Sustainability in ministry and the prevention of dropout for Australian Baptist Pastors serving in local church- based ministries

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The threat to society of having diminished numbers of pastors in church based ministry is too high a cost to ignore in Australia, especially considering the financial and emotional costs experienced by pastors, their families, the churches that they have served in, and the costs incurred by government agencies affected from their dropout. As a result this study has emanated out of a desire to see pastors sustained in pastoral ministry rather than dropout and experience these sorts of costs. In this scholarship an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study was undertaken to unearth reasons for sustainability of Baptist pastors in Australia. IPA studies differ to other studies in that they involve a three-fold process in method that engages phenomenology, double hermeneutics, and idiography. As a result IPA studies tend to have small sample sizes due to their idiographic nature. This was the first study in Australia amongst pastors that had used IPA, was the first to compare pastors who had been sustained in ministry against those that had dropped out, and was inaugural in that it was conducted by a researcher who had served in the field of study. These distinctive factors meant that rich data could be obtained for analysis. The study engaged a cohort of three Baptist pastors in Australia who had served over 10 years in church based ministry, known as Pastors In Ministry (PIMs), and compared to a second cohort of Australian Baptist pastors who had dropped out of pastoral ministry prior to serving 10 years, known as Out of Pastoral Ministry (OPMs). Through a coding process themes in this research emerged showing convergences and divergences of experience between the two cohorts. Analysis of these results found that the main contributing factors to sustainability and preventing dropout was the development of: emotional intelligence (EQ or EI), the type of social support that pastors had around them, the level of spousal support that they experienced, the approach in which personal conflict was processed, and the manner in which spiritual resources were employed. These results are unique to Australian pastors and their sustainability and now contribute to the ongoing research that is being conducted amongst pastors in Australia surrounding sustainability and preventing their dropout. This research supports previous research that has affirmed the key to sustainability for pastors is high job satisfaction and low emotional exhaustion. It endorses this previous research by indicating that the manner in which these two factors are most likely enabled for pastors is through the contributing factors that were discovered. It draws attention for theological colleges, denominations, and other support services to focus upon EI development in people considering and currently engaged in pastoral ministry.
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