14 Relational Tips for Introverted Pastors

“One of the common complaints I hear is churches wish their introverted pastors were friendlier and more approachable.”

9. Tell three personal stories in every sermon.

While describing his senior pastor’s preaching, a congregant recently said, “He spoke for 45 minutes, and 99 percent of it was the Bible.” Very impersonal. Preaching is simply truth expressed through personality.

If all you do is quote and explain Scripture, people might as well read a chapter of a Bible commentary. People want to know you, so let them get to know you! Be personable from the stage by being transparent. Make fun of yourself.

I encourage preachers to tell an opening story, closing story and one or two good stories in between. Help people feel like they know you from the stage, and the pressure will be off for them to get to know you personally.

10. Always give people “a look, a touch and a word.”

One of the best pieces of advice Robert Schuller gave senior pastors was this: Whenever you encounter people do three things. 1. Give them a look (look them in the eye), 2. give them a touch (a handshake or appropriate hug) and 3. give them a word (say something encouraging to them). That’s magnificent advice for any pastor, let alone introverts. Looking someone in the eye, appropriately touching them and then sharing something encouraging with them is a powerful gift we can give people.

And that’s my encouragement to you. Focus on giving people something—even if it’s just a feeling or a confirmation of love or hope—instead of trying to change their perception of you.

11. When you meet someone new, find out their F-O-R-M.

Russell Johnson, a senior pastor I interned with years ago, always impressed me by how he was able to make a personal connection with every new person he met. He was never at a loss for words. When I asked him how he did it, he shared a simple formula he follows during every new encounter. He asks them about their F-O-R-M: Family, Occupation, Religion, and Mission (what makes them tick). That’s such simple, easy-to-follow advice. One of the keys to being effective in ministry is mastering two-minute connections with the new people we meet. Using F-O-R-M as a conversation guide will make this task much easier.

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12. Regularly tell your people how much you love them.

We should find a way to tell our people each week how much we love them, appreciate them, pray for them, root for them, and are thrilled to be their senior pastor (even when we don’t feel like it). Being in ministry is like being in a marriage. We speak healthy relationships into existence.

If we focus on continually telling our people how we genuinely feel about them (or want to feel about them), they will internalize that. I do this in sermons, on social media and in my weekly “Behind The Scenes with Brian” email that I send to the congregation. But honestly, I don’t do it enough. I love the people I serve, and I want them to know it every week, just like I want my wife to know it, every day.

13. Adopt Jesus’ mental framework of ochloi and mathetai

It’s clear that Jesus saw people in two distinct groups: there were the crowds (ochloi in Greek) that followed him everywhere, and then there were the disciples (mathetai in Greek). He spent time with both, but unevenly. To me, this is how I envision spending time with people on a weekly basis. On Sundays I’m with the ochloi—I preach, pray and minister to every single person that I can. But when the service is over, I spend the rest of the week with the mathetai—throwing myself into my staff and key leaders.

Knowing that Jesus spent hours with the crowds but weeks with his disciples gives me a theological basis for how I structure my time. Having a theological framework guide my relational interactions removes any hint of guilt from not “spending enough time with congregants.” It helps me say, “No,” or, “Sorry, I can’t meet” much easier. Reserve Sundays for the ochloi and throw yourself into teaching, loving healing and serving them. Then, spend the rest of your time pouring into the mathetai (the staff/lay leaders in your church).

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14. Finally, remember that no one likes you as much as you think they do.

The senior pastor of the church where I grew up used to tell people this all the time. Part of the reason we feel such a sting when we hear people complain about us is that we think, at our core, people really, really like us. The reality is, they don’t like you as much as you think they do.

Knowing this lowers expectations. Once we realize this, it’s freeing. It takes the wind out of the sail of our people-pleasing tendencies. A sober self-perception frees us to focus on being instead of performing. It frees us to be “unfriendly” at times towards people who, quite frankly, shouldn’t be coddled or placated.

Jesus certainly never focused on being liked. Neither should we. But we should always concentrate on being gracious. As my missionary friend Avia always tells me: “Brian, be bold and kind.”

Brian Jones is a church planter, author, and the founding and senior pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Philadelphia. This article was originally published on SeniorPastorCentral.com.