Being a Baptist pastor in America: A national survey of role contribution, satisfaction, efficacy, and longevity

Kirkpatrick George Cohall, Fordham University


Pastors in American Baptist Churches, as well as those in other mainline Protestant denominations, play an important role in their communities. As clergy, they exert an enormous influence on their parishioners. Each week, thousands of men and women gather in churches across the United States to listen to pastors articulate spiritual, political, socioeconomic, and other relevant issues facing the average American citizen. The role of the typical pastor has evolved well beyond providing spiritual direction. Pastors are expected by their congregations to play complex leadership roles, similar to those in secular institutions. Some of these roles include administrators, political strategists, social activists, economic advisors, and educators. Preparation for nontraditional leadership roles for clergy in seminaries has not kept up with the changing roles of parish ministers. The individual pastor is not only a spiritual leader, but is also called upon to play a complex role, especially in an urban context. Pastors often fail or are quickly burned out because of inadequate skills in preparation for leadership and administration within and beyond the parish context. This study focused particular attention on American Baptist pastors, their leadership styles, their roles as spiritual, political, and social leaders within their churches and communities. A national survey of 255 randomly selected pastors was conducted to quantitatively analyze the perception of preparation, leadership roles, and styles of American Baptist pastors. Independent variables such as race, gender, background, prior career, seminary preparation, church size, and location were analyzed to determine their connection to, and impact on, leadership effectiveness, job satisfaction, and vocational longevity. The results of this study indicate that leadership roles differ significantly between Black and White ministers, with Black ministers playing a more social and political role in their communities. Leadership preparation is significant for efficacy and satisfaction, with mentoring being a key component. Transformational leadership style also played a significant role with longevity, satisfaction, and efficacy. Findings from the study conclude that pastors who are politically and socially active in their congregations as well as those who use transformational leadership style tend to be more satisfied, more effective, and will remain longer in the profession.

Subject Area

Clergy|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Cohall, Kirkpatrick George, "Being a Baptist pastor in America: A national survey of role contribution, satisfaction, efficacy, and longevity" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255008.