Governing Guardians

Who Are You

I remember when a dear friend pulled me aside after church. He was very uncomfortable and as he began to speak he became more and more upset. He was very angry about something happening in our church and I felt he was attacking me! Have you ever experienced surprising interpersonal conflict? Have you ever experienced conflict with church people? “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.”1
I’m learning that many of the conflicts we experience may be better understood if we learn about one another’s personality types and spiritual gifts. I will share one often misunderstood personality type and one often misunderstood spiritual gift as examples of how we can learn to understand one another better.
One sometimes misunderstood personality type as classified by the Myers-Briggs personality inventory is the “guardian.” The Myers-Briggs has four measures of personality: Extrovert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving. David Keirsey in his books exploring personality types based on these measures, calls a person with the “SJ -Sensing and Judging” combination to be a “guardian.” Keirsey suggests the personality type “guardians make up as much as 40 -45% of the population.”2 “Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, hardworking,”2 and “loyal.”2 They are “dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials, customs, and traditions.”2 They “sometimes worry that respect… even a fundamental sense of right and wrong is being lost.”2 They “have a sharp eye for procedures”2 and are “cautious about change.”2
Beyond this, Keirsey classifies people with the ISFJ personality combinations (Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) as “guardian protectors.” He says, “we are lucky that guardian protectors make up as much as ten percent of the population, because their primary interest is in the safety and security of those they care about.”3 “Protectors have an extraordinary sense of loyalty and responstibility,”3 and “prefer to make due with time honored and time-tested procedures rather than change to new.”3 “Protectors value tradition,”3 and “are seldom happy in situations where long established ways of doing things are not respected.”3 “They are frequently misunderstood and undervalued… as their shyness is often misjudged as stiffness, even coldness, when in truth they are warm hearted and sympathetic, giving happily of themselves to those in need.”3 Those is church leadership should be intentional about seeking to understand and appreciate the “guardians” God has placed among us. This is just one example, as there are at least 15 other personality types we need to learn to understand and communicate with.
When we look at spiritual gifts, one sometimes misunderstood gift is the gift of administration. I Corinthians 12: 1 says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts I do not want you to be unaware…there are a varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Down in verse 28, God tells us he has “appointed in the church… gifts of… administrations” or governments (Kubernesis 2941). This gift enables a person to “organize”4 and see things that need to be made right in the church. They have a strong sense of the best way to do something. They have the ability to “steer, or govern”4 areas of the church. This is a very important gifting and one that the church needs to flourish.
However, most pastors do not have this administrative gift. “Barna reminded us that preaching and teaching are the primary giftings in nearly 70% of all pastors, while leading and administrating are found in 15% at best.”5 Most pastors have teaching gifts or shepherding gifts, and this is where it gets interesting: teachers and shepherds often have conflict with administrators. Pastors and leaders without this gift need to learn to appreciate and understand those with the gift of administration. I would suggest that pastors and leaders without this gift need to find someone with this gift and empower them to help the church be as fruitful as it can be. Likewise, I would suggest to administrators: “Sometimes (those with the gift of administration) have to watch that they do not overstep their authority and expect the pastor or others in leadership to follow them.”6 They should also be aware “they often do not admit to mistakes.”6 The best use of the administration gift is to “harmonize the whole program,”6 and keep everyone on the boat until it makes it to a safe harbor. We all need to appreciate the gifts in others, and learn to communicate with and empower leaders with different gifts. This is just one example, as there are at least 18 other spiritual gifts we need to grow in understanding.
As an extroverted idealist teacher, I am blessed to have introverted guardian protectors in my family. We don’t communicate the same, but we love each other! And as a church leader, I have been blessed to have been helped by those with gifts of administration. Often the voice of concern, I find there’s often a great deal of wisdom in that voice.
Looking back at the conflict with my friend, now I would guess he has the personality type of guardian and maybe the spiritual gift of administration. His anger was created out of his fear for the wellbeing of our church, and his concern that things were not being done in the right way. Arguing with him, or meeting his anger with my own upsetness was not going to help. He needed to know I had heard the concern he felt for our church. It’s only when someone feels heard that they can be willing to hear a differing opinion. He also needed to hear that I cared about him and his opinion. 1 Corinthians 12:25, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
I care about people. And when we disagree I’m learning to “hear” through each one’s personality type and “hear” through their spiritual gift. I can care for people I am different from, even if we disagree. I hope they can care for me too.

1 Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.


The Success of Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel


I was recently asked what defines ministry success for me?  Is success being liked by everyone?  Having everyone get along?  Everyone saved?  Everyone’s needs met?  Having a lot of money?  So I have spent time thinking about what the Bible says about success and I think there are three “F”s of success to consider… Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.

Years ago I had the privilege of working on a farm.  Whether we were planting or harvesting, ultimately everything we did all year was to have a good crop.  The same is true in our organization.  The Bible says, “Every tree is recognized by it’s fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers”  Luke 6:44.  People do not seek out prickly, upset, or hurtful people.  The Bible says we can grow in the fruit of the Spirit, becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, full of the goodness of God, faithful, gentle, and long suffering.  We will be successful if we communicate the FRUIT of the Spirit.

When we were harvesting we would have to stop to unload when the combine was full. We were receiving feedback from the machine.  Some farms have a grain cart so they unload while moving.  The combine driver and the driver of the grain cart have to be able to communicate and listen to each other, and the cart has to be perfectly positioned under the combine spout or there will be grain all over the ground.  The cart driver can be confident he’s doing well, but if the combine stops for a rock and the cart driver doesn’t listen, grain will be spilled.  Often times in a position of leadership, we feel really sure we know which way to go which leaves no room to listen to others.  However God never meant for this to be a one man show.  He intended it to be a body with many parts.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “ I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 1 Co 12:21We will be successful if we listen to FEEDBACK.

If the weather is good and we can unload on the go, the only thing that stops the harvest are the needs of the machinery.  While Air Force One can fuel on the go, our tractors and trucks have to stop for fuel.  Each morning we would spend an hour greasing and fueling the equipment.  Often late in the day we would have to take a break and refuel.  Sometimes we would have to stop to attend to a breakdown.  I’m so thankful the farmer doesn’t have to pick each piece of grain or carry it all to the elevator by himself. So he’s willing to stop and make sure the equipment has what it needs.  The Bible says God gave (church leaders) to prepare and equip God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith Eph 4:12  We will be successful if we take time to FUEL others, preparing, equipping, and supporting those who serve with us.

May we experience ministry success as we grow in Fruit, Feedback, and Fuel.

Joggling Pastoral Transitions


Recently I saw a commercial featuring marathon joggler Michal Kapral, who set a world record in running a full marathon while juggling, otherwise known as joggling.  While in a pastoral transition I could relate to the high pace of life while trying to keep multiple balls in the air.  See Michal talk about this …

Pastoral ministry is much like juggling while running a marathon.  There are certainly times of fatigue and endurance.  There is as much mental stamina required as physical, oh, and spiritual stamina too!  What most people may not realize is that every pastor I know, whether serving in a one pastor church, or those serving in a multiple staff churches, every pastor is running and juggling multiple things while trying not to let one of those balls drop.  And when a ball does drop, there’s the grief of people focusing on the one ball bouncing alongside rather than the successful juggling and running act being performed right in front of their eyes!  This criticizing the imperfect circus act can feel very isolating.

I find the same is true in my walk with Jesus.  Why is it that before becoming a Christian, I didn’t feel good enough for God apart from Jesus, but now that I’m in Christ, I don’t feel good enough for God with Jesus?  I’m also focused on the one ball bouncing alongside this miraculous event of the Holy Spirit functioning within me?  The Holy Spirit’s ministry in me makes me look like I’m running and juggling at the same time!

While in a pastoral transition we often find ourselves juggling a few new balls on top of the usual.  There’s the ball of insecurity that comes with a new position or the lack of one.  There’s the ball of new problems and/or new responsibilities to face.  And then there’s that big medicine ball of fear that comes with a transition.  Ever tried to juggle a medicine ball and two tennis balls?!  We have to learn to administrate new things to get this ship back to safe harbor!

When life is moving too fast and there’s too many balls to juggle, I’m reminded of the story of Mary and Martha.  Jesus says Martha is worried and upset about many things, including her project partner.  But Mary is at peace and enjoying what is most important, a forever friend.

So in joggling pastoral transitions, may we overcome the tendency to be discouraged, worried, or upset about things like our project partners, and may we enjoy the forever friends that He provides along the way.

Oh, and way to go, you juggle and run really well!

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,

1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,”, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation,, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,”, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,”, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,”, March 1986.

About Choose Mercy

Choose Mercy was birthed on a journey from wrath to mercy. While many in the church think wrath is the appropriate response to disagreement, we think the New Testament calls us to choose mercy (Col. 3:12) We have a passion for supporting and encouraging pastors and their wives and children.  This comes from the comfort we have received in our own pastoral experiences and witnessed in the lives of pastoral colleagues. Unfortunately the pain of church conflicts, forced exits, health challenges, broken family relationships, and personal failures often leave us wondering how to move forward. Our greatest desire is for each of God’s children to know their Father’s heart for them, and for pastors to personally experience the love and grace they have preached to others for so many years.  If you know of a pastor in transition that we can come alongside, please email