Polarity: Tips for Working with a Type-A-Personality Pastor
I love my pastor, but sometimes I question whether we’re a good fit for each other. I tend to be soft spoken, introspective, and sensitive—your quintessential artistic worship leader. My pastor, on the other hand, is your typical “Type-A” personality: assertive, confident, and driven. I admire him for his strong leadership, bold opinions, and unyielding convictions, but those are the same things I sometimes come up against. Oftentimes our differences drain me and, honestly, make me want to quit my job.
Sometimes the Lord brings unlikely partners together because their differences complement each other, which may very well be the case with you and your pastor. This relationship might never be easy, but you two will accomplish more together than you ever could apart. So, as tempting as it is to leave, that’s not always the best answer. Besides, this will probably not be the last Type-A personality you ever encounter. Better to learn how to get along and work with them now than later. To that end I have five quick suggestions.
REFRAME YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Your pastor may not always relate to you with the same gentleness, attentiveness, or sensitivity that your temperament requires. That’s not a reasonable expectation to lay on him because he’s simply not wired that way. Instead of letting frustration get the best of you, learn to listen to what your pastor is saying instead of how he’s saying it. Respond to what he’s saying instead of taking offense to how he’s saying it.
DON’T ASSUME TOO MUCH
Type-A personalities shoot from the hip. They’re direct and often speak without thinking through all the ramifications of their words. For that reason, be careful not to read more into what they say than is actually there. If they criticize, it doesn’t mean they’re against you. They’re simply calling it like they see it without any intention to hurt you or undermine your leadership.
Recently a friend of mine shared that his pastor pulled him aside and, with typical Type-A intensity, gave him several suggestions for improving the worship ministry. Unfortunately, my friend was offended and responded defensively. He began to worry that his job was on the line. After talking it through though, we came to the conclusion that my friend overreacted. This was nothing more than a case where a pastor had some ideas he wanted to share and blurted them out oblivious to anyone’s personal feelings. When relating to Type-A personalities, be careful not to take something personally that wasn’t meant to be taken that way. And don’t always assume that your pastor’s directives mean he’s unhappy with you. Type-As are critical by nature. They also tend to be intolerant of poor performers. So if you still have a job, it means they like you.
BE DIRECT WITH YOUR COMMUNICATION
Type-As prefer direct communication. They don’t beat around the bush. They say what they mean and mean what they say. If you want to get through to your pastor, make sure you communicate on that same level. Don’t be overly quiet. Speak up. Type-As respect people with strong convictions. And by all means, don’t be a doormat and let anyone with a stronger personality walk all over you. If any leader insults you or demeans you, stand up for yourself and let him or her know a line has been crossed.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT
Sometimes Type-A pastors interpret their worship leader’s silence or low-key response as a lack of enthusiasm or support, when what’s really happening is that said worship leader is processing information and formulating a response. Because your quiet demeanor can be taken the wrong way, make sure you go out of your way to communicate enthusiasm and support for your pastor’s vision and leadership. Pastors need to know you’re “with them,” so whether it’s verbally or by note, email, or text, let them know you’re behind them.
LOVE YOUR PASTOR
Type-A’s make great leaders, but if they’re not careful they can also be controlling, overbearing, demanding, and overly critical. In other words, they’re not perfect and just like any of us, our strengths can also be our weaknesses. If you’ve been deeply hurt by your pastor, ask the Lord to bring you to the place where you can genuinely forgive him or her. If the relationship is broken, do everything you can to reconcile. Loving those who are difficult to love (or just plain difficult) is a sign of Christian character. To paraphrase Jesus’ words from Matthew 19:19: “Love your pastor as your self.”
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Rory Noland is the director of Heart of the Artist Ministries, an organization dedicated to serving artists in the church. He mentors worship leaders, speaks at churches, workshops, and conferences, leads retreats for artists, and consults with churches in the areas of worship and the arts. Rory is also a published songwriter and has authored four books, all published by Zondervan.