Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Qualitative Perspectives toward Relational Connection in Pastoral Ministry

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Qualitative Perspectives toward Relational Connection in Pastoral Ministry

Article excerpt

Successful pastoral ministry, like much leadership in general societal sectors, must be based on relational strengths rather than a reliance on executive power (Edwards, 2011). In the business realm, executive-power leadership often is built on dynamics such as financial successes, human relations prowess, educational credentials, and/or political connections. Relational leadership generates influence from capital that is built on personal trust (Carmeli, Tishler, & Edmondson, 2011). Pastoral leadership also involves these elements, but additional human factors play a role, such as personal integrity and interpersonal skills (Wong, 2011). Consequently, the stock and trade of pastoral leaders involves more than leadership that produces a measurable bottom-line. Puls (2011) argues that, in ministry contexts, trust relationships with congregants and church leaders also plays an important role.

In the present study, we explore the relational aspect of pastoral leadership. The research literature suggests that successful leadership involves more than merely managing others (DuBrin, 2013). Certainly, there is an element of directing people in order to accomplish tasks and objectives. There are foundational skills necessary that, if lacking, any successful leadership is impossible. Skill sets such as organization, delegation, supervision, exhortation, and vision are requisite for leadership exercised at any level and in most contexts (Northouse, 2013). Notwithstanding, pastoral leadership involves some elements that are not necessarily identical to other leadership contexts. This is due to some factors that, in combination, make pastoral leadership somewhat different from other forms of more generic leadership (Rorher, 2012). Although the list is not intended to be exhaustive, we relate six here since they help to set up the literature review's foundation for the present study of ministry relational connection within the larger framework of pastoral leadership.

First, pastoral leadership is exercised by clergy in the context of a volunteer base and, as such, church members are not paid employees of the organization (Figert, 2012). Obviously, some multiple-staffed churches have employees, such as associate pastors, administrative assistants, business personnel, maintenance workers, and the like--depending on the church's size, and significant variability exists among churches in this regard. But, in all cases, the congregation at large is comprised of people who freely choose to join the church and they are equally free to leave it at any time. This fluid nature of congregants has the potential for making the exercise of pastoral leadership challenging in many respects (Cohall & Cooper, 2010).

Second, pastors typically do not possess the same level of control over those whom they lead (Jaworski, 2012). For example, in business or academic contexts, CEOs can hire replacements or fire individuals they believe no longer are best contributing to the greater cause. There is a level of control that these leaders possesses by virtue of employment desirability within the organization. A clear line and staff organization structure typically exists where the CEO exercises authority and subordinates are expected to obey and follow orders. This authoritative arrangement is far less clear in pastoral ministry settings (Christine, 2010).

Third, pastors are dependent on the congregants whom they lead for financial sustenance (Mundrey, Davidson, & Herzog, 2011). Although some denominations may pay pastors through an episcopal or other central-headquarter formats, at some level, individual local churches are still dependent on weekly offerings for continued financial viability. As such, churches are generally expected to be financially self-sustaining. Within this context and, unlike business leaders, the pastor is not selling a tangible "product" that grosses profits which will develop the corporation's base and advance it to new levels. …

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