The relationship between sense of humor, leader-follower distance, and tenure in pastoral ministry
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Background . Sense of humor has been shown to affect the personal dynamics of leadership in many ways: it opens channels of communication, improves social relations, enhances performance, and provides a coping mechanism for stress. In leadership research, humor has been linked with improving morale, enhancing group cohesiveness, increasing creativity and motivation, and stimulating higher levels of productivity. Though humor contains the potential to greatly enhance personal and leadership dynamics in the realm of pastoral leadership, very little research has been conducted with this goal in mind. Method . This study examined the relationship between the pastor's predominant sense of humor style using the Humor Styles Questionnaire, predominant configuration of Leader-Follower Distance, and the pastor's tenure characteristics. The instrument was offered to 2,500 Southern Baptist pastors and was completed on-line by 530 pastoral leaders. Over half of the survey participants also responded affirmatively as being willing to participate in an extensive follow-up telephone interview. These qualitative interviews were conducted with a representative subsample of 13 of these pastors. Sense of humor was studied from the perspective of its ability to equip the leader to cope effectively with the stressful realities of pastoral ministry, its ability to gain a balanced perspective on reality, and its capacity to create and manage effective leader-follower relationships. Results . The adaptive humor styles (affiliative humor and self-enhancing humor) were predominant among pastors as was the proximal Leader-Follower Distance configuration. The self-enhancing humor style was shown to be significantly related to career ministry tenure (at p=.05) and also to Leader Follower Distance configuration (also at p=.05). Likewise, Leader Follower Distance configuration was shown to be significantly correlated to career ministry tenure (at p=.001). Additional significant relationships were also found between HSQ styles and certain church demographics. These data were further explored in the qualitative telephone interviews. Conclusion . The study is intended to aid pastors in dealing with the unique stressors of pastoral leadership, to help churches assess their own expectations of pastoral leadership, and to understand better how certain humor styles and LFD configurations will match with those expectations.