Presbyterians expect pastors to be competent, emotionally healthy, genuinely spiritual people who are good listeners.

That finding is from the November 2010 Presbyterian Panel survey on congregational leadership.

The survey presented members of the Panel with a list of 22 skills and characteristics and asked how important it is for pastors (now called teaching elders) of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations to have or demonstrate each.

Four in five or more members, ruling elders and teaching elders agree that each of the following is “essential” for pastors to have or demonstrate: 

  • Active listening
  • Competence
  • Emotional health
  • A personal spiritual life that is genuine and heartfelt

Being a good preacher and worship leader is rated as “essential” by a similar proportion of members, but by somewhat fewer ruling and teaching elders.

Least important are four demographic and employment history characteristics. Almost no members, ruling elders, and teaching elders believe it is “essential” for pastors to: 

  • Be 40 years old or younger
  • Be married
  • Be a parent of a child age 18 or younger
  • Have had a prior career outside of the church

“Presbyterians don’t have a narrow view about what it takes to be a good pastor,” said Perry Chang, Presbyterian Panel administrator.  “But they do think some general qualities are essential:  attending to what others are saying and demonstrating maturity, piety and proficiency.”

Every three years the PC(USA) Research Services office assembles representative samples of Presbyterian church members, ruling elders and teaching elders to respond to questions on different topics quarterly. Known as the Presbyterian Panel, these randomly chosen respondents form a vital means for church leaders to learn about the beliefs and experiences of rank-and-file Presbyterians.

For more information about Panel surveys and other Research Services studies and services, visit the Research Services website or call the office at (800) 728-7228, ext. 5071.