As I read and research church health and revitalization, I am struck by how often people
suggest a church should hire an “outsider” to help them see clearly. Whether it is a mystery
shopper or a fully paid consultant, the idea is that this “outsider” can help leaders get a fuller
perspective of what is happening in their church. And that this “outsider” can spot things we
don’t notice, ask questions that we haven’t thought of and challenge the way we have always
So what does this have to do with pastoral health? Well, one of the characteristics of a healthy
pastor is that of self-awareness: meaning pastors should have an understanding of their
strengths and weaknesses as leaders. And that their perception of themselves lines up with
how others see them.
We might assume that the “self” part of self-awareness means we figure it out all by ourselves
but this is not the case. On my own, my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses is
flawed at best because I am not objective when it comes to me. I like me. I believe my
excuses. And I have blind spots. I need an “outsider” to help correct my vision and give me
perspective. Besides, I’m not a mind reader and I don’t know how others see me.
A healthy pastor has people who:
Ask the hard questions
Speak the truth in love
An unhealthy pastor is one who goes it alone and doesn’t listen to the wisdom of the people
God has placed around him or her.
The good news is (not to be confused with THE Good News) God has given us these people as
part of our church family. A spouse or family member is likely part of our church family but it is
important to find other people as well because sometimes a friend or a mentor can say things to
us that a spouse can’t. If we want to be healthy pastors, we need to find these people and we
need to cultivate good relationships with them. Then we need to invite them to speak into our
lives because just like with a church, the “outside” perspective needs to be invited in. Finally,
we need to listen, pray and adjust based on what God is saying through these people.
Letting an “outsider” in can be difficult. Many of us don’t like being vulnerable in this way. And I
know the horror stories of people who have been burnt by folks they put their trust in. But we
need this – for us, our churches and the Kingdom, we need to be healthy.
A couple of final thoughts. First, this is a good idea for all of us, not just pastors. We should all
cultivate the kind of relationships where others can speak the truth in love into your life and help
you grow in self-awareness.
Second, the “invited in” part is crucial. We may think we are being helpful when we point out things to our pastor or others. But if we are not invited in, we are doing damage and something
unhealthy. So pray for each other, including your pastor when you notice something. And,
when invited, be careful to speak the truth in love so you are actually helping.
One of the greatest gifts God has given us is the gift of each other. Let’s take what God has
given and use it to be healthy.
Marc McAlister is the Director of Church Health for The Free Methodist Church in Canada | [email protected]