention it deserves in church growth research.

More is needed.

I hope a few enterprising doctoral students will develop the research further. I expect that foundations will fund more investigations. I wish that forward thinking denominations would carry out what has already been learned. And wouldn’t it be great if graduate seminaries included this training in their core curricula instead of offering it as an occasional D. Min. course?

Until then, the research we do have available does justify several conclusions. We can hold these, lightly, pending further research.

Emerging, tentative conclusions

  • Spiritual giftedness does not distinguish turnaround pastors from non-turnaround pastors
  • Turnaround pastors have a distinct temperament or personality profile that distinguishes them from those who are not turnaround pastors
  • Pastors who do not fit the “turnaround profile” can increase EI competencies with proper coaching and/or a plan of professional development
  • They can also learn to show the leadership behaviors that come naturally to others without violating the integrity of their person


  • Church growth is not a science
    • I have mentored pastors who do it “by the numbers” yet their churches fail to thrive
    • I have watched other pastors who “do it all wrong” and yet – when circumstances are right – their churches take off, at least for a while.
    • No matter how good a pastor is at growing a church, there’s no guarantee the next one will be able to sustain it. (What little research I’ve been able to find on this suggests that there’s only a one-in-three chance the church can continue its run under the next settled pastor)[2]
  • The pastor’s responsibility is to exercise skill and dedication while depending on God totally
    • We can dig the trench, stack the wood and pour the water – that’s being faithful to what God has told us to do as ministers
    • Only God can light the fire

Resources Cited

Additional Resources


  1. Jared Roth, “The Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Pastor Leadership in Turnaround Churches” (Ed.D. Dissertation, Pepperdine University) 2011.
  2. Ron Crandall, Turnaround and Beyond: A Hopeful Future for the Small Membership Church, p. 130. [affiliate link]
  3. Thom Rainer, “Leadership and Emotional IQ”. Church Central Blogsite, December 7, 2012. Accessed on 8/21/2013