Long Term Effects of Ministry: Relationships, Burnout, and Ministry Performance

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Whereas relationships are important and valuable for individuals, there are limits to the number of genuine, intimate relationships one can develop and maintain. Dunbar worked to create an evolutionary theory, Dunbar’s social network theory (Dunbar, 2003), and implied that relational capacity is limited by brain size due to cognitive, temporal, and emotional burdens. However, some vocations have required the use of extensive relational capacity and may cause distress. A research group collected data from active relational ministry workers about their relational capacity (Coppinger Pickett, 2015). Self-report measures included a social network measure in which the participants listed all their relationships and categorized them based on frequency of contact and emotional closeness. The participants also answered measures of burnout, compassion satisfaction, and life, job, and relationship satisfaction. Several network ring sizes predicted burnout, and some social network rings showed evidence of optimal size ranges that contributed to well-being. The current researcher investigated the long-term effects of this burnout and surveyed seventy-three of the original participants, repeating the self-report measures eighteen months later. Multiple linear regressions were run to investigate potential change in burnout, compassion satisfaction, and life, job, and relationships satisfaction. Overall, participants in the follow up survey reported relatively stable levels of burnout.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD, Non-Clinical)

First Advisor

Barrett, Justin L.

Document Type





Clergy, Burn out, Social networks, Evaluation




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