I based my third book, People-Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership on significant research around people pleasing. As a scripturally based book, it incorporated fascinating insight about how our brain influences our leadership and our tendencies to appease and please others in unhealthy ways. To discover how pervasive people-pleasing is in the ministry I gathered research from two sources. I contracted Lifeway Research to survey over 1,000 pastors about people pleasing and I added to this research the results of a similar on-line survey of 1200 pastors I did for a total of over 2200 pastoral responses. In this post I’ve created a simple self-evaluation for pastors to determine how much people pleasing affects them.
My research revealed that 70% of pastors agreed that people-pleasing affects their lives and ministries at some level. In the on-line survey I included an option for pastors to anonymously tell their people pleasing stories. I got 100 pages of heart wrenching stories, single-spaced!
Here’s one pastor’s sad story.
In a church that I pastored, there was a major power struggle with several members who remained very close friends with the previous pastor who actively worked to wield control through these members. I often felt unable to measure up, always trying to ‘minister’ to these folks in hopes that I could win them over, and yet being angry that I couldn’t. After two years I left the church and left the ministry. And I felt like a failure as a pastor and as a husband/father.
Is people-pleasing affecting your ministry?
Take this short assessment to see if it is. Mentally check which statements are true of you.
- In my church’s board or leadership meetings, sometimes I don’t speak up on an issue for fear of creating tension.
- Too easily I say yes to someone’s request for me to do something. Later I regret having put that on my plate.
- I will go out of my way to attempt to change someone’s mind who wants to leave my church or ministry.
- Sometimes I get angry at myself for not having stood up or spoken up for what I believe.
- I have kept on a non-performing staff person or volunteer leader too long before making a change.
- When I need to be firm with someone else, I inordinately delay the conversation and/or after I do have the conversation, I realize I didn’t say everything I should have said.
- Sometimes I try too hard to be nice.
- It bothers me when I upset someone. I tend to blame myself for his or her distress.
- I tread lightly around some people in the church because of their moodiness.
- When those around me are angry, I become the peacemaker by trying to get them “un-angry.”
How many did you check? If you checked…
- 1-3: People-pleasing could become a growing issue in your leadership unless you do something soon.
- Keep this issue in prayer and stay vigilant of your tendency in the area(s) you checked.
- 4-6: People pleasing is most likely hindering your leadership and may get worse.
- Find a safe, wise leader in your church or a local pastor with whom you can confidentially share your struggle. Become accountable to him so you can stop unhealthy people-pleasing before it gets out of hand. See my blog here on what to look for in a safe person.
- 7-10: You’re probably angry, anxious, and fearful most of the time and people-pleasing is clearly hurting your leadership.
- Consider seeing a good counselor who can help you ferret out the cause and help you lead less from an approval motivation.
As you deal with your pleaser tendencies, consider this verse.
The fear of human opinion disables . . . (Prov 29.25, The Message)
How have you seen people-pleasing tendencies affect your or other’s ministries?
You can learn more about the book here and view a cool animated video trailer of the book.
“People-pleasing in the ministry: I just took an interesting assessment on people-pleasing.” (tweet this quote by clicking here)