I have in front of me the names of twenty pastors I know well. It did not take me long to assemble the names by the specific trait I was seeking. Simply said, I wanted to find out what names I would write if I were looking for pastors who are joyful. The list was simple, easy, and fun. Just noting each of their names brought a smile to my face.

Yes, I understand that such an exercise is highly subjective. I would not put my evidence before the rigors of scientific research. But I still think the results are worthy of note.

Having gathered the names, I then asked these questions: Why do I think each of these pastors is joyful? More specifically, what traits do I see in them that illustrate the joy that they have? I noted seven such traits.

  1. They read their Bible daily. Their time in the Word is above and beyond sermon preparation time or teaching preparation time. They make certain they read and study the Bible for their own edification and spiritual growth.
  2. They have a daily prayer time. All of them have quiet times alone with God. Many of them include their spouses in additional prayer times. They feel they cannot be the servants that God has called them to be unless they are in regular conversations with the God they serve.
  3. They put their family time on their calendars. I mean that literally. They make certain that their children and spouses have time with them. Most of them have regular dates with their spouses and specific plans for their children each week.
  4. They have a long-term perspective. These pastors understand that the criticism of today will be a non-issue tomorrow. They don’t feel the need to make disruptive changes because they have the luxury of an incremental pace. And they tend to develop rich relationships with members in the church because they plan to be around awhile.
  5. They love to work with and help other churches. They have no sense of competition with other churches in the community. Indeed, they willingly and gladly work alongside them. They have great relationships with fellow pastors who serve in the same ministry area.
  6. They have a great sense of humor. I have spoken to each of the twenty pastors on my list on numerous occasions. It is rare for our conversations to end without some healthy laughter. These pastors take their ministries seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are willing and eager to laugh at themselves.
  7. They rarely blame others or their circumstances. These pastors never have a victim mentality. They take responsibility for their ministries and others. It is rare to hear them complain or engage in conversations about the inadequacies of others or the rotten situation they encountered.

The Apostle Paul wrote from a prison to the Philippian church: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” (4:4, HCSB). His joy was not dependent on his circumstances. His joy was not measured by successes of human metrics. His joy was simply but profoundly in the Lord. So it is with these pastors.

They represent churches in fifteen states. They serve in churches as small as 75 in attendance and as large as multiple thousands. Some have been in very difficult situations, while others have not. Regardless of their lot, they have all found joy in the Lord. The seven traits above are both the result of their joy and the cause of it.

These pastors are my heroes. I need to learn so much more from them.


  1. Larry McKeon says

    Hi Thom, beautiful blog today. I would like to maybe add, unless I missed it :) that I’m sure, as large an audience as you get through this blog alone, there are way more than 20 pastors you can think of that have that joy in their heart. I’m not a pastor, but its so hard to believe there are some pastors out there without this trait. My prayers today are for those pastors still searching for that joy!!! Thanks again and Merry Christmas to you, your family and everyone reading your blog! :)

    • Thom Rainer says

      Larry –

      I indeed could find more than 20 such pastors, many more. I just stopped at 20 so I could write the post!


  2. Keith Ray says

    The last sentence in the fifth item is a dangerous myth. It should read “They strive to have great relationships with fellow pastors who serve in the same ministry area.” I alone do not decide whether or not a fellow pastor is going to have a relationship with me. Just because one does not have a sense of competition or ego does not mean others feel the same.

  3. Allen Calkins says

    Thom, these are great! They should be MEMORIZED by every seminary graduate, perhaps recited like ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ in chapel AND the graduate should have to recite them BEFORE receiving their diploma!

  4. Patsy Chacon says

    AWESOME post. Every post that you write is so meaningful to me and my husband. Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us. GOD bless you

  5. Patsy Chacon says

    Awesome post. Everyday I look forward to reading your post and sharing with my husband we are both so encouraged by all that you have to share. Thank you and GOD bless

  6. Charles Lord says

    encouraging post. Joy says a lot about the state of our heart, not circumstances. I would add to your list that pastors who are joyful are ministering out of the overflow of their daily relationship with God, (your #2 and #3 relate to that). Piper notes that we must make God the center of our joy. (1 John 1:3, 4) what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. Another practice of joyful pastors is their ministry focus is on seeing God at work in their life and the lives of others as they disciple and equip others. I rejoice to see spiritual fruit. “(2 John 1:4) I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. I enjoyed thinking about this. Good work brother Thom.

  7. says

    These habits could apply to just about any profession, don’t you think? Particularly the ones prone to long, stressful hours: teachers and doctors in particular come to mind.

  8. says

    These habits could apply to just about any profession, don’t you think? Especially those with long and/or stressful hours – teachers and doctors in particular come to mind.

  9. says

    Thanks so much for the article and your ministry. You have blessed us all with books and online resourses. You are a great coach to Pastors and those in ministry and we don’t have to pay you buy the hour!
    May God keep using you in a great way!

  10. Doug Miller says

    How impressive it is that these pastors all exhibit these 7 habits. I would find it very unlikely that their prayer times don’t include great times of thankfulness as well. For me personally, I find it hard to have joy if I’m not being thankful as well.

  11. Marc Jobst says

    While these are wonderful traits of a pastor, it is important to mention that joy is not a reward to the fulfillment of some checklist. I would contend that these traits are a response to the gift of joy implanted by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of a joyous heart will represent the source of it. If you struggle with being joyful you should pray that The Lord submerge you in all there is to be joyful for. Joy, like grace, can not be earned or achieved. It must be granted. Upon receiving joy, it is the responsibility of the holder to display it accordingly.


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