One of the most common complaints I hear from churches is how they wish their introverted Senior Pastors were friendlier and more approachable.
The good news is this can be very easily addressed, without Senior Pastors running themselves into the ground.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years to help introverted Senior Pastors practice being more relational:
1. Don’t focus on friendliness. Focus on displaying the fruit of the Spirit.
Nowhere are we commanded to “be super friendly and outgoing” in Scripture. But we are commanded to be joyful, peaceful, patient and kind. The former is an unrealistic expectation for anyone, introverted or extroverted. It is perception-based. Trying to play to people’s perceptions is a fool’s game. Focus instead on exuding the fruit of the Spirit in every encounter you have.
2. “Many light touches, few deep touches.”
Years ago Steve Sjogren, former pastor of the Cincinnati Vineyard and author of Conspiracy of Kindness, told me the way he survived being a Senior Pastor in a thriving, chaotic church was to be strategic about how often he’d do a “deep dive” with a person. His goal was to physically shake hands and hug as many individuals as possible on Sunday morning. Then he limited the number of 30- to 90-minute intensely volatile emotional encounters he had with people during the week where they shared their problems.
By adopting a strategy like this, it clarifies what you’re trying to do with people. This also creates healthy boundaries for yourself. Probably the best advice I’ve ever learned from Andy Stanley is “do for one what you wish you could do for all.” When we do that, eventually everyone feels the ripples of our love.
3. Smile when you preach.
The good news is that people can know their Pastor, even if they never actually meet their Pastor. Ninety percent of the kinds of complaints about “unfriendliness” we receive stem from how we come across when we preach. Believe me, most people don’t actually want to shake your hand and talk about last week’s game with you. Quite frankly they’re busy, or intimated, or see no real need.
What is important is the perception that you are approachable if they need to approach you in the future. So help them out and smile. Watch yourself on video with the sound off and count the number of frowns vs. the number of smiles. Be brutally honest with yourself. Then change your behavior.
I used to do this with a former worship pastor who never smiled. It just didn’t come naturally. I made him force himself to smile once during each song he led. After a while it became natural, and the friendly guy I knew off stage soon became the friendly guy everyone else knew on stage.
4. Have someone quiz you on people’s names.
Up until we reached 2,000 people in our church I had a staff member bring pictures of people in our church to our staff meetings and quiz us each week. This is incredibly helpful in the 200, 400, 600 and 800 range.
Now I focus on memorizing certain segments of people in the congregation. Knowing someone’s name is the clearest sign that you care. It’s certainly better than calling people, “Hey you…”