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7 more ways to raise a pastor’s performance potential

| by Jim Farrer

According to a 2010 Lifeway survey, 42 percent of ministers work 60 or more hours a week. A turnaround situation demands extra energy to meet current needs and to also cultivate new members and assimilate them. Here are seven more ways to enhance your performance potential. (See "Raising the pastor's performance potential" for additional strategies.)

Establishing better rapport

Neuro-linguistic programming claims that people process information along different sensory channels. Most speakers tend to use one particular predicate pattern. However, by mixing these channels and using a variety of verbs/terms in a sermon, a preacher can address and become more intelligible to a greater percentage of parishioners. Below are examples:

Unspecified: know, understand, believe, think, consider
Visual:see, focus, show, look, picture
Auditory:hear, listen, how quietly
Kinesthetic: get a handle on, firm grip, rough idea
Olfactory: fresh, savor, taste, how sweet


As a rookie preacher, I was told by a church leader in a kind way that during the sermon I “fiddled with my wedding ring and shifted from foot to foot like a 12-year-old boy asking a girl for a dance.” I started to give my ring to my wife before worship. I also discovered that I needed to outline my sermon in a more in-depth manner.

For physical grounding when entering the pulpit, I imagine my energy being pushed down through my feet into the floorboards and rafters below. For spiritual grounding, pastors need enough intercessors to under-gird their preaching in prayer.

Smarter by smelling

According to Alan Hirsch, MD, head of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, air scented with lemon spray decreased errors by 54 percent. A light jasmine fragrance resulted in quicker thinking.

Retaining visitors

Pastors often get the blame when new folks do not come back after a first-time visit. The pastor could use and share the following information to increase the likelihood of their return.

First-time visitors will likely make up their minds whether or not to return within the seven minutes before worship starts and during the next seven minutes. First impressions are lasting!

According to evangelism professor and author Ben Johnson, up to 80 percent may return if they hear their name pronounced correctly three times.

The loneliest time for the visitor is immediately following worship. A person who was friendly to the visitor at the greeting time may leap up to comfort someone whose family member was named during the prayer time as having a health crisis, thus leaving the newcomer alone.

Since 24 percent of Americans are introverts, can you add quiet time into the worship service? Consider adding silence after a Bible reading and before the spoken prayer. One pastor quotes the advice of Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God,” and then admonishes the congregation to invite the Lord to come even closer during this moment of silence.

Remembering names

Pastors are often introduced to a group of people. For some, remembering one name, much less five or six, can be as difficult as recalling all of one’s computer passwords.  Douglas J. Herrman, PhD of the University of Maryland gives this advice: Say the name(s) to yourself under your breath, keep repeating it, waiting an extra second each time until there are four to five seconds between the repetitions.

Five-minute ministry

Alan E. Nelson, author of Five-Minute Ministry, believes that 80 percent of ministry potential lies within five-minute opportunities. Jesus did much of his ministry in brief encounters. We recall Jesus’ blessing the children, the chat with the woman at the well and the healing of the lame man at the pool of Bethesda.

Sometimes these brief engagements opened doors for extended ministry, as when Jesus called forth each of his disciples or asked Zacchaeus to come down from the tree.

Nelson uses the acronym SALT to recall all that is necessary when we meet someone: Say something, Ask a question, Listen, and Turn the conversation into something deeper.

In today’s culture texting is quick. However, Nelson asserts that people will save a brief “thinking of you” card or “way to go” postcard message.

Use the stress charts

Pioneering studies at the University of Washington Medical School by psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe show that certain life events cause increased stress. By contacting adults at the death of a spouse, hospitalization, divorce, health crisis, marriage, retirement, etc., we find them more receptive to both our caring and the Gospel. For youth, in addition to relationship issues stress is high at the start of school and prior to big tests and tryouts for sports and musicals.

Which of these easy-to-implement suggestions will you find most helpful in your ministry?

Photo source: istock

Jim Farrer

A broadly-trained church consultant, Jim Farrer is the founder of Vital Signs Church Consulting and a member of the Society for Church Consulting. A veteran of ministry positions in Canada and the U.S., he has trained leaders from 18 denominations and led seminars and coaching sessions nationwide. His articles have been published in the Journal of Evangelism and Missions and the Great Commission Research Journal. You can reach him by e-mailing or calling 814 629-5211.

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