A Study of Clergy Stress, Part II

Published January 22, 2013 | By John Morgan

We continue this week with the second part of Dr. John Morgan’s four part study on clergy stress.  If you’ll remember from last week, this study covers four traditions: Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic, and looks at points of stress that arise that arise from the perceptions that clergy hold regarding their congregations’ needs and wishes.

Take a look at the first post in this four-part series from last week: A Study of Clergy Stress, Part I.

“Clergy Stress and Satisfaction in the Workplace:
A Comparative Study of Four Christian Traditions”

(Part II)

by Dr. John H. Morgan


            M=50   L=48   C=63   E=52

Of course, the tendency here, which must be avoided at one’s own peril, is to engage in a simplistic “comparison” of various traditions with an eye towards determining “who is better,” “who works harder,” “what is really most important,” etc.This, certainly, will not do.  The original purpose in this empirical study was to determine what the clergy in each tradition report to be how they spend their time “in relationship to” how they think the faith-community they serve wishes them to spend their time.  Here is the core of the stress-inducing phenomenon!  When a clergy person thinks that his/her time is best spent doing “A” when he/she thinks that the parish both values “A” little, but wishes the clergy person to be engaged in “B,” which, in turn, the clergy person values less than “A,” here is the center of the storm creating stress.  When what I wish to do (because it is how I define what it means for me to be a clergy person) comes into direct conflict with what I perceive my faith-community wishes me to be doing, therein lies the root cause of clergy stress.  When both what the clergy wishes to do and the faith-community likewise wishes them to do are in sync, when they match, there is the core of “satisfaction” in the workplace for the clergy person.  And, contrary to the many speculative works published by armchair Church officials, identifying these points of “stress” and “satisfaction” is not difficult!  What might be difficult is to move the armchair officials off their speculations and onto the facts.  Let us try to do it and see what happens.

Using 100% as the total possible response, the assessment of value attributed to each of the 15 “activities” has been measured for both the clergy and the parish, remembering that the parish’s assessment of value is determined by the “clergy perception” of the parish’s assessment.  In other words, if the clergy perceive that their parish wishes them to spend more time studying Scripture, it really doesn’t matter what the “truth of the matter is” (if such could even be determined by a survey of the parish itself).  What is important for stress-induction is the fact that the clergy person “perceives” the parish to have such a desire.  So, the “clergy value assessment” of each of the 15 activities is compared to the “parish value assessment” of each activity.  Where there is a 20% or more “variance” in the clergy assessment versus the parish assessment, we have called that a “stress-inducer.”  where there is less than 20% variance, we have called that a “satisfaction-inducer.”   (Again, the book goes into considerable detail regarding each of these “stress and satisfaction-inducing” activities but here we will simply summarize the findings.)


Dr. John H. Morgan is the Karl Mannheim Professor of the History and Philosophy of the Social Sciences at the Foundation.

Next week, Dr. Morgan will discuss stress-inducers common across all four traditions, the most popular being 1) the study of Scripture, 2) involvement in the social life of the parish, and 3) addressing social, moral, and political issues.  Stay tuned for part III of this study next Tuesday!

Do any of these issues about clergy stress resonate with you?  What are the ways that you find to relieve stress in your role as a clergy person?   


Scroll to Top