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Pastoral Psychol (2013) 62:291304

DOI 10.1007/s11089-012-0490-8

Clergy Role Stress: Interactive Effects of Role Ambiguity


and Role Conflict on Intrinsic Job Satisfaction
John M. Faucett & Robert F. Corwyn & Tom H. Poling

Published online: 5 September 2012


# Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Abstract The present study examined relationships between role conflict, role ambiguity, and
three facets of clergy job satisfaction: Relationships and Support, Denominational Involvement,
and Intrinsic Aspects. Web survey data from 179 United Methodist clergy indicated that role
ambiguity and role conflict had negative relationships with each of the three facets of job
satisfaction, as well as with overall job satisfaction. Interactions between role conflict and
ambiguity were not significant for overall job satisfaction or for two of the three facets,
suggesting that the effects of role conflict and role ambiguity on these aspects of job satisfaction
were linear and cumulative. However, the effects of role ambiguity and role conflict considered
together were nonlinear and interactive for the Intrinsic Aspects facet of job satisfaction,
indicating that when role ambiguity was low, the relationship between role conflict and intrinsic
job satisfaction was not significant, whereas when role ambiguity was high, there was a
significant negative relationship between role conflict and intrinsic job satisfaction.
Keywords Clergy stress . Clergy job satisfaction . Role conflict . Role ambiguity
For decades, job satisfaction, the affective reactions that an employee has to a job (Fields 2002),
has been one of the most extensively studied constructs in organizational research.
Considerable evidence suggests that job satisfaction is important to the functioning of work
organizations, partly because it appears to contribute to other positive job attitudes and work
behaviors, such as job involvement and organizational commitment (Agho et al. 1992; Spector
1997). Also, as job satisfaction decreases, withdrawal behavior (e.g., absenteeism and quitting),
job burnout, and depression increase (Beehr and Newman 1978; Porter and Steers 1973).
Clergy are often thought to be relatively satisfied with their jobs because it is assumed
they are following a calling when they enter the ministry, rather than simply choosing a
vocation (Mueller and McDuff 2004), and a number of studies appear to support this
assumption. For instance, a review of studies of American clergy by Goetz (1997) indicated
J. M. Faucett (*) : R. F. Corwyn : T. H. Poling
Department of Psychology, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2801 South University, Little Rock,
AR 72204, USA
e-mail: jmfaucett@ualr.edu

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that clergy enjoy relatively high job satisfaction. Studies have shown job satisfaction to be
generally high among British clergy, as well (Fletcher 1990; Hills et al. 2004; Rose 1999).
However, some research indicates that clergy job satisfaction may not be particularly high
(Dittes 1970). For instance, in a study of United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ
clergy, Mueller and McDuff (2004) found lower job satisfaction in liberal clergy who
perceived themselves to be theologically mismatched with their congregations. Clergy have
also been found to be prone to the emotional exhaustion facet of occupational burnout (Evers
and Tomic 2003; Warner and Carter 1984).
Clergy are often stereotyped as individuals with unique professional motivations and
irrational labor market behavior, based on religious calling and other faith-based criteria,
rather than the criteria of concern for other professionals, such as pay, job security, and
advancement potential (McDuff and Mueller 2000). Recent research, however, has challenged this view, suggesting that clergy generally make job decisions based on considerations of key job characteristics in a fashion similar to that of other employees (McDuff and
Mueller 2000; Wildhagen et al. 2005). Clergy job satisfaction appears to vary with work
conditions such as autonomy and decision-making opportunities, opportunities for professional growth, and the pay and benefits received (Mueller and McDuff 2004).
There have been two basic approaches for measuring job satisfaction: the global approach
and the facet approach. The global approach, which considers job satisfaction as an overall
unidimensional construct, typically utilizes a single rating scale or a small number of items
to measure an individuals general level of satisfaction. The facet approach measures
satisfaction with several aspects of the job, perhaps including both extrinsic and intrinsic
factors (Fields 2002). Extrinsic factors relate to the work environment, rather than to the
nature of the work itself, and include such things as pay, fringe benefits, praise, pleasant
working conditions, supervision, relations with coworkers, and feedback. Intrinsic factors,
on the other hand, include an individuals feelings about the work itself, including feelings of
achievement, meaningfulness, personal growth, and pride (Hodson and Sullivan 2002).
Francis et al. (2008) argue that a multidimensional facet model, rather than a unidimensional global model, better explains clergy job satisfaction, suggesting that clergy may
derive different levels of satisfaction from different facets of ministry, and research has
generally supported this argument. For instance, Kay (2000) found that job satisfaction
among male Pentecostal clergy in Britain was positively related to the extent to which they
were able to engage in evangelistic tasks. Robbins and Francis (2000) found that Anglican
clergy with a more Catholic orientation found greater satisfaction in performing tasks related
to the sacramental role of ministry, whereas those with a more evangelical orientation
derived more pleasure from tasks related to roles involving evangelism and teaching.
Wildhagen et al. (2005) found that, while clergy generally reported high overall job
satisfaction, they tended to be less satisfied with the pay and benefits they received.
Since Kahn et al. (1964) first introduced the theory of role dynamics, numerous studies
have demonstrated the negative association between organizational role stress and job
satisfaction (Beehr and Newman 1978; Jackson and Schuler 1985; Schaubroeck et al.
1989). Katz and Kahn (1978) define a role as a set of expected activities associated with
the occupancy of a given position (p. 200). Two frequently studied aspects of role stress are
role conflict and role ambiguity (King and King 1990). According to Katz and Kahn (1978),
role conflict is the simultaneous occurrence of two or more role expectations such that
compliance with one would make compliance with the other more difficult (p. 204), and
role ambiguity refers to uncertainty about what the occupant of a particular office is
supposed to do (p. 206). Role stress researchers have generally followed the lead of
Kahn et al. in assuming that role conflict and ambiguity are independent and that their

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effects upon job satisfaction are linear and cumulative; however, some research has indicated
that their effects may be nonlinear and interactive (Jackson 1960; Kemery 2006).
Clergy may be particularly susceptible to role stress, because a minister must attempt to
balance the frequently conflicting expectations of their congregations, denominational
superiors, and family members, while attempting to stay true to their religious calling.
Campbell and Pettigrew (1959) argued that clergy behavior is heavily influenced by three
reference systems: (1) personal convictions; (2) the professional reference system represented by denominational leadership and fellow clergy; and (3) congregation expectations.
There is often a lack of clarity from the various referents as to what the role of a pastor
should be, and the referents often disagree concerning the pastors role (Hoge et al. 1981;
Smith 1973). Davey (1995) showed that clergy often have difficulty meeting role expectations, leaving them feeling overworked and unappreciated. Evers and Tomic (2003) found
role ambiguity and role conflict to be positively related to clergy burnout. Francis et al.
(2004) reported similar findings and suggested that role stress intensifies a pastors doubt
concerning whether he/she is the right kind of person to lead a particular congregation.
Dowson et al. (2006) suggest that, as society becomes more secularized, clergy struggle with
their personal beliefs in the face of conflicts with those holding different views, leading to an
increase in existential angst and ontological insecurity.
In a study of United Methodist clergy, Kemery (2006) found that, although role conflict
and role ambiguity individually had negative relationships with job satisfaction, the combined effect of the two factors on appointment satisfaction was more complex. When role
conflict and role ambiguity were both high, appointment satisfaction was low, but when role
conflict was low, satisfaction was actually higher when role ambiguity was high. Kemery
suggested that, under conditions of low role conflict, a degree of role ambiguity might allow
a pastor the latitude to encourage the congregation to greater spirituality and engage in
creative ministry in line with the pastors unique calling.
A possible limitation of Kemerys study was his use of the Job-in-General Scale (Ironson et
al. 1989), a global measure of job satisfaction. A facet approach might be more useful for
measuring clergy job satisfaction because intrinsic factors might be of relatively more importance to satisfaction among clergy than to those in many other professions. Ministry is a calling
as well as a job, and the gratification of answering Gods call and doing Gods work might
contribute more to clergy job satisfaction than extrinsic factors more typically related to job
satisfaction. For instance, satisfaction with pay has generally been found to contribute greatly to
overall satisfaction for many jobs, but relatively low pay is often taken for granted in the
ministerial profession and pay might not be a prime consideration in clergy job satisfaction
(Glass 1976; Mueller and McDuff 2004). Some research has found personal fulfillment factors
to be more predictive of clergy job satisfaction and organizational commitment than are
extrinsic factors (Glass 1976; Hoge et al. 1981; Mueller and McDuff 2004).
Glass (1976) developed the Ministerial Job Satisfaction Scale (MJSS) to measure various
facets of clergy job satisfaction, using a sample of United Methodist clergy. Item analysis of an
initial pool of 102 items resulted in the selection of the 25 most discriminative items for the final
scale. These 25 items primarily relate to three principal facets of the ministers job: Relationships
and Support, Denominational Involvement, and Intrinsic Aspects of ministry. Glass concluded
that clergy job satisfaction largely relates to the association between satisfaction with the intrinsic
elements of the job and perceptions about how others evaluate their job performance.
Subsequently, Turton and Francis (2002) slightly revised the MJSS for use with Anglican clergy
and demonstrated the internal reliability and construct validity of the instrument.
Role ambiguity and role conflict might differentially affect various facets of clergy job
satisfaction. Core beliefs and values are most associated with the intrinsic facets of ministry,

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pertaining to a sense of satisfaction with ones relationship with God and the pursuit of ones
unique individual calling. Perhaps clergy who enjoy a strong sense of calling and role clarity
are less affected by conflicts with parishioners and denominational superiors than are clergy
who experience more role ambiguity, maybe even welcoming conflict as an evangelical
challenge. On the other hand, as Kemery (2006) reasoned, some degree of role ambiguity
might not seriously detract from intrinsic job satisfaction when role conflict is low, because
the pastor might perceive there to be some decision latitude in answering Gods call.
However, role ambiguity and conflict in job facets less related to spiritual calling, such as
perceptions of personal relationships with congregation members and church officials, might
simply contribute to role confusion and might detract from satisfaction in a more linear
fashion. Therefore, the following hypotheses are advanced.
Hypothesis 1: As role ambiguity increases, satisfaction with Relationships and Support
and Denominational Involvement will decrease independently of role
conflict.
Hypothesis 2: The negative influence of role conflict on Intrinsic Aspects of job satisfaction will increase as role ambiguity increases.

Method
Sample
All professional clergy in the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church (n0557)
serving in parish ministry were sent e-mails requesting their participation in a web survey of
job-related attitudes. Clergy were directed to a website to complete the survey, which
consisted of nine scales of job attitudes and religious beliefs, including the three scales used
in the present study. Participation was voluntary and anonymity was assured. Two reminder
e-mails were sent out to all clergy at two-week intervals.
Three hundred and four recipients opened the e-mailed surveys. In all, 210 questionnaires
were returned, and missing data resulted in an effective sample of 179 (a 32 % response
rate). The sample consisted of 130 (72.6 %) males, and 166 (92.7 %) Caucasians.
Approximately three quarters of the pastors were full-time, and approximately half of the
churches served urban areas. The average time in the ministry was 3.36 years (SD0
1.63 years). Seventy-five (41.9 %) of respondents indicated that their congregation had over
300 members, 33 (21.2 %) congregations had from 100 to 300 members, and 63 (35.2 %)
congregations consisted of 100 or fewer members (3 respondents did not answer the
question). One hundred and seven (59.8 %) of the respondents were the only pastor in their
church, 35 (19.6 %) of the churches had two pastors, and 31 (17.3 %) had three pastors (6
respondents did not answer the question). One hundred and thirty-six (76.0 %) were senior
pastors, and 31 (17.3 %) percent were associate pastors (12 did not answer the question).
One hundred and twenty-three (68.7 %) of the pastors had completed seminary, 51 (28.5 %)
had not completed seminary, and three (1.7 %) of the respondents were serving their
internship (2 of the respondents did not answer the question).
Measures
Role ambiguity was measured with the 6-item scale developed by Rizzo et al. (1970).
Respondents indicated how true each item was for them personally on a 5-point scale,

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which ranged from 1 (very true) to 5 (very false). Items were scored so that a high score
indicates a high degree of role ambiguity. Coefficient alpha for this measure was .846.
Role conflict was measured using Rizzo et al.s (1970) 7-item scale, plus two clergyspecific items developed by Kemery (2006): I work under incompatible theology with my
local church, and, I work under incompatible theology with my annual conference.
Again, respondents indicated how true each item was for them personally on a 5-point
scale, ranging from 1 (very true) to 5 (very false. Coefficient alpha for this measure was
.815. For conceptual clarity, role conflict items were reverse coded, so that a high score
indicates high role conflict.
Job satisfaction was measured with the Ministerial Job Satisfaction Scale (Glass 1976).
The scale consists of 25 items arranged for Likert-type scaling. Respondents indicated their
level of agreement with each statement on a five-point scale, ranging from 1 (strongly
disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), with high scores implying higher satisfaction. The 25-items
relate to five principal facets of the ministers job: Relationships and Support,
Denominational Involvement, Intrinsic Aspects, Ecumenical Involvement, and Community
Involvement. Because of the relatively few items contributing to Ecumenical Involvement
(i.e., one item) and Community Involvement (i.e., two items), a decision was made to
exclude an in-depth analysis of these two facets from the present study, although they
contributed to the calculation of overall job satisfaction. Coefficient alpha for the entire
instrument was .902. Alpha reliabilities for the Relationships and Support, Denominational
Involvement, and Intrinsic Aspects subscales were .834, .784, and .846 respectively.
Procedures
Overall Job Satisfaction, Relationships and Support, Denominational Involvement, and
Intrinsic Satisfaction were the four outcome measures in this study. Each outcome was
regressed on the same set of predictors using SPSS 18.0 statistical software. Role conflict
was entered in the first step and role ambiguity was entered in the second step of a
hierarchical regression analysis, and the product of both variables was entered into the third
step of the hierarchical regression.
In order to improve interpretation and to reduce problems associated with collinearity,
role conflict and role ambiguity were centered and the interaction term was computed by
taking the product of both centered variables. If the interaction contributed significant
explained variance in the dependent variable, the interaction was plotted according to
procedures outlined by Aiken and West (1991). Simple slopes were plotted for the relationships between role conflict and the outcome at fixed levels of role ambiguity. Separate slopes
were plotted for 2 standard deviations below the mean of role ambiguity, the mean of role
ambiguity, and 2 standard deviations above the mean of role ambiguity.

Results
Table 1 shows the bivariate correlations between study variables. Out of the 25 questions
that were used to measure Overall Job Satisfaction, the Relationships and Support subscale
represented 11 items, the Denominational Support subscale represented 3 of the items, and
the Intrinsic Satisfaction subscale was constructed from 6 of the items. As expected,
Relationships and Support was highly related to the Job Satisfaction instrument (r0.938)
while Denominational Support and Intrinsic Satisfaction were not as highly related to the
complete scale (r0.740 and r0.766, respectively). Role conflict and role ambiguity were

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Table 1 Correlations between study variables (n0179)


Variable

1. Job satisfaction
2. Relationships and support
3. Denominational involvement

0.938
0.740

0.667

4. Intrinsic satisfaction
5. Role conflict

0.766
0.456

0.594
0.385

0.413
0.274

0.414

6. Role ambiguity

0.582

0.487

0.329

0.585

Means

94.54

40.86

10.34

25.77

23.48

14.14

Standard deviations

13.57

6.86

2.76

3.65

5.78

4.00

0.329

All p-values were below .001

relatively independent constructs (r0.329), with role ambiguity showing consistently higher
relations with study outcomes than role conflict (see Table 1). The last two rows of Table 1
show the means and standard deviations of study variables and indicate that clergy job
satisfaction was moderately high in general.
Job satisfaction
Table 2 shows that role conflict and role ambiguity explained 41.7 % of the variance of overall job
satisfaction. Role conflict explained 20.8 % of the variance in step 1, and role ambiguity
contributed an additional 20.9 % of unique explained variance in step 2 (Significant Fchange0.000). Role conflict and role ambiguity were significant predictors of overall job satisfaction in the second step of the hierarchical regression (00.296, p<.01; 00.484, p<.01
respectively). The role conflict by role ambiguity interaction failed to independently contribute
to explained variance (00.092, p0.138).
Relationships and support
Role conflict and role ambiguity explained 29.4 % of the variance of Relationships and Support
satisfaction (Table 3). Role conflict explained 14.9 % of the variance in step 1, and role
ambiguity contributed an additional 14.5 % of explained variance in step 2 (Significant Fchange0.000). Role conflict and role ambiguity were significant predictors of job satisfaction in
the second step of the hierarchical regression (00.253, p<.01; 00.404, p<.01, respectively). The role conflict by role ambiguity interaction failed to independently contribute to
explained variance (00.085, p0.213).
Table 2 Hierarchical regression analysis predicting overall job satisfaction (n0179)
Step

Independent variables

SE

Sig

Sig F

R2

Role conflict

1.046

0.154

0.456

0.000

Role conflict

0.680

0.140

0.296

0.000

Role ambiguity

1.608

0.202

0.484

0.000

0.000

0.417

Conflict X ambiguity

0.041

0.027

0.092

0.138

0.138

0.424

0.000

0.208

Because role conflict and role ambiguity are highly related to the interaction, their coefficients are not shown
in the 3rd step of the hierarchical regression

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Table 3 Hierarchical regression analysis predicting relationship and support satisfaction (n0179)
Step

Independent variables

SE

Sig

Sig F

R2

Role conflict

0.458

0.082

0.385

0.000

Role conflict

0.300

0.080

0.253

0.000

Role ambiguity

0.694

0.115

0.404

0.000

0.000

0.294

Conflict X ambiguity

0.020

0.016

0.085

0.213

0.213

0.300

0.000

0.149

Because role conflict and role ambiguity are highly related to the interaction, their coefficients are not shown
in the 3rd step of the hierarchical regression

Denominational involvement
Role conflict and role ambiguity effects accounted for 13.9 % of the variance in
Denominational Involvement satisfaction (Table 4). Role conflict explained 7.5 % of the
variance in step 1, and role ambiguity contributed an additional 6.4 % of explained variance
in step 2 (Significant F-change0.000). Role conflict and role ambiguity were significant
predictors of satisfaction in the second step of the hierarchical regression (00.186,
p0.014; 00.286, p<.01, respectively). The role conflict by role ambiguity interaction
failed to independently contribute to explained variance (00.027, p0.726).
Although a decision was made not to include detailed results for two facets of job
satisfactionCommunity Involvement and Ecumenical Involvementdue to the small
number of scale items contributing to these two facets, regression analyses were conducted
for these facets. For Community Involvement, the two main effects were significant (0
0.238, p0.003 for conflict and 00.223, p0.005 for ambiguity), but the interaction was
not (0.062, p0.411). For Ecumenical Involvement, the main effect of ambiguity was
significant ( 00.210, p 0.011), but neither the main effect of conflict ( 00.020,
p0.807), nor the interaction (0.094, p0.238) was significant.
Intrinsic satisfaction
The two predictors explained 39.7 % of the variance in Intrinsic Aspects satisfaction. Role
conflict explained 17.1 % of the variance in step 1, and role ambiguity contributed an
additional 22.6 % of explained variance in step 2 (Significant F-change0.000). Role conflict
and role ambiguity were significant predictors of satisfaction in the second step of the
hierarchical regression (00.248, p<.01; 00.503, p<.01, respectively). However, the
role conflict by role ambiguity interaction independently contributed to explained variance
(00.159, p0.011) as well. In accordance with procedures outlined by Aiken and West
Table 4 Hierarchical regression analysis predicting denominational involvement satisfaction (n0179)
Step

Independent variables

SE

Sig

Sig F

R2

Role conflict

0.131

0.035

0.274

0.000

Role conflict

0.089

0.035

0.186

0.014

Role ambiguity

0.184

0.051

0.268

0.000

0.000

0.139

Conflict X ambiguity

0.002

0.007

0.027

0.726

0.726

0.140

0.000

0.075

Because role conflict and role ambiguity are highly related to the interaction, their coefficients are not shown
in the 3rd step of the hierarchical regression

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(1991), the interaction was plotted. Both independent variables were mean centered before
computing the interaction term. Figure 1 shows regression lines for low ambiguity (two
standard deviations below the mean), neutral ambiguity (mean), and high ambiguity (two
standard deviations above the mean). At low levels of role ambiguity, the differences in
satisfaction between low, medium, and high conflict were not large. However, when role
ambiguity was high, there were larger differences in satisfaction between the three levels of
role conflict. Although pastors who experienced low role ambiguity showed higher levels of
intrinsic satisfaction at both low and high levels of role conflict, the negative relationship
between role conflict and intrinsic satisfaction was greater for pastors with high role
ambiguity (Table 5).

Discussion
Consistent with the bulk of past role stress research (Fisher and Gitelson 1983; Kemery
2006), role conflict and role ambiguity, when considered separately, were negatively correlated with overall job satisfaction and with each of the three facets of job satisfaction,
indicating a decrease in job satisfaction as either role ambiguity or role conflict increases.
Interactions between role conflict and ambiguity were not significant for overall job satisfaction or for two of the three facets, suggesting that the effects of role conflict and role
ambiguity on these aspects of job satisfaction are linear and cumulative. However, the effects
of role conflict and role ambiguity considered together were nonlinear and interactive for the
Intrinsic Aspects facet of job satisfaction. When role ambiguity was low, the relationship
between role conflict and intrinsic job satisfaction was not significant, whereas when role
ambiguity was high, there was a significant negative relationship between role conflict and
intrinsic job satisfaction.
A closer examination of the five job satisfaction facets might help illuminate the
discrepant findings concerning their relationships to role stress. The items comprising the
Denominational Involvement facet (items 8, 13, and 17) relate to concerns of organizational
promotion and placement. Relationships and Support facet items relate to perceptions of the
trust and support received from others in general (items 21 and 23), denominational supervisors (items 7, 9, 14, 16, and 18), fellow clergy (item 11), congregation members (items 1
and 24), and family (item 6). Concerns related to promotion and placement, as well as
35

Intrinsic Job Satisfaction

30
25
20

Low
Ambiguity

15

Neutral
Ambiguity

10

High
Ambiguity

5
0
Low Conflict

Neutral Conflict

High Conflict

Fig. 1 The relationship between role conflict and intrinsic job satisfaction as moderated by role ambiguity

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Table 5 Hierarchical regression analysis predicting intrinsic satisfaction (n0179)


Step

Independent variables

SE

Sig

Sig F

R2

Role conflict

0.261

0.043

0.414

0.000

Role conflict

0.156

0.039

0.248

0.000

Role ambiguity

0.459

0.057

0.503

0.000

0.000

0.397

Conflict X ambiguity

0.019

0.008

0.159

0.011

0.011

0.419

0.000

0.171

Because role conflict and role ambiguity are highly related to the interaction, their coefficients are not shown
in the 3rd step of the hierarchical regression

concerns involving work and community relationships, are external to the nature of the work
of ministry itself (i.e., ones spiritual calling) and are likely to be of similar concern to job
incumbents across professions. Items comprising the Intrinsic Aspects facet (items 2, 5, 10,
20, 22, and 25), on the other hand, relate to a pastors perceptions as to how well their job
allows them to answer Gods calling as they interpret it and are perhaps somewhat unique to
the profession of ministry.
All the job facets examined in the present study, with the exception of the Intrinsic
Factors facet, relate to clergy involvement with various referents in completing the tasks of
the church organization and to clergy perceptions concerning the evaluations by others of
their work, not the work itself. Perhaps, when it comes to job facets that are not unique to
parish ministry, clergy tend to behave as typical employees, with job attitudes that are similar
to those of other professionals and that reflect perceptions of key job characteristics, as
suggested by McDuff and Mueller (2000) and Wildhagen et al. (2005). The effects of role
conflict and role ambiguity on job satisfaction may be linear and cumulative for facets of job
satisfaction unrelated to ministerial calling.
The present results suggest a more complex relationship between the two aspects of role
stress and the Intrinsic Aspects facet of job satisfaction, however, indicating that the
combined effect of these stressors is interactive rather than simply cumulative. Although
pastors who experienced low role ambiguity showed higher levels of intrinsic satisfaction at
both low and high levels of role conflict, the negative relationship between role conflict and
intrinsic satisfaction was greater for pastors with high ambiguity. The apparent lack of
impact of role conflict on satisfaction when role ambiguity is low may relate to the strength
and clarity of ministers spiritual calling. Clergy with a firm, unambiguous inner sense of
calling may tend to take conflict in stride, perhaps even welcoming it to some extent,
believing theological conflict to be inevitable in the struggle to win hearts and minds for
God. On the other hand, role ambiguity for intrinsic elements of ministry may relate to a
sense of the relativity of personal religious beliefs, ontological insecurity, and existential
angst, resulting in less resilience in the face of role conflict. Thus, as role ambiguity rises, the
effect of role conflict on job satisfaction becomes more pronounced.
The work of Miner and her colleagues (Dowson et al. 2006; Miner 1996; Miner 2007;
Miner et al. 2009) lends credence to the theory that clergy with a weak internal ministry
orientation, based on personal religious beliefs about which they have little conviction,
experience significant ontological insecurity, particularly when these personal beliefs are
challenged by others holding contrasting views. Clergy work contexts often produce conflicts with parishioners and denominational leaders that force the clergy to confront their
existential anxieties, leading to role ambiguity (Miner 1996). Miner et al. (2009) found a
weak internal ministry orientation to be positively related to anxiety, depression, and
occupational burnout, whereas the findings of Dowson et al. (2006) suggest that clergy with

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a strong internal orientation are more likely to resist external pressure, enabling them to
maintain a sense of personal peace in the face of interpersonal conflict. Results of a 2002
study by Francis and Turton appear to provide further evidence that strength of personal
calling relates to role conflict and ambiguity; their study indicated that clergy experiencing
high emotional exhaustion tended to report more disagreement with parishioners, expressed
doubt as to whether they were the right kind of person to serve their congregation, and were
less likely to have maintained a strong sense of call to ordained ministry. The present results
might be interpreted as further evidence that a lack of role clarity concerning ministerial
calling might make clergy more reactive to conflict with significant referents, resulting in
lowered job satisfaction.
An alternative explanation for the present findings is that, as suggested by Kemery
(2006), role ambiguity may not negatively affect intrinsic job satisfaction, as long as there
is little role conflict, because under such conditions a pastor may feel free to creatively
espouse personal convictions. Low conflict with laity and denominational officials in
intrinsic matters might suggest approval of a pastors theological message and might
contribute to a pastors sense that they are serving God appropriately. However, reference
system conflict related to a pastors theological views is likely to increase the pastors
ontological insecurity and existential angst, so that role ambiguity may become increasingly
aversive, resulting in lower job satisfaction. Further research is called for to better understand the manner in which role ambiguity and role conflict interact to affect clergy job
satisfaction.
Different organizational intervention strategies might be called for to increase extrinsic
versus intrinsic facets of job satisfaction. Clergy satisfaction for extrinsic job facets involving relationships with parishioners, denominational supervisors, and other referents might be
positively affected via training in management skills in areas such as conflict management,
program development, group decision making, and agenda setting, as suggested by Kemery
(2006). Efforts to improve communication between clergy, laity, and denominational supervisors, such as through the use of 360 feedback techniques, might also increase clergy
satisfaction with extrinsic job facets. However, quite different intervention strategies, such as
allowing clergy greater autonomy and latitude in espousing their personal theological
viewpoints, might be effective in increasing intrinsic satisfaction. In a closed market system,
such as in the United Methodist Church, bishops might consider matching clergy to
congregations based on theological compatibility.
One caveat to be considered when evaluating the present study is that the obtained sample
is self-selected in that surveys were sent via e-mail to the entire clergy population in the
Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church, perhaps producing some bias in the
results. Mono-method bias is also a possibility, because all survey instruments were
contained in the same questionnaire. As was the case with Kemerys (2006) findings, the
amount of variance explained by the interaction effect between role conflict and role
ambiguity for intrinsic job satisfaction was small in comparison to the strength of the main
effects (2 % vs. 40 %, respectively).
The authors chose to administer the Ministerial Job Satisfaction Scale without alteration.
In retrospect, this decision was somewhat unfortunate, in that item 6 refers to a pastors wife.
The word spouse should be substituted for wife in future research because women make
up an increasingly large proportion of the clergy population.
Of course, the present study utilized a relatively small sample drawn from only one
Christian denomination, and thus variation in denominational structure might contribute to
differences in how clergy perceive their work environment. Because the United Methodist
Church is a closed market system, in which bishops appoint clergy to denominations, and

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301

appointment to a larger parish does not, in theory, signify career advancement, an argument
could be made that survey items related to denominational advancement may be inappropriate for use with United Methodist clergy, even though the instrument was originally
developed with a United Methodist sample. In response, the authors point to research cited
above (e.g., McDuff and Mueller 2000; Wildhagen, et al. 2005) suggesting that clergy do
consider key job characteristics in making job decisions, as well as the present results, which
indicate that role stress contributes to lower job satisfaction for Denominational Involvement
items, primarily those pertaining to career advancement.
The present results are important in that they partially replicate Kemerys (2006) findings
that role ambiguity and role conflict may interact in predicting job satisfaction, although they
indicate that the two aspects of role stress may interact for some facets of job satisfaction but
not others. Thus, the present results contribute to a greater understanding of the relationships
between role stress and job satisfaction. The present results also contribute to an understanding of similarities and dissimilarities between clergy job attitudes and the attitudes of
other types of employees. Future research should seek to determine if the role ambiguity/
role conflict interaction for intrinsic job satisfaction is unique to the profession of ministry or
can be found for other professions as well, and whether such an interaction can be found for
clergy serving denominations other than the United Methodist Church. Future research
should also investigate possible interactions between role stress and job attitudes other than
satisfaction, such as organizational commitment and burnout.
Acknowledgments The authors of this paper wish to thank the Arkansas Conference of the United
Methodist Church for supporting this research. We are particularly indebted to Reverend Roy Smith for his
assistance in administering the survey. This research was made possible through financial support provided by
the Marie Wilson Howells Endowment to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of
Psychology.

Appendix: survey items


Ministerial job satisfaction
1. The congregation understands the problems I have in the job.
2. I am satisfied that my job utilizes my training and capabilities.
3. I feel the church provides the necessary personnel (voluntary and employed) for
adequately carrying out its ministry.*
4. The types of community functions I have to attend as a minister are not the kinds of
activities I would choose to participate in.
5. I find meaning and purpose in my work.
6. I feel that my wife really would like for me to be in another job.
7. I can depend upon the support of my immediate superior in times of conflict.
8. I am satisfied with the advancement I have made in the denomination up to now.
9. I feel that my denominational supervisor values my ministry.
10. I feel that I can be myself in my work.
11. I feel my fellow ministers respect and appreciate my vocational efforts.
12. The denominational hierarchy is supportive of efforts on my part to work with other
denominations.
13. I am satisfied with the denominations promotional policies.
14. I can trust my superior to keep confidences.

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15.
16.
17.
18.

I am pleased with the importance my congregation attaches to the time I set aside for study.*
My supervisor recognizes good work and rewards it.
I feel confident that I will be considered for any church for which I am qualified.
I believe that my supervisor will make any reasonable effort to advance my career and
professional standing.
I am pleased with the way in which our churchs program meets the needs of the
community.
I feel I am doing the work God wants me to do.
I feel that I receive adequate recognition for the work I do.
I wish I were in some other vocation.
As a minister I feel that I will always have a place to work.
The job requirements asked by the congregation utilize my training and capabilities
very well.
Most days I am glad that I am a minister.

19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.

Relationships and Support 0 items 1, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 24
Denominational Involvement 0 items 8, 13, 17 Intrinsic Aspects 0 items 2, 5, 10, 20, 22, 25
Community Involvement 0 items 4, 19 Ecumenical Involvement 0 item 12
*Contributes to overall job satisfaction, but does not contribute to any of the facets of
satisfaction studied
Role conflict
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I

work under incompatible theology with my annual conference.


have to do things that should be done differently.
work under incompatible policies and guidelines.
receive an assignment without the personnel to complete it.
have to break a rule or a policy in order to carry out an assignment.
receive incompatible requests from two or more people.
work under incompatible theology with my local church.
work with two or more groups that operate quite differently.
do things that are apt to be accepted by one person and not by others.

Role ambiguity
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

I feel certain about how much authority I have.


There are clear, planned goals and objectives for my appointment.
I know that I have divided my time properly.
I know what my responsibilities are.
I know what is expected of me.
Explanation is clear of what has to be done.

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