Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Peter VanKatwyk

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Being a pastor demands responsible leadership in the face of difficult behaviour in the congregation. This thesis explores a pastor's responsible options in the face of adversarialism, a specialized problem of conflict management. Unfortunately, most literature that focuses on difficult behaviour relies on labelling. Thus this hermeneutical study considers literature on conflict management, family systems, leadership, pastoral care, pastoral terminations, and theology. This thesis takes a family systems approach, emphasizing that well-differentiated leaders are essential for organizational health. It proposes that by adopting a ‘research stance“ to problems and understanding why congregations and parishioners behave as they do, pastors increase their sense of control over themselves and over their own reactions, are able to reduce their own anxiety (and the anxiety of their system), are less apt to overreact, and will challenge those with the most growth potential. Emotionally intelligent pastors are defined as those who care for self, are self-aware, manage their emotions, observe and respect the emotions of others, and handle relationships well. Responsible pastoral leaders model and teach a firm and assertive approach to conflict that is flexible but not floppy, compassionate but not “sloppy agape,‘ steady but not immovable.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Christianity Commons