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Dissertation Abstract

Understanding the Turnover Intentions of Youth Pastors

Gregg A. Makin
Regent University

The high attrition rate among youth pastors is negatively affecting the performance capacity of church-based youth ministries nationwide (Borthwick, 1988). Because of the sobering news that many youth pastors consider quitting prematurely, Strommen, Jones, and Rahn (2001) wrote, "It alerts everyone to the urgency of addressing the concerns" (p. 111) of youth ministers. Clergy turnover studies have primarily focused on senior pastors; however these cannot be utilized since youth pastors and senior pastors are sufficiently dissimilar. "There is distinct differences between the pressures faced by senior ministers and youth ministers" (Strommen et al., p. 34). The problem is that far too little is know about basic career issues for youth pastors; "factors such as job satisfaction and . . . longevity beg for information in order to alter the perceived high turnover in personnel" (p. 34). Because the literature on youth pastor turnover is non-empirical and undeveloped, this project sought to understand and clarify the antecedents of behavioral intentions along with assessing the influence organizational commitment, job satisfaction, expected utility of present job, career commitment, senior pastor ambition, and family structure have as potential predictors of turnover intentions. Based on the results of almost 400 Protestant youth pastors, a clear picture of what affected them to consider leaving their present position as well as their career was presented; the data indicated youth pastors' satisfaction with their job and the nature of that work, as well as their commitment to their career are negatively related to their intentions to turnover their career. Furthermore, youth pastors' commitment to their church and their satisfaction with their job (including their satisfaction with the nature of their work, with their senior pastor, with the level of communication in their church and office, and with their contingent rewards), with career commitment moderating the effect of organizational commitment, are negatively related to youth pastors' intentions to leave their church while their intentions to leave youth ministry altogether are positively related to their intentions to leave their church position. Appropriate interventions were presented to help reduce youth pastor turnover. This dissertation also established an empirical base from which more research could germinate.