Resilient Ministry: Emotional Intelligence

In terms of the five overall themes of Resilient Ministry, emotional and cultural intelligence are grouped together. However the book devotes two chapters to each of them and I will treat them as two subjects, meriting a separate post each.

It’s probably Daniel Goleman who has done most to bring the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) to the fore in the past couple of decades¹. EQ is basically the capacity for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Goleman highlighted research that suggested EQ being about 4 times as important as IQ in determining professional success for a group of scientists.

Among Christian writers, Pete Scazzero has sought to draw attention to the importance of emotions for Christians, claiming that ’emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable.’

There are two aspects to EQ: the ability to manage one’s own emotions (EQ-self) and the ability to respond appropriately to the emotions of others (EQ-others).

The research behind Resilient Ministry has highlighted these four problems and two challenges as key areas for leaders to work on:

  • The problem of people-pleasing (‘the willingness to deny one’s own feelings, priorities, values or convictions in order to try to make others happy’).
  • The problem of emotion-faking. ‘When pastors lie to themselves about the way things really are, personal energy is drained away.’
  • The problem of lack of reflection (reflection is becoming an important recurring theme).
  • The problem of conflict avoidance.

And the challenges:

  • The challenges of listening and expressing empathy. This statement, by Donald Phillips, is quite striking: ‘Listening itself is so critical in leadership that any leader who is not a good listener will be a failure.’ Strong stuff indeed!

So how should pastors go about developing their EQ? The pastors in the research identified three helpful areas.

  1. Prayer and personal worship for perspective
  2. Physical exercise for emotional recovery
  3. Reflective (there it is again) work

There are several reflective practices:

  • Slowing down to feel
  • Journaling (recommended to write for 20 minutes per day)
  • Accurately identifying emotions (‘the first step in managing emotions is to be aware of them and accept them’)
  • Exploring family genograms (one of the book’s appendices discusses how to do this)
  • Differentiating in order to connect with people. Differentiation means being able to remain connected to people relationally, yet without having one’s reactions and behaviour determined by them.
  • Receiving feedback from others.

The section closes with two short pieces on congregational EQ (‘Organizations will rarely ever rise in maturity level above that of their leaders….’), and on Jesus and emotions.

¹Interestingly, there has been something of a debate on LinkedIn as Goleman has responded to the critiques of EQ by Adam Grant who reckons it’s overrated.

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