Competency, Spirituality, and Core-Identity in Pastors -- By: Richard Parrott

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 35:0 (NA 2003)
Article: Competency, Spirituality, and Core-Identity in Pastors
Author: Richard Parrott


Competency, Spirituality, and
Core-Identity in Pastors

Richard Parrott

Richard Parrott (Ph.D. from Oregon State University) is Executive Director of the Sandberg Leadership Center at ATS.

“I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future
is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to
offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”
Henri Nouwen

The academic pursuit of leadership produces knowledge. Personal and spiritual experience cultivates wisdom. This paper combines both. I have taught and guided 78 pastors the process of producing a personal plan of competency development. Moreover, I have faced and continue to face personal challenges as the executive director of a leadership center. This paper is a reflection on the spiritual needs of pastors who are developing as leaders.

Pastors require spiritual help when developing effective leadership competencies. The spiritual challenge for pastors is to minister out of authenticity. Competent spiritual leaders minister out of a core-identity in Christ. For pastors, effective self-learning is grounded in spiritual practices and resources. The spiritual practice of the desert fathers and mothers is a powerful resource that can lead to authentic core-identity.

The Spiritual Challenge—To Minister Out of Authenticity

In the past 3 years, my colleague, Terry Wardle, and I have conducted in-depth assessments of 47 pastors. These pastors demonstrate a hunger for deeper spirituality and a desire to depend upon spiritual resources. They want to live authentically in Christ. But these pastors also want to be effective in ministry. They desire to make a difference in the lives of others, the community of faith, and society as a whole.

The pastors demonstrate a tendency to exchange personal authenticity for ministry effectiveness. They tie self-identity to people pleasing and performance based self-assessment. Such behavior is dysfunctional for the spiritual leader. It thwarts spiritual hunger and distances spiritual resources. It

displaces the motive for ministry from genuineness to success.

I am conducting a study of 68 pastors deemed excellent by their peers. They report their greatest fear in ministry is being “irrelevant.” They fear that they “will not make a difference,” “the changes won’t last,” “church is out of touch,” “I will not finish well,” “be rejected,” “people will go back into old patterns” or “fall out of the will of God.” To appear “irrelevant” seems to be a primary test of spiritual leadership. Scott Rodin calls this the challenge to be a “l...

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