The Effects of Professional Development on Ministerial Leaders' Thinking and Practice
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This study focused on the extent to which professional development can bring about changes in ministerial leaders' thinking and practice, and was based on a constructivist approach to learning. The study adopted a qualitative methodology to answer the three research questions: 1. To what extent can professional development assist ministerial leaders to change their thinking about themselves as leaders and their actual leadership practices? 2.What changes (if any) occurred in each of the participants' conceptions of ministerial leadership during a Ministerial Leadership Development Program (MLDP)? 3. To what extent did changes in participants' thinking about ministerial leadership affect their actual practice? There were nineteen participants in a Ministerial Leadership Development Program which was conducted between March and October 2000 by the Uniting Church in Australia (Queensland Synod). Data were gathered at the beginning and end of the MLDP and one year after its completion. The methods used to collect data were concept maps of 'effective leaders', repertory grids based on participants' views of 'effective' and 'ineffective' leaders, interviews and a survey. The concept maps and repertory grids were completed at the beginning and end of the MLDP. The interviews and survey were conducted one year after the program was completed. The interviews were conducted with a small group of the participants (five) and the survey was completed by lay leaders from the congregations where the nineteen participants were ministering. For each of the five interviewees a case was constructed using methodological triangulation and an interpretive approach. Triangulation of the three types of data (concept maps, repertory grids and interviews) enabled identification of important components of individuals' thinking and practice. The survey produced data on the perspectives of lay leaders, thus enabling comparison between the perspectives of the ministerial leaders and their lay leaders. The study found a variety of initial conceptions of effective ministerial leadership amongst the participants. Most of these conceptions were related to leadership skills and qualities. Very few participants demonstrated an understanding of the nature of effective ministerial leadership at the beginning of the program. However, during the MLDP, the conceptions of participants developed and by the end of the program most of them demonstrated a more holistic understanding of the nature of leadership, and particularly, the nature of Christian leadership. In relation to changes in leaders' practice, the study found that significant changes were reported as taking place in leaders' practice and most of this was linked to their thinking changing first. Many of these changes in practice were attributed to the encouragement leaders received in mentor groups. These reported changes in practice were also supported by data from the lay leaders' survey. Thus there was consistency in data from ministerial leaders' perspectives and from lay leaders' perspectives. Apparent trends across the cases included links between the leaders' feelings of self confidence and their capacity to lead effectively; the difficulties associated with following a minister who had a very different conception of effective leadership from his/her own; the unrealistic expectations some congregational members have of their ministers; and the difficulty of moving a congregation from one understanding of ministry to another. The results of this study have implications for pre-service education, continuing education, and the policy-making committees of the Synod, and suggest fruitful areas for further research. The results of the research are discussed in relation to relevant literature. Implications of the findings for the appropriate stakeholders are highlighted, and some ongoing issues for ministerial leadership are raised.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
School of Cognition, Language and Special Education
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