Journal Article

Are Rural Clergy Worse Off?: An Examination of Occupational Conditions and Pastoral Experiences in a Sample of United Methodist Clergy

Andrew Miles and Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 73, issue 1, pages 23-45
Published in print March 2012 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online June 2011 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srr025
Are Rural Clergy Worse Off?: An Examination of Occupational Conditions and Pastoral Experiences in a Sample of United Methodist Clergy

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Scholars have shown that clergy work can be stressful, and that these occupational strains can lead to negative physical and mental health outcomes. Despite the fact that nearly one-third of all congregations in the United States are rural, little work has examined how occupational conditions and clergy experiences might vary systematically by geographical context. This study uses recent data from United Methodist Church clergy in North Carolina to test extant depictions of rural ministry, which typically portray rural churches as challenging occupational settings. It finds that although rural clergy face several unique challenges (such as multichurch ministry and lower salaries), they report lower levels of several stressors and more positive experiences. These differences disappear once controls are added, suggesting that rural ministry per se is neither particularly harmful nor beneficial when compared with ministry in other settings.

Keywords: Rural churches; Clergy/Ministers/Religious Professionals; United States of America; Protestant Christianity

Journal Article.  9000 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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