Burnout and personality traits

My early interest in burnout among pastors was focused on the personality traits that may contribute to burnout. This happens to be one of the most often studied phenomenon or cause of burnout among pastors.  Many of the studies have found that differences in clergy personality were key factors to burnout (Francis, Hills, & Kaldor, 2009). Francis, Robbins, & Wulff (2012) concluded that personality is an “important factor in establishing predisposition for professional burnout and poor work-related psychological health” (p. 114).

Studies on the correlation of personality and burnout have consistently found that extraversion and neuroticism are key measures of positive and negative affect (Francis et al., 2012). Bakker, Van der Zee, Lewig, & Dollard (2006) came to similar conclusions when studying personality factors and burnout among volunteer counselors who were caring for terminally ill patients.

I hope this has increased your curiosity into the challenges faced by pastors and congregations, alike.  This understanding may help pastors and congregations thinking about their next pastorate or pastor. Well, more to come later …

Frank

Bakker, A.B., Van der Zee, K.I., Lewig, K.A., & Dollard, M.F. (2006). The relationship between the big five personality factors and burnout: A study among volunteer counselors. The Journal of Social Psychology, 146(1), 31-50.

Francis, L.J., Hills, P., & Kaldor, P. (2009). The Oswalt clergy burnout scale: Reliability, factor structure and preliminary applications among Australian clergy. Pastoral Psychology, 57, 243-252.

Francis, L.J., Robbins, M., & Wulff, K. (2012). Are clergy serving yoked congregations more vulnerable to burnout? A study among clergy serving in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Stress and Health, 29, 113-116.

Pastors and Burnout

Those in Christian ministry are very much aware of the stressful nature of the calling.  After 18 years of studying pastoral trends, Krejcir (2007) stated that pastors are in a dangerous occupation.  Broadly speaking, he found that over 70% of pastors were stressed out and burned out enough to leave the ministry, and 35% to 40% left after only 5 years.  Elkington’s (2013) research confirmed this trend when he stated that three North American pastors leave the ministry every day to pursue other vocations.

Even if pastors do not leave the ministry, the costs associated with burnout are high.  Maslach and Goldberg (1998) mentioned that these costs include decreased commitment, job dissatisfaction, turnover, absenteeism, and impaired health; all of which have direct costs that effect the organization (i.e., the church). These costs also point to the importance of understanding burnout from an organizational theory perspective.  The intention of my research is to better understand burnout from the experiences of the men (pastors) who live it. Stories have the power to change people and give them hope.  From this understanding, developing tools to help pastors, congregations, and pastoral candidates better deal with the challenge of burnout is essential. I look forward to sharing the stories and offering some practical helps.

Frank

Elkington, R. (2013). Adversity in pastoral leadership: Are pastors leaving the ministry in record numbers, and if so, why? Verbum et Ecclesia, 34(1), 1-13.
Krejcir, R.J. (2007). Statistics on pastors: What is going on with pastors in America? Retrieved from http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562
Maslach, C., Goldberg, J. (1998). Prevention of burnout: New perspectives. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 7, 63-74.

Research Questions

The two questions that drove my research on burnout were as follows: 1) How do Calvinistic pastors describe and explain their experiences related to burnout? 2) How do Calvinistic pastors perceive and explain the personal and organizational factors that contribute to burnout?  I had the privilege of interviewing 10 pastors all from the same denomination living in North Carolina and Georgia.  Each answered a series of questions designed to help answer the two research questions.

I also sought to understand their burnout by considering the following two theories:  1) Person-Environment Fit and 2) Value Congruence.  Person-Environment Fit theory describes the evolving relationship and compatibility between the individual and his or her work setting as an important factor in performance and well being (Nieminen & Biermeir-Hanson, 2013).  Value Congruence theory is concerned with studying the similarities and/or differences between a person’s values and those of the organization (Lamm, Gordon, & Purser, 2010).

Here’s what was/is hoped for from the study:
1) pastors will be able to give voice to their personal experiences of burnout
2) factors that lead pastors to believe they are in a state of burnout will be exposed for consideration and study
3) church leaders and congregations may better understand the unique burnout challenges of their pastors
4) the study may provide a foundation upon which to educate pastors and congregations on ways to extend a healthy relationship between the pastor and congregation to minimize the negative effects of burnout on pastors and congregations

Well, thanks for reading.  More to come later …

Frank

Lamm, E., Gordon, J.R., & Purser, R.E. (2010). The role of value congruence in organizational change. Organizational Development Journal, 28(2), 49-64.
Nieminen, L., & Biermeier-Hanson, B. (2013). Aligning leadership and organizational culture: The leader-culture fit framework for coaching organizational leaders. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 65(3), 177-198.

Too Proud To Say So

I started a PhD program approximately 3 1/2 years ago.  My intention in doing so was to challenge myself to become more academically minded after years of being more practically minded.  Another reason to pursue the PhD was about getting a degree in something other than a ministry related field.  I achieved all the necessary degrees (at least in my mind) to become a pastor–BA in Bible/Pre-Seminary, MA in Theological Studies, and a DMin in Pastoral Care.  I was also privileged to be involved in pastoral ministry (in various capacities–Associate & Senior Pastor) for thirty four years.  Please hang in there with me for a few more minutes …

Little did I know that while studying burnout in pastors that I would realize the depths of my own burnout in ministry.  I would have to say that I now know that I was too proud to admit that I was in the grip of burnout.  Now, many years into this study, I hope to be of some help to other pastors by helping them better understand burnout. And, not only to help pastors, but also to help congregations minimize their part in pastoral burnout.  My research has been very interesting, and I look forward to sharing it with you through the blog articles to follow.  I hope you find the research as interesting and helpful as it has been to me.

Frank