Psychology for Christian Ministry

Psychology for Christian Ministry

Psychology for Christian Ministry

Psychology for Christian Ministry


This introduction to psychology has been devised for those training for and working in the clergy. Ideal both as a professional handbook and a textbook, it covers social, developmental, educational, occupational and counselling psychology, as well as the psychology of religion. It carefully considers the processes of personal change and growth central to religion.


The church works with people, and there is a human aspect to everything the church does. Psychology can help to clarify those human aspects, and make Christian ministers more aware of the personal impact of their work. It is also good to remember that Christianity is, among other things, about changing people, and psychology is the discipline that can help us to understand how people change. In this book we have tried to present what psychology has to contribute to an understanding of the church's work.

Nevertheless, we are aware that there is sometimes suspicion of psychology in the church. This stems partly from the fear that psychology is always trying to explain things away, reducing them to a mere matter of psychology. This anxiety is misplaced. Our approach here does not imply that Christian ministry is 'just' a matter of psychology. It is clearly much more than that, but it always has a psychological aspect.

Another concern is that the Christian gospel is always about communities and society, not just about individuals. Of course we agree that the communal aspect of Christian life is important, though individual aspects are important too and should not be neglected. However, it would be a misconception to imagine that psychology is exclusively about individuals. It includes social psychology, which is relevant to the communal aspects of the Christian life.

But perhaps a basic source of resistance to psychology is simply conservatism. Over years, the range of academic disciplines on which Christian thinking has drawn has broadened significantly, and history and philosophy have a well-established place. Other newer disciplines like sociology and psychology have taken a long time to become established. The fact that there are relatively few people in the church who are competent in them tends to lead to their being kept at arm's length.

In applying psychology to Christian ministry, we have taken a broad view of the discipline. Generally, we have paid most attention to those areas of psychology that are grounded in empirical research, and approached the subject as it is currently taught in Universities. However, we have also drawn occasionally on the approaches to psychology stemming from Freud and Jung. However insightful their approaches might be, they sit rather uneasily with the discipline as a whole because of their lack of a research basis.

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