Curiosity is crucial

I think that often the difference between leaders who are able to change things and those that aren’t is often to do with curiosity.  Some people are naturally curious. They are always wondering why things are the way they are, always asking questions, always considering different options, scenarios and reasons.  They employ the famous “W” questions “What?” “Why?” “Who?” “Where?” “When?”  They often use a lot of open questions and not just closed ones.  They are good at drawing others out in conversation. They are interested in data and analysis. 

We are not all made like that.  Some people prefer the proverb “Curiosity killed the cat.”  Some people prefer to take things as read and focus on getting things done.  They become impatient with a lot of questions and analysis. They want answers. 

It’s okay to be either of these types. We need both.  The risk with the latter is that they will miss important things and rush into a decision that proves catastrophic.  I get the impression that the current British Government is not particularly made up of curious people (though there may be things we find curious about them). However, the benefits are that it enables action and often cuts through things to get to the heart of what is important.  It keeps people focused and stops them from being distracted. I suspect that you don’t want a curious surgeon, though you may want your consultant to be curious.  The risk with the former is that you get held up going over the same ground again and again. You don’t reach a decision.  However, the benefits are a depth of understanding that may benefit wise decisions in the long run. Leadership teams need both types of personality to give balance.

However, when it comes to certain types of role, I think that some level of curiosity is crucial.  As mentioned above, whilst you don’t want your surgeon distracted by fascinating questions, you may well want your consultant and perhaps your GP to be if you are going to get to the root cause of your ailment. Researchers and inventors need to be curious and I would argue that it’s a strength in teaching as well.

Pastors need curiosity and if preaching is a function of pastoral ministry then so too do those who want to preach.  They need to be curious about two things. First, they need to be curious when it comes to Scripture wanting to understand what God’s Word says, ready for God to challenge them and speak to them.  They need to be the kind of person who is ready to stick with and in fact lean into those challenging Bible passages, especially when they get under the skin.  So, when someone comes to me and says that they are interested in giving preaching a go, then I’m more cautious about encouraging them down that route if they don’t tend to be interested in talking about and asking questions about Scripture outside of structured Bible study. 

The other thing where it is helpful to be curious is about other people. I don’t mean in a kind of gossipy way but there is a right sense of interest both in terms of understanding how individuals, families and communities function generally but also in terms of getting to know and understand what makes specific people tick, what they struggle with, what they enjoy and why they respond the way they do to specific situations.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that curiosity is essential for true empathy.  I can be sympathetic with another’s emotions and I can even give the appearance of such sympathy without really knowing too much or caring too much about why they are where they are but true empathy forces me to ask the “why, what, why?” questions.

Now, I’ve said that some people are naturally inclined towards curiosity but not all are.  However, I think it is possible to train ourselves to be curious, just as it is possible to train yourself to keep focused and not get distracted by curious questions.  This means that for some people, pastoring will be a big step out of their comfort zones.

If you are considering a possible calling to pastoral ministry then stop and ask yourself the question “How curious am I?”  Then ask “Why?”  That will probably be a big step on the way in itself!

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