God does not promise happiness, so believers should not feel entitled to it. However, I don’t believe God desires for His children to be unhappy.
Happiness is about your emotions, while joy is a God-given posture. The former often rises and falls based on external factors. The latter is an internal stabilizer provided by the Holy Spirit. Joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit and a greater pursuit than happiness. But seeking happiness is not a fruitless endeavor.
Pastors should lead with their emotions. Being a spiritual leader requires an emotional investment in people. Shepherding a church is more than theological truths and spreadsheets. Likely, you will experience a broad spectrum of emotions as you lead others. Sadness, anger, confusion, and other emotions will happen as you lead. But generally, I believe pastors should be happy.
What is your default emotion? How would congregants define you emotionally? My pastor is sad. My pastor is angry. My pastor is confused. My pastor is happy is the better option.
Leaders go out in front and show the way. Your emotions are included. If you are regularly happy, then people who follow you will also tend to be happier.
Happiness is tactical. Simple actions can often change your mood, even in the moment. Consider these five basic tactics to be a happier pastor.
1. Don’t weaponize social media. Posting on social media is just as loud as standing on a street corner with a megaphone. If you’re consistently angry and loud on social media, then your emotions will be heard by everyone. Literally everyone. The entire world. Social media anger should be used only in the most significant of cases. Would you take a megaphone into a grocery store and yell about an issue? If not, then keep it off social media. Being quarrelsome is a disqualifier from ministry in the same way as adultery. Consider a better option. Make your social media feed an encouragement campaign. Happy pastors are not social media trolls.
2. Be more generous with your one-on-one time. Check your calendar. How often do you spend time with church members individually? You should have one-on-one time with a different church member every week. Any pastor of any size church should have this time with people. Take the initiative to spend more time individually with various church members. Have a no-agenda approach. Happy pastors enjoy the presence of people.
3. Make a small gesture of appreciation every day. Handwrite a thank-you note. Send a grateful text. Stop and pray with someone. Purchase an unexpected gift card for a key volunteer. If you have staff on the church campus, practice management by walking around and giving random compliments. Happy pastors demonstrate regular appreciation to those around them.
4. Lead with levity more often. Tell a joke. Pull a prank. Be silly with a kid. Ask an elderly member to tell you a funny story. Levity is one of the most significant ways pastors can connect with the people they lead. Happy pastors laugh a lot and help others laugh as well.
5. Celebrate little wins in a big way. Organizational culture typically changes in steps, not leaps. When you make a big deal about the little steps, then the little steps happen more often, and you tend to move more quickly. You go farther with speed walking than the long jump. Bring donuts to committee meetings and thank members for progress made. Incorporate more stories into your sermons involving the impact of behind-the-scenes volunteers. Create an appreciation award for a church leader and present a trophy or plaque. Happy pastors take many small steps but make big progress over time.
Spiritually, joy supersedes happiness. But I also believe happy pastors are better shepherds for their congregations.
Posted on February 2, 2022
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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