How do leaders assess their ministry resilience foundations?

Results from leaders in more than 2 denominations across Australia

NCLS Research has identified 6 areas that contribute to a leader’s resilience in ministry. In the 2021 NCLS, we asked local church leaders to assess themselves on these 6 areas.

Do they have supportive relationships? How many have a clear purpose, as well as a sense of themselves apart from a ministry role? Do they have balance and clear boundaries between ministry work and the rest of life? 

We explore how church leaders rate in these 6 personal foundations.


1. Spiritual Foundations

Active ongoing spiritual formation and a deepening relationship with God is a necessary resource upon which Christian leaders draw. One indicator of leaders’ spiritual foundations is whether they felt that the quality of their spiritual practice had improved over time.

When presented with the statement ‘The quality of my spiritual practice has improved over my time in ministry’, some 76% of senior leaders in 2021/22 agree with this statement, made up of over half (58%) who agree or strongly agree and another 18% who slightly agree.



2. Clarity of Purpose

A personal sense of purpose, or calling in ministry, is an important foundation that most leaders share. It can act as a reference point, an internal compass to help stay on course and persevere. 

When presented with the statement ‘My life has a strong sense of purpose’, 82% of senior leaders agree or strongly agree and a further 11% slightly agree.



3. Sense of Self

A strong sense of self means maintaining a sense of identity separate from the influences of ministry work and relationships. That is, a person’s sense of identity and worth are not dependent on external issues, such as the affirmation of others or the authority of the position. It is about being separate enough from ministry in one's identity.

When asked their response to the statement ‘If people criticise the church I tend to take it personally’, 38% of senior leaders in 2021/22 disagree – comprising 27% who disagree or strongly disagree and 11% who slightly agree. At 54%, the proportion who agree overall was greater than those who disagree. 



4. Integration

The idea of ‘integration’ is about having a good fit between one’s aspirations and ministry tasks. In the context of church ministry, this idea of a good fit can feel like a matter of authenticity, or integrity. 

One indicator on this is ‘Much of my life seems to be spent on things that do not reflect what really matters to me’. Two thirds (67%) of senior leaders disagree (12% strongly disagree, 42% disagree, 13% slightly disagree), and 22% agree overall.



5. Supportive Relationships

When church leaders feel loved and supported they are less likely to be burning out and more likely to be thriving. The support received from close friends and family can make a critical difference in how well demanding times in ministry are handled. 

Leaders were asked: ‘I have a strong and growing circle of close friends from whom I get a great deal of support’.  More than six in 10 (64%) of senior leaders in 2021/22 agree with this statement, while 23% disagree. 



6. Balance and Boundaries

Achieving a sense of balance with different parts of life, along with sustaining healthy boundaries, is another aspect of resilience. Ministry is a job where boundaries can be particularly challenging. One sample indicator that leaders were invited to reflect on was ‘I manage to keep good boundaries between work and the rest of my life’.

The results illustrate that around a third of senior leaders find keeping boundaries between work and the rest of life challenging. While more than half (56%) agree that they manage this, 16% slightly disagree and a further 18% disagree or strongly disagree (34% disagree overall).


Explore these 6 key areas

More detailed information on the 6 personal foundations can be found in our article Ministry Resilience Foundations


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