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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

21 Mar '09

Emotional Intelligence in Missions

It is my conviction that one of the most neglected areas in the choosing, training and acceptance of missionaries is that of their emotional intelligence (EQ). Many of the problems that mission teams face revolve around individuals who have poor EQ - causing significant health issues for the team.

Think of these traits and their impact on healthy teams:
-Inability to forgive
-Holding onto hurt
-Assuming poor motives of others without trying to clarity with them what their motives actually are
-Consistent cynicism
-A propensity toward negative attitudes
-Difficulty in accepting those whose views differ from theirs
-A need to have their own way
-Difficulty in maintaining positive relationships with others
-Paternalism in dealing with nationals

These are examples of poor emotional, relational or spiritual emotional intelligence (EQ) and any of these traits compromise the health of teams who often need to work together in the pressured environment of cross cultural ministry. If you are a missionary and have ever encountered these issues you know how toxic these attitudes can be and how much emotional energy is expended in dealing with them.

In their drive to increase their mission force, many missions gloss over these issues and accept candidates with poor EQ. The same can be said for many field leaders who are not perceptive in who they recruit or deploy, assuming that the positive will outweigh the negative.

This is a major mistake that many agencies and teams are realizing as they deal with the fallout of unhealthy individuals.

The result is a significant lack of health on many mission teams globally and great pain caused to other team members who are healthy.
EQ is the ability to understand ourselves, know what drives us, accurately see how we are perceived by others, and know how we relate to others. EQ also measures whether we have the relational skill to work synergistically with others while being 'self defining' and allowing others to speak into our lives or work without defensiveness.
Signs of poor EQ include the inability to listen to others, personal defensiveness, unawareness of how we come across to others, lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others, inability to constructively deal with conflict, a need to control others, narcissism, and the need to have our own way.
Good EQ includes openness to the opinions of others, lack of defensiveness, awareness of who we are and how others perceive us, sensitivity to others, the ability to release others rather than control them, allow for constructive and robust dialogue, and the ability to abide by common decisions.
It is my conviction that mission agencies and mission teams are better off with fewer but healthier missionaries than to compromise on issues of emotional, relational or spiritual health. And, there are ways to measure these.
Where health is problematic those issues ought to be addressed before candidates are accepted. Where they exist on the field, the need to be addressed for the health of the individual, the team and the organization.
Not addressing these issues is unfair to the many healthy and productive personnel that you have in your agency. When an organization does not make health of their personnel a priority, it is the healthy personnel who suffer and its toll on teams is huge.
The number of our personnel should not be our measure of organizational success. The health of our personnel should be. And making health a priority in recruitment, care, and intervention when necessary is critical for healthy ministry and its success.