Psychological Type and Work-Related Psychological Health among Clergy in Australia, England and New Zealand

By Francis, Leslie J.; Robbins, Mandy et al. | Journal of Psychology and Christianity, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Psychological Type and Work-Related Psychological Health among Clergy in Australia, England and New Zealand


Francis, Leslie J., Robbins, Mandy, Kaldor, Peter, Castle, Keith, Journal of Psychology and Christianity


A sample of 3,715 clergy from Australia, England and New Zealand completed two indices of work-related psychological health, the Scale of Emotional Exhaustion in Ministry (negative affect) and the Satisfaction in Ministry Scale (positive affect), together with a measure of Jungian psychological type, the Francis Psychological Type Scales. The data were employed to establish three issues: the level of work-related psychological health among clergy; the psychological type profile of clergy; and the relationship between psychological type and individual differences in work-related psychological health. The data demonstrate that clergy display high levels of positive affect coupled with high levels of negative affect; that the predominant psychological type profile of clergy prefers introversion over extraversion, sensing over intuition, feeling over thinking, and judging over perceiving; and that psychological type is able to predict differences in work-related psychological health among clergy. Clergy who prefer introversion and thinking experience lower levels of work-related psychological health than clergy who prefer extraversion and feeling. The implications of these findings are discussed for developing effective and healthy Christian ministry.

Over the past three decades a number of books, reporting serious research drawing on the disciplines of practical theology and health- related psychology, have documented in a vari- ety of ways a series of issues concerned with the work-related psychological health of clergy. Generally the titles of these books have focused clearly on the negative aspects of the research findings, as evidenced by Ministry Burnout (Sanford, 1982), Clergy Stress: The Hidden Con- flicts in Ministry (Coate, 1989), Clergy Under Stress: A Study of Homosexual and Heterosexual Clergy (Fletcher, 1990), Burnout: Stress in Min- istry (Davey, 1995), Between Two Worlds: Under- standing and Managing Clergy Stress (Irvine, 1997), Burnout in Church Leaders (Kaldor & Bullpitt, 2001), The Cracked Pot: The State of Today's Anglican Parish Clergy (Warren, 2002), and Clergy Burnout (Lehr, 2006). The debate, however, is far from settled, since a range of other empirically-driven research studies consis- tently point to the clergy as displaying high lev- els of job satisfaction. For example, Sales and House (1971) found clergy ranking high in job satisfaction alongside scientists and university teachers. Rose (1999), using data from the British Household Panel Survey, found clergy sharing the second highest level of satisfaction with their job, coming only behind medical secretaries. A survey of Church of England clergy commissioned by the Archbishops' Council (2001) found that 25% rated their current job satisfaction as excellent, 49% as good, 18% as adequate, and only 6% as poor and 1% as very poor.

Against the background of this wider debate the present study addresses two specific issues: the definition and assessment of ministry burnout, and the extent to which individual differences in levels of ministry burnout can be predicted from fundamental differences in personality. Both issues are approached from novel perspectives, in terms of the operationalisation of ministry burnout, and in terms of the model of personality utilised.

Assessing Ministry Burnout

Within the broader context of the caring professions, the model of burnout proposed by Christina Maslach and operationalised in the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach & Jackson, 1986) has emerged as of central importance. According to this model, burnout is identified by high scores on two dimensions defined as emotional exhaustion and as depersonalisation and by low scores on a third dimension defined as personal accomplishment. In the Maslach Burnout Inventory, emotional exhaustion is assessed by a nine-item subscale. The items describe feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by one's work. The item with the highest factor loading on this dimension is one referring directly to burnout, "I feel burned out from my work. …

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