Strengthening Emotional Intelligence For Effective Church Leadership Education Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

There is a crisis within American churches. Referencing his 2005 study, Olson (2008) stated, "In no single state did church attendance keep up with population growth!" (p. 37). Dudley and Roozen's (2001) report on religion in the United States indicates that 50% of all U.S. congregations are either plateauing or declining. The American Church Research Project's (TACRP; Olson, 2008) database of attendance figures includes more than 200,000 orthodox Christian churches. This resource demonstrates that if present trends continue, by 2050, the percentage of Americans attending church will be half of the 1990 figure. This reflection of attendance trends in the American church serves to debunk other research that has suggested that American church attendance is relatively high.

Olson's (2006, 2008) noted several key trends in the American church: (a) The percentage of Americans who claim to attend church each weekend is much higher than the number that actually do attend, a cognitive bias that can show up in research known as the halo effect; (b) the number of people who attend church in America each week had a significant decline from 1990 to 2006; (c) Pentecostal church growth is still among the best in the nation but has significantly declined from 1990 to 2005; (d) the Northeast has the lowest percentage of church attendees, the South has the most, and the Midwest and West are somewhat similar; (e) Hawaii was the only state where church attendance grew faster than population growth from 2000 to 2006; (f) American church attendance has remained virtually the same from 1990 to 2006, while the population has grown in that same time period by 91,384,566 people; (g) almost all churches that have been established for over 25 years declined from 2004 to 2005; and (h) as of 2006, the church is increasing at a rate which is 20% of what is needed in order to keep up with American population growth.

It has been suggested that poor organizational performance variables within local churches can be attributed to pastoral leadership issues. In essence, leadership ineffectiveness has been noted as the reason for poor church performance variables. Barna (1993) surveyed more than 1,000 pastors and emphasized that his analysis regarding the church today indicates a significant need to identify and train pastors relative to the role of leadership in the church.

Anderson (1999) emphasized that leadership performance is essential for clergy. While faithfulness is considered an important quality, performance is expected. Jones and Jones (2001) noted that pastoral leadership is characterized through organizational variables as noted in local congregations. Kuhne and Donaldson (1995) found that pastors often struggle with managerial demands for which they feel they have not been prepared. Overall, leadership skills are deemed essential for organizational performance variables to be achieved within ecclesiastical contexts. Relative to clergy leadership effectiveness, Ellas (1990) posited, "The first sign of a healthy growing church is a pulpit minister with vision and faith, and whose dynamic leadership has been used to catalyze the congregation into action for growth" (p. 45). Bell and Dudley (2002) indicated that "using superior leadership practices enables pastors to be more successful in their ministry" (p. 290).

In contrast to the attendance decline of many mainline denominations, a number of movements appear to be thriving (D. E. Miller, 1997). The movements known as Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel indicate they are in a growth mode within American Protestantism. The fact that some ecclesiastical movements in America are in numerical incline while others are in decline causes considerations to go beyond a church growth analysis to a qualitative perspective of the lives of ministers.

Personal and Professional Issues of Clergy Today

The Fuller Institute of Church Growth (1991) conducted a survey of pastors and observed that (a) 80% believed that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively, (b) 33% said that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family, (c) 75% reported that they have had a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry, (d) 50% felt unable to meet the needs of their profession, (e) 90% felt that they have been inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands, and (f) 40% reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month. Regarding conflict management, 31% of pastors indicated that training to manage conflict was lacking in their seminary or Bible college training. The average pastor lasts only 5 years at a church, with research indicating that a minister's greatest impact at a church is in the 5th to 14th years of his pastorate (A Profile of Protestant Pastors in Anticipation of "Pastor Appreciation Month," 2001). Nineteen percent of pastors indicated that they have been forced out of ministry at least once during their ministry, with another 6% indicating that they have been fired from a ministry position (K. Miller, 2000). Pastors in America who work less than 50 hours per week are 35% more likely to be terminated (Larue, 2001). The clergy have the second highest divorce rate among all professions, and 24% of pastors have received marital counseling (Save America Ministries, 2003). Over 45% of pastors indicated that they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they have had to take a leave of absence from their ministry (I See That Hand: Have You Ever Experienced Depression or Burnout to the Extent That you Needed to Take a Leave of Absence From the Ministry? 2002).

Noting correlations between emotional intelligence (EI) and the practical needs of clergy could prove useful. EI has been noted in recent years as a quality that can help address both the quantitative needs of organizations as well as the qualitative needs of the leaders within them (Goleman, 1995, 1998).

Leadership Effectiveness, Emotional Intelligence, and Quality of Life Issues

Quality of life issues can be correlated to the organizational climate of one's workplace. Terkel (1974) interviewed hundreds of American workers relative to their job environments and noted the following:

Work is by its very nature, about violence, to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers, as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations. To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us. (p. xi)

While this negative assessment of organizational climate is unlikely to be represented ubiquitously, it does indicate that emotionality is a significant factor in the workplace. The cost of stress factors in U.S. workplaces has been estimated to be approximately $150 billion a year (Ashkanasy & Cooper, 2008). As has been noted by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth (1991), 80% of pastors believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively. In grasping an overview of quality of life issues and leadership effectiveness (LE) concerns for clergy, EI has been noted as a factor that facilitates betterment to both.

Regarding EI and well-being, Austin, Saklofske, and Egan (2005) posited that EI is negatively associated with alexithymia and alcohol consumption. These researchers also noted a positive correlation between EI and life satisfaction and social network size. Dawda and Hart (2000) noted that EI is negatively related to depression. Summerfeldt, Kloosterman, Antony, and Parker (2006) demonstrated EI to be negatively correlated to anxiety. Donaldson-Feilder and Bond (2004), through exploring various well-being outcomes, posited that EI has a predictive validity to such outcomes as general mental health, physical well-being, and job satisfaction. In addition to a correlation with quality of life issues, Donaldson- Feilder and Bond also noted that EI was positively correlated with LE.

Several researchers have indicated that there is a positive relationship between EI and LE (Coetzee & Schaap, 2004; Kerr, Garvin, Heaton, & Boyle, 2006; Morris & Feldman, 1996; Wong & Law, 2002). An assumption presently exists that EI is positively correlated to effectiveness within clergy leadership (Northeast Center for Congregations, 2006; Ott, 2003; White, 2006). This study specifically explores both the EI and the LE of pastors within the U.S. AG. The simple constructs undergirding EI include knowing one's emotions, managing emotions, selfmotivation, recognizing emotions in others, and handling relationships (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Clergy leadership effectiveness (CLE) will be established through church performance objectives within the population of the U.S. AG denomination.

This approach of assessing LE through performance objectives is supported through many contributors of leadership concepts and theories (Fiedler, 1967; Schneider, 1987). The U.S. AG measures effective churches through an annual report entitled the Annual Church Ministries Report where specific performance variables are reported. Key variables measured within the U.S. AG include (a) attendance of individual church adherents, (b) Spirit baptisms, (c) water baptisms, (d) conversions, and (e) Sunday school participation.

As previously noted, many researchers have identified EI as a contributor to effective leadership (Coetzee & Schaap, 2004; Kerr et al., 2006; Wong & Law, 2002). EI represents a set of attributes such as self-awareness, emotional management, self-motivation, empathy, and problem solving (Goleman, 1995; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). The study of EI is a relatively new field of exploration that has gained much support since 1990 through the influence of Goleman (1995) and Salovey and Mayer. While some studies have shown empirical evidence that EI is positively correlated with LE, other studies have indicated empirical evidence that EI is not positively correlated with LE (Barbuto & Burbach, 2006; Barchard, 2003; K. D. Brown, 2005; F. W. Brown, Bryant, & Reilly, 2006; Schulte, 2002; Weinberger, 2003).

In a recent dissertation employing a meta-analytic technique, Martin (2008) suggested that EI does have a positive effect on LE. With the potential promise of EI within LE, a study exploring the specific effect of EI on CLE could prove highly beneficial for pastors in training, established pastors, churches seeking to fill a pastoral position, and organizations focused on developing pastoral candidates.

With the conflicting research regarding the efficaciousness of EI as a predictive variable in LE, this empirical study focused on EI in the ecclesiastical world is of interest. It is important to have continued emphasis on establishing the theoretical relevance of EI to CLE before making practical application.

Assessing Performance of Church Leaders

Organizational performance variables often have been positively correlated with EI in research (Martin, 2008). It has been suggested that noting particular denominational performance variables relative to clergy effectiveness is a key means of measuring CLE (Nauss, 1972). By contextualizing CLE to a particular denomination's perspective of clergy effectiveness, we gain an assessment approach with high relevance to a specific context. An example of this contextualized assessment in a secular setting is found in the Johnson and Johnson study (Cavallo & Brienza, 2001) where performance variables were established specifically for this organization.

Emotional Intelligence and Development of Church Leaders

Presently, there is an assumption that EI is a significant facilitator of CLE. Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary holds this assumption. In a promotion for a seminar course entitled Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations: Leadership Skills for Congregational Life (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 2009), the brochure states:

This course is a laboratory experience designed to develop and enhance personal, interpersonal, and group process skills for church leaders. The content of the course will focus on the four areas of emotional intelligence-self awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management-as they promote more effective leadership.

The Center for Clergy and Congregations E-Bulletin (Palmetto Health, 2007) states succinctly that their organization "is providing more and more training for clergy in Emotional Intelligence. Clergy are confirming that the EQ competencies are significant contributors to effective congregational leadership" (p. 3). The Center for Congregational Health has titled the lead article of their newsletter: Emotional Intelligence: The New Key to Effective Ministry (Lineberger, 2008). Olsen (2008) stated that "obviously, there is much more required for being a great minister such as knowledge, confidence and vision. But without emotional intelligence, people will not follow even the most inspiring minister" (p. B3). The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago noted in a course description for Emotional Intelligence and Human Relations Training: Raising One's Leadership Effectiveness (2007) that their focus is "raising the EQ (Emotional Intelligence) of church professionals in order to assist them in becoming more effective agents of the Gospel as they pursue leadership roles within congregations and church agencies" (para. 3). White (2006), in an article for Alban Institute, stated that

seminaries are not geared to help candidates for the ministry develop their emotional intelligence. The result is that we produce clergy who are often very smart and can preach good sermons but lack the competencies (emotional intelligence) to be fruitful leaders. (p. 2)

With this apparent emphasis that EI is essentially important to LE within the church, it should be understood that there has been minimal research indicating that clergy EI is causal to CLE. Research utilizing EI as an independent variable with denominational performance variables of CLE serving as the collective dependent variable would be helpful in better forming the causal link of EI to CLE.

Intelligence Theories and EI

To grasp the broad foundational premises of EI, it is important to understand a general history of intelligence theories. Various cultures throughout time have highlighted various qualities considered ideal such as physical abilities, virtuous behaviors, rational judgment, courage, and artistic expressions. Western society has come to idealize the intelligent person (Gardner, 1999). In the late 19th century, Francis Galton believed that intelligence was a matter of family heredity. Galton also believed that intelligence could be measured directly through tests of intelligence such as distinguishing various sounds and perceiving various brightness levels of light. While Galton's specific experiments with measuring intelligence did not prove fruitful, his conceptualization that intelligence can be measured has been his legacy (Crovitz, 1970).

Spearman (1904) has been credited with developing a quantitative method to identify common factors of intelligence. Spearman's theory of intelligence focused on intelligence as a single, general ability. The conclusion was that people who performed well in one domain would also perform well in other domains. Thus, he concluded that intelligence was generalizable to many areas and could be measured as well as numerically expressed. This form of intelligence assessment became known as the g factor.

During the same time period, Binet (1905) focused on intelligence as complex mental processes. The dichotomy between Spearman and Binet has been considered significant (Brody, 2000). Spearman's view of intelligence was rooted in a reductionist approach, while Binet's theory of intelligence embraced complexity and broad dimensions (Drago, 2004). Spearman has been credited with developing a theory of intelligence. In 1915, Binet and Simon developed a widely accepted test of intelligence (Brody). The Binet and Simon test became a standardized test for assessing individuals' intelligence. Later, Stern (1914) developed the intelligence quotient (IQ) index.

Wechsler (1939) developed a new test that went beyond what he considered to be Binet's predominantly verbal focus to include nonverbal abilities as well. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children and the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale are still used by psychologists today (Consultingtools, Inc., 2005).

Thurstone (1938) also moved beyond a reductionist approach to intelligence assessment and embraced a complex view of intelligence that included seven primary areas of intelligence: (a) verbal expression, (b) reasoning, (c) perceptual speed, (d) numerical ability, (e) word fluency, (f) associative memory, and (g) spatial visualization. Thurstone considered his seven domains as more important than Spearman's single factor of g (Drago, 2004). Thurstone's work was not embraced when it failed to produce external validity. This led to the development of other intelligence theories that focused similarly on intelligences consisting of different domains. Guilford (1967) built upon Thurstone's work and developed a broad view of intelligence that included 150 independent abilities. These 150 independent abilities were reduced to 85 second-order abilities and 16 third-order abilities (Brody, 2000).

Gardner (1983) was influenced by Guilford and developed his theory of multiple intelligences composed of seven primary intelligences: (a) Linguistic intelligence is focused on language and can be noted in writers, poets, and people with a gift for expressiveness; (b) musical intelligence is used in creating and developing sounds to express meaning; (c) logical-mathematical intelligence is utilized by abstract relations such as is used by mathematicians; (d) spatial intelligence is noted by those who can develop images such as maps; (e) bodily- kinesthetic intelligence is noted by physical dexterity such as a gifted basketball player or other forms of athleticism; (f) interpersonal intelligence is an awareness of and ability to make decisions regarding the feelings of others; and (g) intrapersonal intelligence is a quality that enables individuals to assess their own feelings and use their assessments to guide their own lives as well as influence others. Another form of intelligence that Gardner (1999) later considered has been identified as naturalistic intelligence and is correlative to innate understandings.

Sternberg's (1985, 1997) triarchic theory of intelligence includes three domains: (a) The analytical domain, which is componential, is focused on academic problem solving and is how an individual relates to their inner world; (b) the creative domain, which is focused on the experiential, includes insights and the ability to react in novel ways to various situations, applying existing knowledge to new problems; and (c) the practical domain, which is focused in the context experientially, applies inner truths to outward goals. This experiential application includes attitudes and emotional factors that result in adaptation, changing one's environment, and possibly moving toward the creation of a new environment (Sternberg, 1985, 1997; Sternberg et al., 2001).

Sternberg's (1985, 1997; Wagner & Sternberg, 1986) theory of intelligence moves beyond an academic intelligence to include practical foci. Academic problems have certain characteristics that are (a) formulated by others, (b) well defined, (c) complete in the information they provide, (d) often have one correct answer, (e) often have only one method of obtaining the correct answer, (f) may be isolated from ordinary experience, and (g) may have little intrinsic interest. Practical problems often (a) are unformulated in how one is to respond, (b) take on a personal interest, (c) may lack information for solution, (d) are related to everyday experience, (e) are not defined clearly, (f) may have multiple answers, and (g) may include multiple methods for moving toward a solution (Hedlund, Antonakis, & Sternberg, 2002). The triarchic theory of intelligence thoroughly incorporates a practical dimension of intelligence understandings.

Assessing Clergy Leadership Effectiveness

Leadership has been noted as a variable that is centrally responsible for the success of an organization (Avolio, 2007; Northouse, 2004; Yukl & Van Fleet, 1992); therefore, assessing leadership effectiveness (LE) is important. Assessing clergy leadership effectiveness (CLE) has proven to be a multifaceted issue that often includes many areas of consideration such as the fundamental areas of (a) fitness to serve that reflects potential capacity in a professional context, (b) competencies on the interpersonal level, (c) readiness in terms of preparation that incorporates both theory and practice, and (d) effectiveness that speaks to how clergy will utilize resources and deal with limitations (Hunt, Hinkle, & Malony, 1990). Some means of clergy assessment have sought to be inclusive of a wide range of characteristics including personal and professional ministry demands (Aleshire, 1990; Hunt, 1990). Other means of clergy assessment have been much narrower such as dealing primarily with psychometric characteristics (Comer, 1990). Identifying the means of assessing CLE should take into consideration an overview of how LE is generally assessed.

Scholarly research has required that assessment of a construct be founded upon clear theoretical understandings (Creswell, 2003). Once a theoretical consideration is established, assessment means are considered relative to the primary purpose of the assessment instrument itself (Comer, 1990). Northouse (2004) identified 10 different approaches to leadership. These 10 approaches are identified with their corresponding theory and constructs and with specific means of assessment. These approaches include the following: (a) trait theories, (b) skills approach, (c) style approach, (d) situational approach, (e) contingency leadership theories, (f) path-goal theory, (g) leader-member exchange theory, (h) transformational leadership, (i) team leadership, and (j) psychodynamic approach. By noting these 10 various means of assessing LE and how CLE has been assessed therein, we gain a focused reason for employing the psychodynamic approach.

Emotional Intelligence and Effective Leadership

Ashkanasy (2003) noted in regard to emotionality within organizations, "it is becoming clear that emotion dimensions pervade the entire spectrum of human behavior and interaction, including organizations" (p. 10). Ashkanasy described five levels of emotions in organizations as the (a) within-person emotions, (b) between-persons emotions, (c) interpersonal interactions, (d) group emotions, and (e) organization-wide emotions. Organization-wide emotions are represented in areas such as organizational policies and emotional climate. The failure to accurately assess negative emotionality within an organizational climate has direct impact on organizational effectiveness and managerial effectiveness (Ashkanasy & Nicholson, 2003; Beyer & Niño, 2001). The research of emotionality in organizations has given theoretical support to exploring EI and effective leadership. A number of researchers have identified EI as a contributor to effective leadership (Coetzee & Schaap, 2004; Kerr et al., 2006; Wong & Law, 2002). While some studies have shown empirical evidence that EI is positively correlated with LE, other studies have indicated empirical evidence that EI is not positively correlated with LE (Barbuto & Burbach, 2006; Barchard, 2003; Weinberger, 2003). Martin (2008) and Van Rooy and Viswesvaran (2004) produced meta-analytic research that employed both ability-based and mixed-model approaches to EI. Their research has suggested that EI has moderate predictive validity.


There are key areas within clergy leadership that are not predicted by EI. This study did not support the concept that EI is a predictor of clergy effectiveness relative to the performance variables of Sunday morning/major worship service attendance, water baptisms, Spirit baptisms, or Sunday school attendance. It should also be emphasized that senior pastors who have an above average development of the EI construct of adaptability. Some could argue that leading in the area of conversion is perhaps the most significant performance variable any clergy could have. This value of conversion growth can have a dramatic impact on the world. Olson (2008) noted that the church within the 1st century had an annual growth rate of 3.42% during the first 3 centuries. This seemingly small annual growth rate caused its dramatic growth in the world. Conversion growth could equip the American church to exceed population growth. Mastering the cluster of competencies related to conversion growth for ecclesiastical leadership is imperative if the crises of the American church are to be abated. Additionally, mastering the cluster of competencies related to conversion growth for ecclesiastical leadership could do more than abate the American church crises and move the American church into a position of dramatic growth through time.