Eight Ways to Spot Emotionally Healthy Pastors and Staff

William Vanderbloemen is the president and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group, an organization that has helped hundreds of churches and Christian organizations find the right person for the right position at the right time. The organization views emotional health as a key factor in assessing candidates. William recently shared how the firm looks for such candidates.

I found his “eight ways” to be incredibly insightful and helpful, so I am sharing his words mostly verbatim in this post.

1. Does the person constantly compare himself or herself to others?

Theodore Roosevelt is attributed to saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Emotionally unhealthy people compare themselves to others, think the grass is always greener, and even resent others’ success. In contrast, emotionally healthy people are content with what God has given them, confident that God has perfectly equipped them for what He has called them to do, and can celebrate the success of others.

2. Does the person have a victim mentality?

Emotionally unhealthy people keep company with people who bring them down and then blame everyone else when their life isn’t how they want it to be. Conversely, emotionally healthy people don’t act as though the world owes them anything. They don’t waste their time having pity parties or feeling sorry for themselves.

3. Do you hear about forgiveness when talking to this person?

Closely related to number 2, emotionally healthy people don’t hold grudges. They know that harbored anger and resentment will imprison them and affect every aspect of their lives. Emotionally healthy people don’t dwell on the past or obsess about a time someone hurt them.

4. Does this person need to be the center of attention?

Ever been around that person who is needy for attention or constant affirmation? It’s just a guess, but that person probably has some deep insecurity with which they need to deal.

Emotionally healthy persons don’t need or demand recognition. In fact, the most successful people I’ve ever been around almost refuse to let the conversation become about them. They ask about others in the room. They give credit to others. They believe in themselves and “do their own thing,” not needing to fit in or craving affirmation.

5. Can this person say “no”?

Over committing yourself may be a sign that you think you’re superman or that you want others to think you are. If someone can’t say no, they are probably too worried about what everyone else thinks of them. And if someone is too fixated on pleasing others, they may not be emotionally healthy. Likewise, over committing yourself might mean that you’re placing a higher priority on work than on your family/home life.

6. Is this person high on the “drama meter”?

“And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). A firm trust in the goodness of God gives a deep peace that makes one relatively unfazed by change, daily stressors, worries, and tough situations.

Emotionally healthy people don’t have knee-jerk emotional reactions to change or get worked up about things that they can’t control.

7. Does the person have a record of giving back and giving his or her all?

Emotionally unhealthy people hoard their time, talents, and even love. Emotionally healthy people have a spirit of servanthood and give of themselves. Emotionally unhealthy people are afraid to try hard because they might fail. Emotionally healthy people give their all regardless of what they might get in return or what the outcome might be. And if they do fail, are hurt, or are rejected, they don’t give up or begin to withhold their gifts. They continue to give back and give everything they’ve got.

8. Does this person know that joy is a choice?

When Walt Disney said, “Happiness is a state of mind,” he was on to something. Emotionally healthy people know that they have control of their attitude and their responses to situations.

Listen for persons choosing to live out all of the fruit of the spirit, which are clear determiners of emotional and spiritual health: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Here’s a news flash about churches and Christian organizations: They are led by a bunch of people who need a Savior. No team member is perfect, and waiting to find the perfect one means you will always be a team of one. Everyone you bring into your organization will have flaws. But you can mitigate the effect of those flaws if you seek people who are balanced and healthy. When emotionally healthy people are in leadership in the church or other Christian organizations, it creates an entire culture of emotional health and healing. It will make a bigger difference than you can imagine.

I am so grateful to William and his team for these insights and for their ministry. You can download the whitepaper at Vanderbloemen.com, and you can visit their website to learn more about their ministry.

Posted on March 10, 2014

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Lisa Dominguez says on

    Nice list – very business like. How about looking at the Biblical mandates of a Christ Follower in Titus, Timothy, etc? This is article is just more of treating church as a business…it is a broken model that I don’t agree with. However, I agree people need to be emotionally healthy-all Christ Followers should strive for that!

  • This post is right on and one of the most helpful I’ve seen on your blog Thom. I’ve been journeying in the reality of the need for emotional health through the work of Pete and Geri Scazzero, http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org This statement might raise some eyebrows of your readers. “Emotional Health and Spiritual Maturity are inseparable.” Check out Pete’s books; The Emotionally Healthy Church, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Geri’s book is titled; The Emotionally Healthy Woman. What God is uncoverning through the two of them is profoundly transforming for the body of Christ and its leaders.

    • Mark Dance says on

      Thank you Vic. I recently read “The Emotionally Healthy Church” and also thought it was very helpful.

      The book that I am currently reading is Henry Cloud’s “Boundaries For Leaders.” Dr Cloud puts the responsibility for setting the emotional climate into the leader’s hands. “Leaders…prohibit practices and behaviors that sow the seeds of a negative emotional climate in any way, realizing that toxic behavior and emotions impede high performance. They (leaders) disallow silos, compartmentalization, individual agendas, fragmentation, isolation or divisions among their people.”

  • This post is just gold. So succinct. Shared it with our staff team. What a great piece to keep handy as we build our teams. Thank you!

  • The assumption of this post is that hiring emotionally unhealthy people is a mistake. I’d be interested to see a defense of this premise…

    • Mark Dance says on

      It is important to remember that the context to this blog is hiring people into ministry positions. Christian leaders who hire other Christian leaders into ministry have a huge responsibility before them. I agree that “no team member is perfect,” but it is our responsibility to ensure that the candidates are spiritually and emotionally healthy.

      Spiritual health seems to be easier to assess (1 Timothy 3), than emotional health (Galatians 5). At least that has been my experience. In the Corinthian church, we see many examples of spiritual and emotional immaturity that are used interchangeably and indistinguishably. For example, if someone’s actions are immature, it is difficult to know how much is spiritual immaturity and how much is emotional immaturity. Or if someone is disruptive – does he or she have a chemical problem or a character problem…or both? Regardless, hard questions need to be asked before someone is added to your team.

      • My question is, on what basis should emotionally unhealthy people be excluded from ministry?

        Do you see emotional health as static?

        How do you resolve the seeming incongruence of your premise with the maxim “The church is not a beauty pageant, but a hospital for broken people.”

    • Have you ever worked with leaders who are emotionally unhealthy? I think that might be defense enough. (And I say that because I have been one).

  • Aren’t 5 and 7 contradictory? How does the writer think we should both be capable of saying no (which I assume means we actually do say no sometimes) and give our all, all the time?

    • Jim,
      I see what you are saying but I think there is a real difference in putting all you have into your strengths and calling verses jumping at every opportunity in front of you because you want to be perceived as irreplaceable. As church leaders we must understand what we alone can and should be doing and then find or raise up others to do what they are called and or gifted at doing. I have to check myself all the time because my tendency is when I see a need to jump in and get it done. Instead I need to concentrate on my role in the church and encourage others to find theirs.

      • James,
        Good response. I think the fact that many (including myself at one point) would see #5 and #7 as contradictory points to an unhealthy church culture that we have grown up in and promoted. As if we can’t be fully devoted to our Shepherd and fully given to our fellow sheep at the same time. We have much to learn from Jesus’ example.

    • I would say that while I want to give my all to every project I accept, I must say no sometimes because if I accept too much on my plate then I can’t do well at anything. Saying no doesn’t mean you aren’t giving, it might mean you’re already At your capicity.

  • “…an organization that has helped hundreds of churches and Christian organizations find the right person for the right position at the right time.” The Holy Spirit has been doing this for over 2000 years. We need fewer formulas, programs, and experts, and more faith and obedience in, and utter dependence upon, Almighty God!!

  • This is a great thing to think about, as a person might be gifted in an area, but still emotionally unstable. If all I look at is their job performance, I don’t get a full picture of the person. A person could be great at their job (a task) but not stable emotionally.

  • Mark Dance says on

    This list will not only be helpful in assessing the emotional health in future staff, but also for self-assessments. It might be a fair question to ask, “Would I hire me?” Or ask, “What should I change to make myself a better staff member to my own staff?”

    Also, I have never thought of the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) as markers of spiritual AND emotional health. I just re-read Gal 5 and can can see that they are indeed. Both the list in this article and in Galatians are helpful emotional assessments which will help me personally as well as my staff. Thank you Dr Rainer.

  • Tommy Pomeroy says on

    This is very informative and helpful. Thank you for helping me understand how to invest in others for the betterment of the Kingdom.

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