Why Understanding and Identifying Emotional Intelligence Is Vital to Ministry

Why Understanding and Identifying Emotional Intelligence Is Vital to Ministry

Think back to the last time you had to deal with a difficult team member. I’m willing to bet that the difficulty was related to their emotional health. This is especially true in ministry where almost every responsibility centers around people’s feelings and spiritual journeys. Unlike corporate jobs, there is an emotional and spiritual weight to every decision made in ministry. If you’re not intentionally hiring emotionally healthy people, you will likely face frustrating personnel issues on your team.

I have seen too many ministries hire a talented team member with an excellent resume, but who is personally out of balance, and later become a detriment to the team.             

At Vanderbloemen Search Group, we’re spending more time and energy than ever before examining candidates’ balance in life (emotional, spiritual, familial, etc.) as we identify top talent for our clients. Studying those traits has convinced me that hiring emotionally healthy people is a key ingredient in the secret sauce of building a superior ministry team.

So What Is Emotional Health?

Emotional health in the workplace is often referred to as emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is defined by Travis Bradberry in the book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, as “The ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. It affects how we manage behavior, navigate social complexities, and make personal decisions that achieve positive results.”

While emotional health and emotional intelligence can be synonymous, I think there is a subtle yet key difference between the two. Emotional health is focused inward on our health as an individual, whereas emotional intelligence acknowledges our personal health, but applies it outwardly to how we understand emotions in others. This is why it is vital to have emotionally intelligent people on your ministry team.

Whether your team member is on the executive leadership team of the church, or a subordinate-level staff leading volunteers, emotionally intelligent individuals can use their emotional awareness to navigate complex interpersonal issues to achieve positive results, as Travis Bradberry said in the quote above.

What Does Emotional Intelligence Look like in the Workplace?

It’s one thing to understand what emotional intelligence is, but what does it look like on a team?

Emotionally intelligent people:

  • Relate well to others.
  • Are at peace with the past, undaunted by the present, and optimistic about the future.
  • Deal with stress, tension, and failures with grace.
  • Are low on the “drama meter.”
  • Are less preoccupied with their problems, and more open and free to be used by God.

In short, emotionally intelligent people can affect significant change for the Kingdom.

Emotionally unintelligent people:

  • Don’t receive feedback well.
  • Put themselves before others.
  • Are insecure about their shortcomings.
  • Have trouble seeing the big picture.
  • Are unable to help carry other people’s emotional burdens because they are too preoccupied with their own.
  • Lack the ability to be empathetic to those around them.

Emotional unhealthiness – and a lack of emotional intelligence, which goes hand in hand with emotional unhealthiness – can be toxic to your ministry team. An individual’s inability to positively connect with others results in a lack of empathy toward team members.

In Empathy: Why it Matters & How to Get It, author Roman Krznaric says, “Empathy in the modern workplace is not just about being able to see things from another perspective. It’s the cornerstone of teamwork, good innovative design, and smart leadership. It’s about helping others feel heard and understood.”

So Why Does Emotional Intelligence Matter in Hiring?

If you have emotionally unhealthy and unempathetic team members in ministry, they likely struggle with one or more of the following ministry responsibilities:

  • Pastoral care and counseling
  • Home or hospital visits
  • Discipleship or nurturing
  • Leading and developing volunteers
  • Leading and developing church staff members

Since many of these responsibilities are crucial to pastoral job descriptions, it’s vital that you are interviewing and hiring for emotionally intelligent pastoral team members.

Our team has created a guide called 8 Ways To Spot Emotionally Elite Candidates for you to use in your interviewing process. It provides eight questions to ask yourself and your hiring team throughout the interview process so that you can focus on hiring emotionally healthy team members who will propel your church forward.

William Vanderbloemen

Vanderbloemen is an entrepreneur, pastor, speaker, author, and CEO/Founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group (VSG), an executive search firm that helps organizations find their key staff. VSG has been named one of Entrepreneur.com’s Top Company Cultures list of small businesses and Houston Business Journal Best Place To Work list four and three times, respectively. VSG recently was named to Houstonia’s 2017 Best Places to Work list and Forbes’ 2017 list of America’s Top Executive Recruiting Firms. Prior to his work in executive search, William led growth and innovation in several churches, including Houston’s oldest congregation, the First Presbyterian Church of Houston. William is a regular contributor to Forbes and Fortune. His latest book, Culture Wins: The Roadmap to an Irresistible Workplace, is available now.