Saturday, September 24, 2011
EX-PASTORS: WHY DO CLERGY LEAVE PARISH MINISTRY?
Observers like clergy counselor Rowland Croucher suggest that the numbers of ex-pastors roughly equal that of serving clergy throughout the Western world. This would mean there is a six-figure number of these people. He also suggests that more pastors and priests may be leaving parish ministry than are lost to most other professions. Until the early 1990s there were very few cross-denominational ministries serving this group. In his research, which he started towards a PhD, Croucher collected data-based questionnaires of ministers of Protestant denominations (Croucher 1991a; 1991b; 1994).
For some ex-pastors the transition is a relatively stress-free role exit, but for most the strain on them and their communities is costly. The high attrition rate may indicate a lack of good processes for conflict-resolution, human resource management and professional supervision.
The first writers to explore this research area used questionnaire surveys to look at factors such as age, education and family relationships as contributing factors (Jud, Mills and Burch 1970). Other writers have explored ex-pastors within particular denominations (Parer and Peterson 1971; Rice 1992; Ballis 1999) and/or focused on particular related issues such as burnout (Kaldor and Bullpitt 2001; Evers and Tomic 2003), stress (Pryor 1982; 1986), marital stress (Merrill 1985), sexual abuse (Ormerod 1995), celibacy (Della Cava 1975), loneliness (Whetham 2000), organisational factors (Seidler 1979; Knust 1993) and conflict (Dempsey 1983). One common cause of conflict occurs when differing approaches to ministry compete in the minds of clergy, congregation and community, as Norman Blaikie (1979) found in Australian clergy from six Protestant denominations.
For some of the estimated 10,000 ex-pastors from Australian Protestant churches, their transition was a normal mid-career move, voluntarily entered into like many of the role exits described in the classic study by sociologist (and ex-nun) Helen Ebaugh (1988). Yet for many the transition out of parish ministry was premature. Clergy, churches and training bodies need a solid basis for understanding and action in order to reduce the attrition rate and enhance clergy, congregational and community health. Some denominations experience particularly high rates of attrition (Kaldor and Bullpitt 2001: 13).
One key recommendation to help alleviate clergy-exit may revolve around the development of professional supervision and continuing education. Professional supervision for ministry is a method of reflecting critically on ministry as a way of growing in self-awareness, cultural and social awareness, ministry competence and theological reflection skills (Pohly 2001: 107-108; Paver 2006: 81-100).
Supervision that includes an element of peer-group work has the potential to facilitate collaborative learning, enhanced group dynamic skills and ongoing supportive networks (Skaggs 1989). Some denominations are encouraging their clergy to engage in professional supervision, as part of their mandatory requirement of professional standards, but the requirements and standards of clergy supervision are often haphazard or absent.
Bach, G. (1979). 'The George Bach Self-Recognition Inventory for Burned-Our Therapists.' Voices 15(2): 73-76.
Ballis, P. H. (1999). Leaving the Adventist Ministry: A Study of the Process of Exiting. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Berman, W. B. (1997). 'Ten Commandments for Avoiding Clergy Malpractice in Pastoral Counseling.' Journal of Psychology and Christianity 16: 268-272.
Blackbird, T. and P. Wright (1985). 'Pastor's Friendships, Part I Project Overview and an Exploration of the Pedestal Effect.' Journal of Psychology and Theology 13: 274-283.
Blaikie, N. W. H. (1979). The Plight of the Australian Clergy: To Convert, Care or Challenge? St Lucia: University of Queensland.
Campbell, A. V. (1985). Paid to Care?: The Limits of Professionalism in Pastoral Care. London: SPCK.
Clarke, J. (2005). Working with Monsters: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath. Sydney: Random House.
Coate, M. A. (1989). Clergy Stress: The Hidden Conflicts in Ministry. London: SPCK.
Conger, J. A. (1989). The Charismatic Leader: Behind the Mystique of Exceptional Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Craddock, A. E. (1996). 'Relational Resources as Buffers against the Impact of Stress: A Longitudinal Study of Seminary Students and Their Partners.' Journal of Psychology and Theology 24(1): 38-46.
Croucher, R. (1991a). 'Ex-Pastors: What Happens When Clergy Leave Parish Ministry?' Unpublished manuscript. Melbourne: Monash University.
--- (1991b). Questionnaire for Ex Pastors. Accessible at http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/2001.htm.
Croucher, R. and S. Allgate (1994). 'Why Australian Pastors Quit Parish Ministry.' Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association, 4 (1, March).
Crowell, R. J. (1992). Musical Pulpits: Clergy and Laypersons Face the Issue of Forced Exits. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Della Cava, F. A. (1975). 'Becoming an Ex-Priest: The Process of Leaving a High Commitment Status.' Sociological Inquiry 45: 41-49.
Dempsey, K. (1983). Conflict and Decline: Ministers and Laymen in an Australian Country Town. North Ryde: Methuen.
Ebaugh, H. R. F. (1988). Becoming an Ex: The Process of Role Exit. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Evers, W. and W. Tomic (2003). 'Burnout among Dutch Reformed Pastors.' Journal of Psychology and Theology 31: 329-338.
Fortune, M. M. (1989). Is Nothing Sacred?: When Sex Invades the Pastoral Relationship. San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Friberg, N. C. and M. R. Laaser (1998). Before the Fall: Preventing Pastoral Sexual Abuse. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
Husserl, E. (1967). Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. London: Allen & Unwin.
Jud, G. J., E. W. Mills and G. W. Burch (1970). Ex-Pastors: Why Men Leave the Parish Ministry. Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press.
Kaldor, P. (1997). Shaping a Future: Characteristics of Vital Congregations. Adelaide: Openbook Publishers.
Kaldor, P., J. Bellamy, R. Powell, M. Correy and K. Castle (1994). Winds of Change: The Experience of Church in a Changing Australia. Sydney: ANZEA.
Kaldor, P. and R. Bullpitt (2001). Burnout in Church Leaders. Adelaide: Openbook Publishers.
Diagnosing and Revitalizing Unhealthy Companies. New York: HarperBusiness.
Knust, J. L. (1993). 'A System Malfunction: Role Conflict and the Minister.' Journal of Psychology and Christianity 12(3): 205-213.
Lauer, R. H. (1973). 'Organizational Punishment: Punitive Relations in a Voluntary Association - a Minister in a Protestant Church. Human Relations 26: 189-202.
McMinn, M. R., R. A. Lish, P. D. Trice, A. M. Root, N. Gilbert and A. Yap (2005). 'Care for Pastors: Learning from Clergy and Their Spouses.' Pastoral Psychology 53(6): 563-581.
Meek, K. R., M. R. McMinn, C. M. Browser, T. D. Burnett, B. W. McRay, M. L. Ramey, D. W. Swanson and D. D. Villa (2003). 'Maintaining Personal Resiliency: Lessons Learned from Evangelical Protestant Clergy.' Journal of Psychology and Theology 31: 339-347.
Merrill, D. (1985). Clergy Couples in Crisis: The Impact of Stress on Pastoral Marriages. Carol Stream, IL: Word.
Morris, M. L. and P. W. Blanton (1995). 'The Availability and Importance of Denominational Support Services as Perceived by Clergy Husbands and Their Wives.' Pastoral Psychology 44(1): 29-44.
Muse, S., E. Chase and The Pastoral Institute (1993). 'Healing the Wounded Healers: Soul Food for Clergy. Journal of Psychology and Christianity 12(2): 141-150.
Oates, W. E. (1987). Behind the Masks: Personality Disorders in Religious Behavior. Philadelphia: Westminster.
Ormerod, N. (1995). When Ministers Sin: Sexual Abuse in the Churches. Alexandria, NSW: Millennium Books.
Oswald, R. M. (1991). Clergy Self-Care: Finding a Balance for Effective Ministry. Washington, DC: Alban Institute.
Pappas, A. G. (1995). Pastoral Stress: Sources, Resources for Transformation. New York: Alban Institute.
Parer, M. S. and A. Peterson (1971). Prophets and Losses in the Priesthood: In Quest of the Future Ministry. Sydney: Alella Books.
Paver, J. E. (2006). Theological Reflection and Education for Ministry: The Search for Integration in Theology. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.
Pohly, K. (2001). The Ministry of Supervision: Transforming the Rough Places. Franklin, TN: Providence House.
Pryor, R. J. (1982). High Calling, High Stress: The Vocational Needs of Ministers, an Overview & Bibliography. Bedford Park, SA: AASR.
--- (1986). At Cross Purposes: Stress and Support in the Ministry of the Wounded Healer. Newtown, VIC: Neptune Press.
Rice, D. (1992). Shattered Vows: Priests Who Leave. New York: Triumph Books. Schon, D. A. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic.
Seidler, J. (1979). 'Priest Resignations in a Lazy Monopoly.' American Sociological Review 44: 763-783.
Skaggs, B. (1989). Group Supervision. In The Supervision of Pastoral Care. Ed. D. A. Steere. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press: 172-182.
Stringer, E. T. (1996). Action Research: A Handbook for Practitioners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Thoburn, J. W. and J. O. Balswick (1993). 'A Prevention Approach to Infidelity among Male Protestant Clergy.' Pastoral Psychology 42(1): 45-51.
Wacquant, L. J. D. (1990). 'Exiting Roles or Exiting Role Theory? Critical Notes on Ebaugh's Becoming an Ex.' Acta Sociologia 33(4): 397-404.
Whetham, P. and L. (2000). Hard to Be Holy: Unravelling the Roles and Relationships of Church Leaders. Adelaide, SA: Openbook Publishers.