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Vol. V, No. 2


What do Lay People Want in their Pastors?  

Ask a woman what she wants in a man, and a congregation what it wants in a pastor, and you’ll likely get the same answer: A sense of humor and an ability to laugh.

Those are among the conclusions of a comprehensive study of denominational executives and lay members in seven denominations by Hartford Institute researcher Adair T. Lummis. She finds that a sense of humor is a subtle but important indicator of whether a pastor and a congregation are culturally compatible. Congregations want pastors who understand their values and their way of life. An ability to laugh at life’s joys and sorrows may provide a clue as to how the pastor and congregation will get along.

It may also be an important indicator of a pastor’s people skills, yet another factor congregations consider in their search for a pastor. Lay leaders on pastor search committees said they want a pastor who was a “people person,” an extrovert, someone who could easily relate to other people, look them in the eye and show a genuine sense of caring.

But Lummis’ study, titled “What do Lay People Want in Pastors,” concludes that, first and foremost, lay leaders want a pastor with an authentic religious life. Most lay people define that as a person whose faith combines both head and heart; a person whose lifestyle is spiritually inspiring to others. The most visible place where these qualities come together is at Sunday morning worship — and that’s one reason candidates for the pastor position are typically expected to preach a sermon before they are selected for the job.

You can read more of the summary of Adair's work on our web site at.  The material for this study is derived in part from our Pastoral Search Inventories.

Related Links:

Pastoral Profile from the Pulpit and Pew Clergy Leadership Study http://pulpitandpew.org/first-and-second-career-clergy-some-comparisons-and-questions

How do pastors practice leadership http://pulpitandpew.org/how-do-pastors-practice-leadership

The Ministry and the Message: What Americans See and Read About Their Leaders http://pulpitandpew.org/ministry-and-message-what-americans-see-and-read-about-their-leaders-summary

What's New on our site:

Hartford Institute announces a revision and update to its popular Pastoral Search and Church Planning Inventories (mentioned above).  These Inventories have been used by hundreds of congregations in recent years.  The new products can be seen in the Congregational Resources section of this site.  This survey and reporting procedure helps congregations gain valuable information during crucial times in the life of their church.  The Institute will collect this information anonymously and routinely report interesting findings from the dataset, such as Adair Lummis’ report above did. 

We have recently posted one of Robert Bellah’s articles entitled Is There a Common American Culture?  This is a 1998 article that was originally published in The Journal for the American Academy of Religion.

We just added a new bibliography of Megachurch books, articles and other writings.  This bibliography will continue to be expanded as time allows.  Related to our megachurch material, we have also added a more extensive summary of what makes a megachurch



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