Original Research

Exodus of clergy: Responding to, reinterpreting or relinquishing the call

Shaun Joynt
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 38, No 1 | a1664 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v38i1.1664 | © 2017 Shaun Joynt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 June 2016 | Published: 31 March 2017

About the author(s)

Shaun Joynt, Department of Practical Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


‘Who will lead the sheep when the shepherds are gone?’ Clergy plays an important role in the establishing and sustaining of the church; without them, congregants will not be rooted in the faith nor will the faith be transmitted to the next generation. The shortage of clergy in the Roman Catholic Church and the distribution or displacement challenge facing the Protestant church pose a risk to the future of the church; therefore, the response of clergy to their call to full-time pastoral ministry is crucial for the continued existence of the church. The purpose of this study was to discover the variables involved in responding to the call to full-time pastoral ministry in a church. A grounded theory approach was used to discover the properties of the core category: ‘calling’. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and data were coded using Glaser and Strauss’ grounded theory methodology. The core category ‘calling’ included properties such as age, defining what a call is or is not; it evolves over time, it has an aspect of timing and it requires ‘worldly experience’ to be effective. Osmer’s descriptive-empirical task was used as a practical theological lens through which to view the core category ‘calling’. The results indicated three responses by clergy who had left full-time pastoral ministry: not being called in the first place, a dual call (being bi-vocational) and being called but leaving anyway. Further research is needed to assist clergy in accurately identifying and developing their call to full-time pastoral ministry.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The research calls for an ongoing dialogue with regard to the concept of clergy calling and initiates this by means of a practical theology perspective of a grounded theory study. Future research recommendations are suggested.


Clergy shortage; Responding to the call; Clergy roles and responsibilities; Grounded Theory; Practical Theology


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