New Clergy Display Moderately Strong Sense of Self-Efficacy

“How strongly do you believe that you are able to achieve the goals and aims of your work?”

This may seem like an odd question for pastors and priests. First, isn’t God really the one in charge? Second, isn’t the job of an ordained minister to be flexible and move with the needs and wishes of a congregation? Third, isn’t this question inviting arrogance and dominance?

Self-efficacy is not the same as arrogance or dominance, and does not rule out flexibility or reliance on God. It is a view we develop about ourselves and our ability to do things—even difficult things.

Social psychologist Albert Bandura pointed to self-efficacy as a critical indicator of thriving or faltering in life—for instance, whether you embrace or avoid challenging tasks, believe or don’t believe that you can develop new skills to meet difficult situations, and bounce back or give up and lose confidence after disappointments.

CREDO, an organization that works with pastors and priests on matters of wellness, considers self-efficacy a crucial matter for clergy wellness and for the potential for clergy to change their habits.

The chart below shows how new clergy supported by Transition into Ministry (TiM) programs (293) and longer-term clergy enrolling in CREDO (457) as groups responded to questions about self-efficacy, on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree).

Self-efficacy chart

Overall, both groups were similar in indicating a moderately strong sense of self-efficacy. This is important. Pastors and priests who develop confidence in their ability to pursue and achieve important goals, and to rise to the challenges that present themselves, will continue to find energy, renew and deepen their investment of themselves in ministry and leadership, and learn how to bounce back from frustrations.

But pastors and priests who lose confidence—or never develop confidence—in their ability to pursue and achieve important goals are likely to lose energy and investment, get frustrated or depressed, and fizzle out. It is worth noting that, even in a group of highly supported and continuously trained new clergy, about one-third reported a less strong sense of self-efficacy.

But, really, does this “believing in oneself” make a difference in ministry and leadership?


First, our research indicates that higher self-efficacy and stronger assertiveness are deeply intertwined. In conflicts, new clergy with higher self-efficacy were more likely to seek collaborative solutions, and they were less prone to avoid attempts to seek a solution (often a favorite clergy strategy!) or simply to acquiesce to a competing individual’s or group’s interests (another clergy favorite).

Second, stronger self-efficacy is directly related to physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. New clergy with stronger self-efficacy were more satisfied with and excited by their current prayer life, mood, rest, exercise, and weight. They also reported more improved prayer life, exercise frequency, and debt reduction over the course of the most recent year.

Third, higher self-efficacy has a direct relationship to durability and commitment to Christian ministry and leadership. New clergy with stronger self-efficacy were much less likely to consider leaving ordained ministry for another career. They were also less likely to consider leaving congregation-based ministry for another venue of ministry.


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