Imagery of Regent people and campus

Dissertation Abstract

Antecedents of Leader–Follower Trust in a Christian Church Organization

D. Scott Barfoot
May 2007

In today’s Christian church organizations, visible failures among clergy have caused a wave of widespread distrust of pastors. Lay persons are often more suspicious of pastoral leaders, making it more challenging for the pastor to foster trust among laity (Kanne, 2005). This observation coupled with Rainer’s (2001) research suggesting that the average pastor’s tenure lasts less than 4 years at any one ministry post is astounding. How can a church function with such frequent changes in leadership? According to Crowell (1995) and Greenfield (2001), this problem of pastor turnover is a result of the breakdown of trust and is part of the problem in the effectiveness of church organizations. Therefore, this research expands the current leadership and trust literature by considering possible intrinsic antecedents of follower trust. More specifically, this study looks at the relationship between leader self-efficacy, self-esteem, dispositional optimism, emotional intelligence, and transformational leadership with follower trust. A quantitative study of 138 pastor–lay leader dyads throughout protestant, evangelical churches in the United States, Canada, and the Philippines was performed; findings suggest one of the five independent variables to account for 5.3% of the variance in the lay person’s trust in the pastor. Moreover, the results demonstrate that leader self-efficacy, self-esteem, optimism, and emotional intelligence were not significantly related to follower trust; while leader transformational leadership was positively related to follower trust. It is suggested that because transformational leadership is behavioral in nature, it is therefore more observable in a leader by followers than the other four intrinsic predictors. This seems to account for their nonexistent relationship to follower trust in this study.