Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership (EdD)


Steven T. Smith


Pastor, Pastoral Leadership, Changing Churches, Church Hopping, Leadership, South Carolina, Baptist, Pastor Vision, COVID-19, Pastor's retirement, Membership, Declining Church Membership


Leadership Studies | Religion


The role of a pastor comprises many duties and responsibilities within the church; some have led to chaos. Clinton et al. (2005), states many churches are mired in a significant leadership crisis (p. 10). Pastors are called to lead people in spiritual growth, with the end goal of parishioners living a mature spiritual life for the sake of Christ, not the contrary. The enormity of pastoral leadership has a lasting effect. Kristin Tabb (2017) claims that relatively minor church hurts leave people with a burned-out feeling during service, while the more serious wounds leave parishioners soul-scarred and physically sick at the thought of walking in the church doors (para. 3). Thus, many churches are experiencing a phenomenon that is misdiagnosed. Andrea Morris (2020) states parishioners are still attending the same church, but they also ‘church hop’ (CBN News, para. 4). The richest religious, geographical location in the United States, once considered as the ‘Bible Belt’ by H.L. Menchen in 1925, churches are going through a cultural change in its church membership (Brunn et al., 2011, para. 1). In this study ten former female members were interviewed from five Baptist churches in South Carolina. This phenomenological qualitative research sought to understand and shed light on pastoral leadership as the perceived attributing factor to why church members are leaving one church to join another in South Carolina. The participants in this study represented five different churches in South Carolina. Each participant suggested that their reason for leaving a church to join another was due to their lived experiences with pastoral leadership. Keywords: Church Membership, Pastoral Leadership, Servant leadership