6 Characteristics of Revitalizing Pastors

Not everyone has the “right stuff.”

We often tell our children that they can be anything they want to be, but this isn’t entirely true. It’s a nice sentiment, but it’s just false.

At this point in life, my chances of being a professional football player are nil. Why? I’ve never played on any team, ever. Not in school as a kid, and certainly not in college. I like football, but I can’t be a football player. I don’t have the right stuff.

This is an obvious example, but there are less obvious ones, too.

My father-in-law is an accountant by trade. I couldn’t do what he does. I’m specialized in understanding the nuances of church budgets, but to be a good accountant your brain needs to work a certain way. Mine doesn’t work that way. I don’t have the right stuff.

Being a revitalizing pastor requires having the right stuff. Some have it, and some don’t. That can be hard to hear, but it needs to be said.

The book Re:Vision by Malphurs and Penfold dives deep into what the “right stuff” looks like for revitalizing pastors. If you want an in-depth look at the topic, I highly recommend this resource.

Ultimately they identified six “bucket” characteristics that were necessary for succeeding as a revitalizing pastor.

Here are the six characteristics of revitalizing pastors:


Successful revitalizing pastors have the ability to see things as they could be, not just how they are. It doesn’t take a skilled leader to notice problems, but it takes a visionary leader to see the opportunity within the problems. Pastors that struggle to develop a clear vision for the future, or fail to communicate it effectively, will not be successful in revitalization.

Effective in Communication

Writing a sermon is one skill. Delivering a sermon effectively is a different skill. Commanding the room during a meeting is a different skill. Clearly communicating plans to the congregation and teams is a different skill. Successful revitalizing pastors need all of these skills. Communication drives change, and leaders that are poor communicators in the pulpit or the board room will struggle in revitalization.

Team Builder

Successful revitalizing pastors know that they cannot carry the burden of the revitalization process alone. Knowing how to build and lead through teams is a necessary skill. Moving from committee-driven (generally marked by discussions) to team-driven (generally marked by action) leadership is a difficult transition for declining churches. Yet successful revitalizing pastors value team-building and are effective in moving their church to value it, too.


Successful revitalizing pastors aren’t afraid to try new things. In fact, they thrive on it. Many pastors in declining churches aren’t afraid of new things, but they are afraid of ruffling feathers. Pastors that want to succeed in revitalization need to be more afraid of failing at being a Great Commission church than they are that Deacon Deep Pockets will complain and leave the church. It’s not only important to have the capacity to think outside of the box, but it’s critical to have the commitment to act outside of the box.

Strategically Minded

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals; we fall to the level of our systems.” I cringe a bit when pastors say, “I’m not a systems guy,” or “I’m kind-of bad with the details.” The details matter. You don’t have to be a skilled administrator to be good with the details. If you care about the details, you’ll empower someone who is good at managing them. Point to any function of a church that is failing, and I can nearly always find a system that’s dysfunctional. Successful revitalizing pastors think biblically about strategic things and think strategically about biblical things.

Have the Right Temperament

Unfortunately, one of the biggest determining factors for successful revitalizing pastors is temperament. I say “unfortunately” because this is the one area that’s hardest to change. You can grow in the other leadership skills, but your temperament is largely the byproduct of your hard-wiring and your upbringing. Successful revitalizing pastors tend to be extroverted, not introverted. And they tend to be fast-paced, not slow to change. Awareness is the key. You might not be able to change your temperament, but you can have enough emotional intelligence to choose the right behavior in a leadership situation, even if it’s not what comes “naturally” to you. We dive deep into the role of temperament in Lesson 1 of our free Preparing Your Church for Revitalization course.

So, do you have the right stuff?

As you look at these six categories, is there one where you know you struggle? How can you grow in it?

Still not sure if you’re a revitalizing pastor?

We have a free self-assessment that was developed by Dr. Aubrey Malphurs. You can take it online right now by clicking below. You will self-assess your ability in 25 specific competencies proven to be critical to successful revitalizing pastors. At the end, you’ll receive a score along with a scoring guide.

Scott Ball is the Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group. He lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two children. (Email Scott).

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