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Keeping your pastor: An emerging challenge

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... When considering mental health, there is growing evidence regarding the negative mental health impact of the clergy vocation (Krause, Ellison, & Wulff, 1998; Weaver, Flannelly, Larson, Stapleton, & Koenig, 2002). For instance, stress-related " burnout " among clergy is regarded as one of the more serious health-related problems facing FBOs (Chandler, 2010; Doolittle, 2010; McDevitt, 2010; Stewart, 2009 ). Workrelated stress has led to work-family conflict (Lewis, Turton, & Francis, 2007; Little, Simmons, & Nelson, 2007) and has led some clergy to leave the ministry altogether (Hoge & Wenger, 2005). ...
... It is likely that some of the same factors that drive some clergy to " burn out " would also influence their ability to engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and eating a healthy diet. For instance, clergy have cited that one of the most difficult aspects of their job is the excessive demand for their time and in some cases has led them to leave the ministry to preserve their health (Stewart, 2009). Enhancing self-regulatory skills (e.g., time management) and self-efficacy for overcoming barriers to engaging in healthy behaviors would be essential for clergy, as would recognizing that clergy may be at different stages of readiness to modify their lifestyle. ...
Article
Clergy serve multiple functions in faith-based organizations and have the potential to influence the fiscal and health environment of faith-based organizations. Although religious beliefs and practices are thought to impart health protective benefits on clergy, there is evidence that clergy are affected by high rates of obesity and obesity-related disease. This study examined factors associated with obesity and physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption among clergy. The sample comprised 844 clergy members from across the United States who completed a web-based survey regarding their health and behaviors. Clergy meeting current recommendations for physical activity (odds ratio (OR) = 0.60) and fruit and vegetable intake (OR = 0.69), and who reported their health as very good or excellent (OR = 0.21), were less likely to be obese. Clergy with more chronic diseases (OR = 1.35) and lower physical activity-related (OR = 1.03), nutrition-related (OR = 1.12), and faith-related (OR = 1.07) health beliefs were more likely to be obese. Future interventions could target the health and behaviors of clergy in an effort to reduce obesity and obesity related diseases in this population. Improvement of the health and behaviors of clergy could have benefits at the individual, organizational, and community level.
... A Duke University study found that 85 percent of seminary graduates entering the ministry leave within five years and 90 percent of all pastors will not stay to retirement. (Ministering to Ministers Foundation, Inc., 2016; the origins of these statistics appears to be Stewart, 2009) A major problem with these studies is they cannot be traced to verifiable studies of clergy. One of the most frequently cited sources is Meek et al. (2003, p. 339), which references "a survey administered through the Fuller Institute of Church Growth" described in Headington (1998). ...
... 1), but the survey itself does not appear to have been published; no further information about the sample size, demographics of respondents, or methodology of the study is provided. 1 Similarly, the 85% attrition rate said to have been reported in studies from the Alban Institute and Duke University (Kanipe, 2016;Kitsko, 2019;Stewart, 2009) is puzzling. None of the most recently published studies from the Alban Institute and Duke University (Hoge & Wenger, 2005;Wind & Rendle, 2001) report attrition rates anywhere near this level. ...
Article
Since its inception in the 1960s, research on premature (i.e., pre-retirement) clergy attrition from congregational ministry has focused on identifying the factors that precipitate and mitigate ministry exits, while the rates at which clergy leave the ministry have been inconsistently tracked. The literature on clergy attrition is peppered with claims of alarmingly high rates of departure; however, these studies lack strong empirical support. The evidence, while fragmentary, consistently shows that pastors do not leave congregational ministry in large numbers. Incidence of attrition of about 1%–2% per year is typical across Protestant denominations and among Roman Catholic priests. In addition, contrary to popular conceptions, there is little evidence attrition is particularly high in the first 5 years of congregational ministry. In terms of the reasons for leaving, among Protestants, the most common factor named is conflict with the congregation or denominational system; a smaller number leave to pursue personal goals or to care for family. Among Catholics, loneliness and isolation, tied in major part to the celibacy requirement, are the most significant reasons cited for leaving. Finances or a loss of faith are rarely cited as reasons for leaving among either Catholics or Protestants.
... According to PastorServe (2013a), 80% of pastors (and 84% of their spouses) admit to being discouraged, depressed, or unqualified in their roles. Stewart (2009) found that 75% of pastors in the United States experienced enough stress that they were ready to quit ministry completely at any given time. London and Wiseman (2003) learned that 40% of pastors had "considered leaving their pastorates" and "bailing out" (p. ...
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Best Practices of Actively Engaged Volunteers Within a Megachurch. John Michael Chase, 2015: Applied Dissertation, Nova Southeastern University, Abraham S. Fischler School of Education. ERIC Descriptors: Best Practices, Church, Employment Practices, Job Satisfaction, Volunteers In the realm of churches, recruiting, engaging, and retaining volunteers is essential for churches to thrive. This applied dissertation was designed to identify best practices for recruiting, engaging, and retaining volunteers within a megachurch. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to identify those factors that draw people to volunteer, keep them volunteering, and lead to their work satisfaction while they volunteer in a megachurch. The effect of demographics on volunteer satisfaction and engagement were also identified. The final product of this study was a set of best practices for any church to use to improve its volunteer program. The 2-phased, sequential, explanatory, mixed-methods study was conducted at a large megachurch in the suburb of a large mid-Atlantic city in the United States. Quantitative data were collected over a 30-day period online using the Volunteer Satisfaction Index survey (N = 123) during Phase 1 of the study. A focus group (N = 5) was conducted on a single day and used to collect qualitative data during Phase 2 of the study. The same population of 900 members of the megachurch was used for each phase of the study. Analyses of the combined data revealed the success of volunteer programs is contingent upon several key factors; chief among them is the foundation of relationship. Based on these findings, the researcher recommended 7 specific best practices for churches to implement: The organizational leader–volunteer relationship matters, the paid staff– volunteer relationship matters, the volunteer–volunteer relationship matters, volunteer performance expectations matter, recognition matters, effective communication matters, and feeling empowered matters.
... According to Alban Institute and Fuller Seminary studies, (Meek et al. 2003) 50 % of Protestant clergy drop out of ministry in their first 5 years. Stewart (2009) cites a Duke University study which found that 85 % of Seminary graduates leave ministry within the first 5 years and 90 % will not continue until retirement. These figures are in stark contrast to those of an ongoing Lilly Endowment funded research study (Clergy Into Action 2015) which used statistical records from various Protestant denomination data banks revealing a wide variation in clergy attrition rates in the first 5 years, ranging from the 1-16 % among various denominations. ...
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A pre-test and post-test quasi-experimental matched pairs design was used to assess the effectiveness of a week-long multi-therapist intensive outpatient intervention process with clergy suffering from depression and burnout. Participants (n = 23) in the "Clergy in Kairos" program of the Pastoral Institute (Muse in J Pastor Care Couns 61(3):183-195, 2007) constituted the experimental variable. Clergy surveyed from United Methodist and Presbyterian denominations (n = 121) provided a control group from which 23 respondents were selected whose pre-test scores in depression and burnout were statistically equivalent to those in the experimental group. The treatment group consisted of clergy from three denominations who self-selected (or in some cases were referred by denominational officials) into the program. At the outset, clergy in both groups reported equivalent levels of conflict, emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and depression. At the 6-months follow-up, clergy in the experimental group showed significant improvement of depression, emotional exhaustion, and depersonalization scores. By contrast, there was no change in the burnout and depression scores in the control group at 6-months post-test. Findings suggest the usefulness of a week-long multi-therapist intensive outpatient intervention in reducing burnout and depression.
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“Reimagining Pastoral Education and Training” is a professional doctoral project born out of a burden for pastor-parish challenges that lead to pastoral dropout. A basic prelude question assesses the perceived problem: “Is there really a declining corps of young pastors leaving the ministry, disrupting their families, and congregations, and forfeiting opportunities for good when communities need their services more than ever?” The research is unequivocal in its evidence- based conclusions: Pastors are leaving the ministry at an early point in their careers. This confirmation drives a follow-up. As one who has invested a career in both parish ministry and in theological higher education, the evidence of a veritable pandemic of aborted vocations evokes a visceral response, i.e., a deeply personal research question: “How can theological higher education adapt to respond to this crisis of vocation?” Chapter two examines the literature on the relationship of vocational crisis and theological education. Findings include the fact that the presenting issue of clergy burnout and dropout is endemic to diverse Christian communities, especially, in the West. Citing an abundance of corroborating research focused on clergy burnout and dropout in North America the author employs a mixed-method response to conclude that a gap exists in not only the literature but in the lives of ordinands. Pastors have often received a mono-modal education without the vocation parish-based training long practiced in the Church. The research reveals the possibility of an in-group bias among theological educators, a cognitive bias that has perpetuated a scholastic model of theological higher education since at least the nineteenth century. A response to the problem is posited: Reimagine—reconsider and refashion—a method of spiritual and vocational formation that can produce a biblically faithful, and vocationally sustainable pastoral ministry; an education and training model that can unite the university model and the vocational model for a “Pastoral Training Model.” Chapter three is a record of research into pedagogical methodologies in the Pastoral Epistles. Evidence of a Pauline commitment to multimodality calls for an evaluation of modalities in our day, especially technology. Thus, Chapter four examines theological and philosophical voices on technology and vocational formation. The research yields compelling data that answers the first chapter questions: a multimodal teaching and learning model that embraces a renewed appreciation for the seminary and the indispensable place of the local church (or other area of ministry) can be a positive contribution to pastoral education and training. Reimagining Pastoral Education and Training can lead us “back to the future” of a Pastoral Training Model.
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What is the real crisis of the church? Very often, clergy, churches and congregations experience a ‘crisis’ only when membership is in decline, resulting in financial hardship. Crisis is limited to stress which the church as institution experiences when structures, finance and traditions are under pressure. In this contribution, the point is argued that the real crisis of the church is not to be found in institutional challenges, but in the inability of the church to be what it already is. With reference to Karl Barth’s ecclesiology, this contribution departs from the assumption that the real crisis of the church is not only to be found in external circumstances and influences, but is primarily a question of the church not being able to ‘be church’. Continued reformation of the church is of utmost importance.
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Clergy serve multiple functions in faith-based organizations and have the potential to influence the fiscal and health environment of faith-based organizations. Although religious beliefs and practices are thought to impart health protective benefits on clergy, there is evidence that clergy are affected by high rates of obesity and obesity-related disease. This study examined factors associated with obesity and physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption among clergy. The sample comprised 844 clergy members from across the United States who completed a web-based survey regarding their health and behaviors. Clergy meeting current recommendations for physical activity (odds ratio (OR) = 0.60) and fruit and vegetable intake (OR = 0.69), and who reported their health as very good or excellent (OR = 0.21), were less likely to be obese. Clergy with more chronic diseases (OR = 1.35) and lower physical activity-related (OR = 1.03), nutrition-related (OR = 1.12), and faith-related (OR = 1.07) health beliefs were more likely to be obese. Future interventions could target the health and behaviors of clergy in an effort to reduce obesity and obesity related diseases in this population. Improvement of the health and behaviors of clergy could have benefits at the individual, organizational, and community level.
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Despite the prominence of clergy in providing human services, and the work-related Stressors they experience, clergy health and coping responses have rarely been the focus of psychological research. We report two studies. In the first, we evaluated responses of 398 senior pastors to three open-ended questions regarding personal coping, structural support for their work, and remediation efforts in rimes of distress. In the second study, Christian mental health professionals and Christian education professionals identified Protestant Christian clergy who exemplify emotional and spiritual health. Twenty-six participated in individual 30-minute interviews. Respondents emphasized the importance of being intentional in maintaining balance in life and developing healthy relationships. They also value a vital spiritual life, emphasizing both their sense of calling into ministry the importance of spiritual disciplines, and an ongoing awareness of God's grace. We suggest ways that Christian mental health professionals can support pastors in preventive and remedial roles.
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Five evangelical Protestant clergy were studied by use of a structured observation protocol with the goals of defining the work activity characteristics of the pastors and developing a working role composite. The pastors' work activities were found to be taxing, fast-paced, and unrelenting. The patterns of activities were marked by brevity, fragmentation and variety. The pastors showed a preference for live action over reflection and a clear preference for verbal media over written. A working role composite emerged that reflected both the managerial and ministerial demands of the position and included thirteen specific working roles organized into four broad categories: Interpersonal Roles (figurehead, leader, liaison), Informational Roles (monitor, disseminator, spokesperson), Decisional Roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, negotiator), and Professional Roles (mentor, care-giver, preacher).
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Ministers of local congregations are in positions somewhat similar to the chief executives of other local nonprofit organizations, except that ministers are also expected to respond to the specifically religious needs of their congregants. In this article we assess how especially effective ministers in one denomination differ from less effective ministers in both general leadership skills and specifically religious leadership skills. The especially effective ministers were identified by applying three selection methods, resulting in an unusually careful selection of a sample of especially effective leaders. The results show that the especially effective are more skillful managers, problem solvers, planners, delegators, change agents, shepherds, inspirers, multitaskers, students, and servants and demonstrate themselves to be persons of integrity.