- Preferred leadership style
We begin with a look at the pastorsâ€™ preferred leadership
Overall, It is clear that clergy describe themselves
as leading by encouraging and inspiring others to make decisions. Although
all groups favor this response, there are several important differences
in the way subgroups rated the other leadership styles. Pastors from
historic Black churches are more likely than the others to say that
they make most of the decisions. They are less likely to leave it to
lay leaders to take the initiative. Clergy in small congregations (ones
with less than 100 attendees) are significantly more likely than others
to leave most decision-making to laity (either of the latter two leadership
styles). Clergywomen are especially more likely than men to chose the
fourth style of leading, emphasizing lay initiative while seeing their
role as that of empowering laity to implement their decisions (30 percent
favor this style in contrast to 8 percent of male clergy). The differences
are especially pronounced for women who serve as pastors of small congregations.
Whether it is the size of congregation that makes the difference or
womenâ€™s preference for empowerment is difficult to say.
- How program decisions are made
How do clergy and lay leaders go about deciding
about new programs or ministries? What are the bases for making such
decisions? Do they discuss the theological rationale for what they are
considering, or do they think in terms of the desires and needs of current
or prospective members? The probably do some of both, but which takes
priority? Overall, clergy told us that consideration of the needs and
desires of members takes priority by a significant margin.
Again, subgroups differ. More Catholics (36 percent)
and Conservative Protestants (30 percent) report that they consider
the theological rationale for new programs or ministries than is true
for clergy who are mainline Protestants or in historic Black denominations
(23 percent each). Younger clergy (under age 45) are much more likely
to report considering the theological rationale for new ministries (38
percent) than are those who are age 61 or older (14 percent).
- Introducing change
In leading, clergy have different preferred styles
for introducing changes. Some prefer to keep things stirred up; others
like to introduce changes gradually.
Although the majority of clergy prefer to introduce
changes gradually, mainline Protestants are significantly more likely
than all others to say that they enjoy keeping things stirred up and
challenging lay leaders with new ideas and programs (41 percent choosing
this response). Catholic clergy (15 percent) and clergy in historic
Black denominations (12 percent), prefer gradual introduction of changes.
Younger clergy (under age 45) also prefer keeping things stirred up
(43 percent) in sharp contrast with those who are 61 or older, 80 percent
of whom prefer gradual change. Congregations where clergy keep things
stirred up tend, not surprisingly, to report a higher degree of conflict.
- What about future directions of the congregation?
We also asked whether clergy and lay leaders regularly
take time to discuss and define future needs and directions of the congregation,
or whether they largely focus on keeping things going. Although a majority
of clergy in all sizes of congregations say that they regularly take
time to think about future directions, leaders of large congregations,
those with 350 or more regular attendees, are more likely to do so (66
percent) than those in small or mid size congregations (52 and 59 percent
respectively). Conservative Protestant clergy are most likely of all
denominational traditions to say they mostly focus on keeping things
functioning smoothly (50 percent). The same is true for clergy ages
61 or older (54 percent) and African-American clergy, regardless of
denomination (56 percent).
- The challenge of a changing world
We were also interested in how clergy leaders view
the challenges of rapid change and the implications of change for congregational
decision-making. Does rapid change make it necessary for congregations
to be innovativeâ€”for example in such things as worship and music styles?
Or should leaders make an effort to keep their congregation focused
on the inherited traditions and practices of the church? As the next
table shows, the majority of clergy choose innovation as their preferred
response. Nonetheless, there are important differences among subgroups.
Catholics, for example, give strong emphasis to church traditions and
practices (62 percent choosing this response). In contrast, mainline
Protestants (67 percent) and clergy from historic Black denominations
(66 percent), favor innovation over tradition. Conservative Protestant
pastors also favor innovation, but by a slightly smaller majority (59
percent). Though clergy in small congregations also favor innovation
(55 percent), they are less likely to do so than those in larger congregations.
Young clergy (under age 45) are the most likely to favor innovation
(69 percent) over tradition (31 percent).
- How satisfied are pastors with their overall
effectiveness as leaders in their current congregation?
This question was part of a list of items about
satisfaction. The following table shows the responses. Although few
report that they are dissatisfied with their effectiveness as
leaders, almost 60 percent report being only somewhat rather
than very satisfied. This distinction may seem trivial; however,
we donâ€™t take it to be so. When asked about most other aspects of their
ministry situation, clergy overwhelmingly indicated that they were very
satisfiedâ€”but not about their effectiveness as leaders.
There are significant subgroup differences: Only
18 percent of the pastors in historic Black denominations and 29 percent
of the conservative Protestants say they are very satisfied. This contrasts
with 31 percent of Catholic priests and 41 percent of mainline Protestants.
Similarly, only 31 percent of the pastors in small congregations are
very satisfied with their leadership effectiveness. This contrasts with
those in large and mega congregations (more than 350 average attendees),
approximately half of whom say that they are very satisfied.
- Some final questions?