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Are You A Perfectionistic Pastor?

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 36

Face it, the research is correct. As a whole, most Pastors and helping professionals are perfectionists.

And why shouldn’t we be?

Being a perfectionist means to be realistic, conscientious, principled, organized, and able to put structure on our time.

Being a perfectionist means we’re able to plan ahead, sometimes in great detail. We’re able to offer a high quality of managerial supervision as we create and monitor policies, and ensure everything is just the way it should be to reflect the image of the Holy and Perfect One. Besides, who else is going to put forward the vision of high ideals and provide the accountability necessary for God’s too-often-wayward people?

But there is a downside. Perfectionism, though in many cases is helpful, can also be the spring which sets the trap of discouragement, frustration and despair.

Are you a perfectionist? Check off the items below which apply to you.


Perfectionist Inventory

__ 1. I feel happy after I’ve cleaned my office.
__ 2. I like to be organized and orderly.
__ 3. I never loosen my tie/clerical—it’s too un-business like.
__ 4. I have to worry about what I look like otherwise people won’t respect me.
__ 5. I don’t think it’s proper for people—especially a pastor—to be spontaneous in church.
__ 6. I always feel like I’m not getting enough done.
__ 7. I carry a "to-do list" with me wherever I go.
__ 8. I’m frustrated when people break the "rules."
__ 9. I am always at least 10-15 minutes early to meetings, appointments, and other engagements.
__ 10. I hold resentment for a long time (and can remember the 5 "w"’s of each event!)
__ 11. Above all else, I am practical, reasonable, and realistic.
__ 12. I feel guilty when I relax.
__ 13. I re-write my sermon several times before I preach it.
__ 14. Things in the church are either divine or human, black or white.
__ 15. I dread criticism, though I myself am judgmental.
__ 16. My favorite part of the Bible are the Old Testament Prophets and Proverbs.
__ 17. My favorite sermons deal with the theme of judgment, fairness, and obedience.
__ 18. I almost always do what I say I will do.
__ 19. The job’s not done until it’s done right—the way it’s supposed to be!
__ 20. I find I need to have a confidant to share my worries, concerns, plans, and doings.
__ 21. I don’t think I can really trust anybody.
__ 22. When things aren’t done my way, I get very frustrated…for a long time.
__ 23. Forgiveness is something that really doesn’t come easily…I just can’t forget.
__ 24. Worship should be orderly, meditative, and done entirely in reverence.
__ 25. I have trouble confronting people and issues.

Rating Scale

Number of Items Checked

Suggested Rating


You’re asleep (or lying)


You’re on vacation (or in denial?)


You’re conscientious


You’re in "perfectionist" territory


You may be a good target for major disappointment

21 and up

You’re experiencing significant anxiety; Perhaps demonstrating characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics or a Dysfunctional home


So I’m a Perfectionist! Now what?

First, recognize your strengths. You are loyal, dedicated, conscientious and helpful. You are likely well-balanced and have a good sense of humor.

Second, recognize that perfectionists are not prone to compromise and unconditional acceptance. Instead, they can be argumentative, nit-picking, and critical.

Third, don’t confuse being responsible with having to "Do it all." You know you’re doing it all if…

Fourth, recognize that if you don’t delegate tasks and responsibilities, no one will come forward to help.

Fifth, build on your strength in bringing the best out in people by letting others try.

Sixth, try becoming a model of Step One of the "Twelve Steps" to recovery: Let go and give God some room.

Seventh, don’t be afraid to do 80% of something. You might be surprised how many others might come and help finish up the other 20%!

Eighth, recognize that congregational members respect you for your professionalism, honesty, consistency, and ethical manner.

Ninth, keep yourself self-differentiated by becoming involved in cause-oriented groups.

Tenth, trust God’s promise that He will build the church. Let Him do it as you carry out the ministry of the Word and Sacrament.

Thomas F. Fischer

For more insights, see the Ministry Health Article
 "Two Types of Perfectionists"

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:18 PM