How Prevalent are People Pleasing Pastors?

This February Inter-Varsity Press will release my third book titled, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership with a forward by Dr. Ed Stetzer. When I began writing the book, I sought to discover how prevalent people pleasing motivations existed among pastoral leadership.  What I found  confirmed my suspicion.

people pleasing leaders

I commissioned several phases of research on nearly 2,300 pastors that included men, women, young, old, poorly educated, and highly educated from both large and small churches in North, Central, and South America. Surprisingly 79% of those leaders in one survey of 1,000 pastors and 91% in another survey of over 1,200 pastors admitted to people-pleasing tendencies to some degree in their respective ministries.

In one survey I provided a opportunity for pastors to anonymously share their pleaser stories. So many pastors responded that I compiled over 100 single spaced pages filled with heart breaking stories of how people pleasing hindered their ministries. My research also dug deeper to find out the negative effects pleasing caused. Leaders responded that when people pleasing influenced their leadership, these difficulties occurred in their respective ministries.

  • Difficulty in leading the church as you believe you should: 32%
  • Difficulty in accomplishing personal and spiritual goals: 31%
  • Difficulty with the lay leaders in your church: 29%
  • Difficulty in handling the same situation down the road: 27%
    • In the Lifeway sample of pastors in churches over 250, 37% said this was an issue.
  • Difficulty with your staff: 23%
    • In the Lifeway sample of pastors in churches over 250, 38% said this was an issue.
  • Difficulty in your family: 17%

Even though people pleasing can negatively affect our spiritual leadership, we can make changes, which is the gist of my book. In fact, I believe that when we appropriately deal with our pleaser tendencies, we’ll experience these positive effects.

  • greater creativity
  • healthier teams
  • vision clarity
  • renewed passion
  • more internal peace
  • clearer decision making
  • successful conflict management
  • decreased anxiety
  • less defensiveness
  • clarity in hearing God’s quiet voice
  • more fruit from spiritual disciplines
  • less mental distractions

If you’d like to see a cool video about the book, you can view it here. The book is available now for pre-order on all the online sites.

I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.

–Herbert Bayard Swope, American editor and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize

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Some content taken from People-Pleasing Pastors by Charles Stone. Copyright(c) 2014 by Charles Stone. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

New Ministry Projects: 5 Essentials You Must Put in Place First

As I’m beginning my first month at my new church as Lead Pastor, West Park Church in London, Ontario, I’m in a big learning curve. I not only need to understand a new church culture, but a new country culture as well. So, I’m developing what I’m calling my six month on-boarding plan to best discern what needs to be done.

planning tools

A book that’s really helped me create my plan and one that I recommend for pastors transitioning to a new church is, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins. He also has an iPhone app as well. The book is a must read. He suggests that before you implement a change, you must make sure you have these five supporting planks in place.

  • Awareness. A critical mass of people is aware of the need for change.
  • Diagnosis. You know what needs to be changed and why.
  • Vision. You have a compelling vision and a solid strategy.
  • Plan. You have the expertise to put together a detailed plan.
  • Support. You have sufficiently powerful alliances to support implementation.

So the next time you plan a new ministry initiate, consider these pillars.

What other pillars would you add?

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Reference: Watkins, Michael D. (2013-04-23). The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter (Kindle Locations 1711-1715). Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition

The Trust Deficit: Take this quiz & discover if your team has it

Trust: “the belief that someone is reliable, good, honest or effective (Merriam-Webster).” Healthy ministry teams make trust building a priority. Patrick Lencioni, one of today’s best writers on leadership believes that absence of trust is the biggest problem among dysfunctional teams (see his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team). Stephen M. R. Covey wrote an entire book that shows how teams can build trust called The Speed of Trust. So, how do you know if your team has a deficit?

erasing suspicion concept illustration

Honestly answer these questions to gauge the trust deficit in your team.

  1. Does a spirit of suspicion lurk in team members’ minds?
  2. Do team members overly rely on email in lieu of talking?
  3. Do team members often wear facades?
  4. Is there too much “happy talk” which masks true problems?
  5. Are team members reluctant to share their honest feelings and opinions?
  6. Do team members resist meeting together?
  7. Has the team lost enthusiasm?
  8. Has grumbling and complaining  become the norm?
  9. Is the leader inconsistent?
  10. Do some team members intentionally withhold information from others?

How did you do? If you answered yes to more than one or two questions, your team may be facing a trust deficit.

So how do you rebuild trust?

In my next blog I will suggest a few ideas. But here’s what I suggest as a first step. Get the book The Speed of Trust for you and your team and read it. It’s a great read. Here’s a summary of the book to get you started.

What other behaviors have you seen that may indicate lack of trust in a team?

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Why Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence

One way to grow your emotional intelligence, a crucial trait for successful leaders, comes by reading broadly. One of the best leadership bloggers today and my friend, Dan Black, just released his new book, The Leadership MandateHe is offering readers of my blog an extended chance to receive 6 special bonuses (valuing over $85) when they purchase his book and forward the Amazon receipt to (Be sure to include the word “Mandate” into the forwarded email.) You can see the bonuses by clicking here. You can purchase the book through Amazon by clicking here.


Dan truly understands leadership and you’ll love this book (and grow your emotional intelligence). To get a taste of his writing, I’ve posted one of his blog posts here about emotional intelligence. 

The Sleepy Leader’s Brain

God created sleep not only to cure sleepiness, but to serve our bodies and brains in many beneficial ways. Unfortunately, many leaders, especially pastors, try to lead without getting  adequate sleep and live with a sleepy leader’s brain. When we don’t get enough sleep, our brains don’t work as well. Thus, we don’t lead at our best.

So what happens when we don’t get enough sleep, besides feeling sleepy? Here’s what the experts tell us happens to our brains when we don’t get adequate sleep.