Monday, October 13, 2008

On the Nature of Pastors

On the MMPI test, pastors usually get about a 90% NAR score. NAR measures the "Need for Affirmation and Reinforcement."

We usually score from 90 - 95% on the PAS scale. PAS stands for "Paranoid Subtle" - it is a measure of perceived specialness.

And then there is the OH number, which runs on average from 85-90%. OH is "Over-controlled Hostility."

So basically that means we get really upset about the one person out of one hundred who didn't like the sermon that God obviously inspired us to preach, but we pretend it doesn't bother us at all. We're just a bunch of insecure divas with anger management issues, when you get down to it.

But honestly, why do these psychological test numbers tend to line up in this direction for pastors? Do these inherent personality traits make someone pastoral? Or does being a pastor tend to make someone this way?

A lot of pastors joke about our psychological assessment as a test to see if we are crazy enough to be a pastor! (ha, ha - very funny.)

Personally, it never fails but that for the 99 people who got something out of the sermon, I will fret over the 1 who complains. I like to make a decision that makes people happy. I line up pretty well with the NAR score, I've gotta confess.

And I have been known to talk about how God called me into this ministry. How much more special might I think I am, for goodness sake? So yep, I've got your PAS, right here!

I would talk about my OH level, but that would just make me mad so I'm not going to.

All of this stuff is instructive for a couple of reasons. First of all, pastors are people who need a trusted friendship with someone who neither has power over the pastor nor over whom the pastor has power. Not another pastor of the same denomination who is or may one day be a supervisor. Not a parishioner. Someone to talk to with complete trust and openness, in order to process and deal with life, to express emotion and vent the tension.

Secondly, a lot of pastors just need to get over ourselves! Unpuff your ego for a minute and just be okay with the fact that you are a fallible human being who can't make everyone happy all the time. By the way, I think one way to do this would be to fail on purpose! You know, like preach a real stinker of a sermon or make a really inane suggestion at a board meeting or something - "I was thinking of designating this coming Sunday as 'bring a rutabega to church Sunday' - what do you think?"

I'm not trying to make light of anything, but maybe some of the pressure on pastors comes from pastors' own expectations of ourselves, moreso than our perceptions of what our congregations expect of us. I'd venture to guess that the most important thing for a congregation is just to know and get along with their pastor. In other words, just be friendly. Be nice. Smile.

People in the congregation know that the pastor is a real person, and do not expect perfection. Relax - be yourself - have fun! I don't know if our NAR, PAS, and OH scores would go down any, but we'd probably be a lot happier.


(I learned all of those numbers from Rev. Jerry DeSobe of the Krist Samaritan Center in Houston.)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Amos would score?
-M

John said...

Secondly, a lot of pastors just need to get over ourselves! Unpuff your ego for a minute and just be okay with the fact that you are a fallible human being who can't make everyone happy all the time. By the way, I think one way to do this would be to fail on purpose! You know, like preach a real stinker of a sermon or make a really inane suggestion at a board meeting or something - "I was thinking of designating this coming Sunday as 'bring a rutabega to church Sunday' - what do you think?"

Yeah, there is a Professional Wise Man personality dominant in our profession. I've met far too many collared people who are too in love with the sound of their own voices.

Pastor Amanda said...

I'm taking all of these again now, for my second psych profile. Joy.

Anonymous said...

About expectations put upon pastors by the congregations - Way back in the old days, when your Dad was at his first church, we decided to go to the district picnic. A common complaint among pastors was then and is now that people just don't treat "us" like regular people. Why can't they understand that we are just like everyone else. Back to the picnic - when we arrived at the park, where it was about 95 degrees in the shade, there were all the pastors in their polyester leisure suits. We had on cut-offs and t-shirts because it was definitely a cut-offs and t-shirt occasion. Now why in the world would people not be able to see pastors as just regular people?

cb

Stresspenguin said...

This post was a timely one for me. I just had church council meeting that went way south, with a woman yelling at me from across the table because she was upset about the way I do just about everything. It shook me up pretty badly. When I came home, here was your post sitting in my reader. I needed these words badly to recenter and remind myself who I am and what I'm called to be.

Thanks.