Current Research Surveys

An Investigation of the Relationship between Pastoral Transition and Staff Retention

by Randall L Stone, PhD


Take survey here.


Purpose of the Research Project

Each year thousands of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention experience pastoral change. As pastors move from and to churches, secondary staff members are forced to accommodate the new pastor’s leadership and relational style as well as the expectations of church members. Unfortunately, many churches fail to consider the work and welfare of secondary staff, especially the ministers of education, worship/music leader, and youth or children ministers.  The purpose of this project is to discover the primary factors that determine the retention and tenure of ministerial staff during and after pastoral transitions. The current research is limited to Southern Baptist churches because of polity and pastor search procedures. Future studies may be more inclusive.


The Researcher

Dr. Stone is Chair of the Discipleship and Ministry Leadership Division, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He oversees the Doctor of Education and Doctor of Educational Ministry. Three decades of local church ministry, leadership in denominational and national organizations, and personal encounters with hundreds of staff members motivated this study.  Dr. Stone hopes to generate resources for staff, pastors, denominational entities, as well as search and personnel committees in local congregations experiencing pastoral transition.


Project Goals

The project has five primary goals:

  • To ascertain and collect data related to staff retention and tenure, if such data exists.
  • To determine the factors that influence staff retention associated with pastoral change, especially Leadership style, ministerial experience, current tenure, age, position, and staff involvement in pastoral selection.
  • To assess the emotional, spiritual, vocational, and financial impact of uncontrollable or unintended staff departures resulting from pastoral changes.
  • To determine possible resources that would improve staff retention, reduce transitional turmoil and promote pastoral team satisfaction. Such resources would be available to staff, pastors, churches and denominational organizations.
  • To produce an assessment tool and approach that can be used to measure the preparation for, process of, and response to pastoral transitions.

Take the Survey

If you have experienced a pastor transition while serving as a secondary staff member we invite you to take the survey. Your personal experience is very important to gaining a fuller understanding of this issue. Because of the scope of the project and diversity of experiences the survey may take between 15 and 20 minutes. Please persevere and complete it, your feedback is critical. Thanks for service to the church and contribution to this valuable research!