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Ministers were once among the most respected professionals in the United States and many other countries. Today, though, some clergy are unsure whether their role is valued by the public or among the people they lead and serve.

Professors at MIT Sloan School of Management argue that out of ten elements of culture that matter most to employees, the need to feel respected is at the top of the list.

They found that feeling disrespected is one of the leading indicators of employee disengagement and job turnover. Not surprisingly, no one wants to work where they routinely feel devalued. In that vein, congregations who are interested in building a better leadership culture need to understand the behaviors that contribute to a climate in which pastors and staff feel valued and appreciated.

One way to define respect is to have regard for the feelings, wishes and rights of others. Because an essential part of ministry is to respond to the needs of the congregation, churches can show respect to ministerial staff by encouraging guilt-free vacations and sabbath days. In general, clergy are not very good at self-care. When they do take time away, they find it difficult to escape the expectation that they should be working. Obviously, some emergencies can’t wait. But most issues won’t get any worse before the minister returns from a well-earned break.

Listening is also an indispensable part of respect. To some of the business-oriented minds in the church, a pastor’s theological and biblical perspective may seem irrelevant when it is time to discuss the building renovations, administrative policies or the annual budget. Healthy churches, however, value the minister’s unique gifts and calling by expecting pastoral guidance in all matters that impact the vision and mission of the church.

Of course, respect needs to be mutual. Pastors need to understand a congregation’s significant traditions and relationships if they ever hope to be fully embraced by its people. Leaders must be willing to own their mistakes and appreciate what is unique about the local church.

As we continue on the Lenten journey, one biblical image of mutual respect is worth mentioning. In John 13, Jesus knelt down to wash the disciples’ feet, and he encouraged them to do likewise to one another.

When we esteem one another, we call forth the best of God’s gifts and possibilities.


The power of respect

From the Center for Creative Leadership

Before you go…

A variety of factors influence the way respect shows up in our organizations. How we communicate matters. Read the email twice and text message three times before you push send. Better yet, pick up the phone and give the person a call. If we show enough respect to care how we communicate, a phone call is much less likely to send the wrong message.

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he told them that he did it as an example for them to follow. Let’s respect ourselves and one another so that everyone will know we are Jesus’ disciples.

If you have a story or a comment you’d like to share, send an email to Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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