Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

A Multi-Case Study of Clergy Termination

Jerry Duane Hall
Regent University

One can see the problem when 24% of all pastors experience a forced exit and 45% of those leave the ministry. Clergy termination hurts pastors, their families, churches they serve, and often communities within which they minister. Believing description precedes prescription, the purpose of this study is to form a substantive description of the chronological three-phase process of clergy termination within its context. Using a multiple case study method, this research covers 8 clergy cases in a replication model of four groups: (a) two clergy who had never experienced a forced exit of any type, (b) two clergy who had experienced direct termination, (c) two clergy who had experienced forced resignation, and (d) two clergy who had experienced an almost case of direct termination or forced resignation. The 8 clergy varied in age, denomination, education, and tenure. Furthermore, the 8 clergy were males serving as solo or senior pastor. In addition, the clergy were part of an Internet pastor mail list of almost 600 pastors. The 8 clergy came from 65 on the list who responded to the initial Pastor Questionnaire. Their churches varied in size, denomination, locale, and type. Using replication logic, a holistic approach, linear analytic structure, and triangulation of data from (a) current literature, (b) pastor questionnaires, and (c) pastor interviews, this study arrives at a description of the three phases of the process via individual case and cross-case analyses. Those three phases (a) antecedents, (b) act, and (c) aftermath, in turn, describe clergy termination as a process. Implications and suggestions include prescriptive measures for (a) clergy, (b) church members and leaders, and (c) institutions preparing persons for pastoral ministry with the hope of minimizing the problem of clergy forced exits. Suggestions for future research include (a) a study of forced exits among female clergy, (b) the effect of clergy termination on pastor's family members, and (c) the development and administration to a much larger population of a quantitative instrument based on this study's thematic summaries of the three phases of the clergy termination process to learn the statistical significance of the findings.