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Preventing Compassion Fatigue amongst Pastors: The Influence of Spiritual Intelligence and Intrinsic Motivation.

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether spiritual intelligence and intrinsic motivation can act as antecedents to compassion fatigue. This study will prove useful to pastors who wish to lower the levels of burnout and secondary traumatic stress that stem from their work in ministry. The study reviews a sample of 273 South African pastors across four denominations and demonstrates partial support for relationships between spiritual intelligence and intrinsic motivation with not only compassion fatigue, but also its factors of burnout and secondary traumatic stress, the two factors of compassion fatigue do, however, both relate positively to critical existential thinking and negatively with personal meaning production, therefore suggesting that different elements of spiritual intelligence play varying roles in reducing or aggravating compassion fatigue. Burnout can be reduced through increased intrinsic motivation to work in the ministry, and so this study provides recommendations to assist pastors in overcoming compassion fatigue.


"Humans do not have a capacity for infinite compassion ... When one after another after another tragedy unfolds before our eyes, we begin to feel numb. We begin to disengage. We begin to zone out and glaze over when one more instance of human suffering is brought before us. " (Van Schooneveld, 2016, para. 4, 6)

Compassion is an emotional state in which an individual surrenders to, and is moved by, the emotional experiences of others (LaMothe, 2012). This author notes that compassion entails a demonstration of both emotional intelligence and empathy, taking action to assist others in their needs and suffering. While empathy is one component of compassion, compassion itself involves not merely pitying others or narrowly caring for them based on their circumstances (LaMothe, 2012), but rather acting to assist them. LaMothe notes that pastors in particular need to develop their ability to identify with all members of society, not just those who share their theological beliefs. This requires humility (accepting that a pastor's understanding of truth is limited) and courage (accepting that they will experience anxiety arising from such uncertainty). Jesus, our model for behavior on earth, displayed compassion towards many people, as recorded in the gospels through a number of encounters with others (eg. Matt. 9: 36, 14: 14, & 20: 34; Mark 8: 2-3; Luke 7: 13). For instance, when faced with the death of Lazarus, "Jesus wept," (John 11: 35), which Bloom (2011) suggests means that Jesus experienced deep compassion when faced with the sufferings of others.

Feeling responsible for others or sharing in their pain can place a heavy burden on individuals and become a source of stress for them (Greenberg & Baron, 2003). In this regard, Khan, Khan, and Malik (2015) define compassion fatigue as "a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time," which is experienced by individuals who continuously give of themselves and show sympathy to others within their jobs (p. 286). It is also referred to as vicarious trauma, secondary traumatic stress (Glicken & Robinson, 2013), or the "cost of caring" (Khan et al., 2015, p. 286). As noted by Figley (1995), the empathy needed to exert compassion may enable an individual to understand the trauma experienced by others, but at the same time such empathy may also cause that individual to feel traumatized. Individuals working in helping professions and suffer from compassion fatigue can thus experience a decline in their ability to care for others and feel joy (Glicken & Robinson, 2013). This typically occurs when high levels of energy and compassion are expended, yet little internal peace or positive feedback is received in return for such efforts.

Individuals suffering from compassion fatigue may begin to experience the physical and emotional trauma that results from caring for others in need (Glicken & Robinson, 2013). It thus affects an individual emotionally, physically, cognitively, behaviorally, and often spiritually (Casey, 2013). Those who experience such fatigue show symptoms of hopelessness, lack of pleasure, anxiety, stress, sleeplessness, and an overall negative attitude towards life (Khan et al., 2015). These authors further note that high levels of compassion fatigue are often associated with withdrawals and depersonalization of a service resulting in fatigued individuals giving less of themselves to their job. Compassion fatigue has also been linked to decreased levels of self-efficacy and confidence, which may have detrimental effects on performance (Khan et al, 2015). Moreover, Whitebird, Asche, Thompson, Rossom, and Heinrich (2013) have revealed correlations between compassion fatigue and burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression. These correlations are confirmed by the findings of Slocum-Gori, Hemsworth, Chan, Carson, and Kazanjian (2011) who discovered a strong correlation between compassion fatigue and burnout. According to Stamm (2010), the negative effects that stem from helping others are intensified when such helpers are exposed to traumatic material through directly assisting victims; thus, compassion fatigue may result in symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, burnout, and a heightened use or abuse of substances. However, as each of the three latter-mentioned research studies were conducted within the healthcare sector, as opposed to the religious sector, it is necessary to consider whether similar experiences are felt by ministers or pastors, who face different circumstances to those in other industries.

As we consider whether religious workers might experience levels of fatigue similar to those found in healthcare workers, it should be highlighted that it is a common expectation for pastors to give spiritual as well as emotional support to their congregations. These additional spiritual support requirements will only increase, rather than decrease levels of fatigue, thus implying that it is likely that they will show signs of compassion fatigue similar to those working within the healthcare sector. Indeed, Stamm (2010), who developed the instrument that has been used in this study to measure compassion fatigue, highlights the clergy as a group of individuals exposed to such fatigue because they are in a helping profession. In a study conducted among 1,050 pastors across the United States, Krejcir (2007) found that 100% of surveyed pastors knew of a fellow pastor who had experienced compassion fatigue or burnout, with 90% stating that they personally felt fatigued or worn out on a weekly or daily basis. Citing further research of their own, Krejcir (2007) goes on to note that many pastors work more than 60 hours per week, which is one cause of high divorce rates amongst members of the clergy. Moreover, he notes that serious church conflicts are prevalent experiences for pastors, which leave them feeling physically and spiritually weary, with a decreased ability to minister to, and connect with, their congregations.

Thus, it is suggested that a number of pastors and clergy experience severe burnout and depersonalization from their jobs, owing to the high levels of pressure they face (Evers & Tomic, 2003) as well as the role overload and role confusion which they oftentimes experience (Jacobson, Rothschild, Mirza & Shapiro, 2013). This is confirmed by Francis, Louden, and Rutledge (2004), whose study of 1,468 Roman Catholic ministers found that high levels of burnout and depersonalization do exist. Furthermore, as discovered by Buys and Rothmann (2010), pastors in South Africa experienced heightened levels of depression as a result of exhaustion and mental distance, and their levels of work engagement decreased when facing exhaustion, mental distance, and depression. Blackmon (as cited in Krejcir, 2007) highlights that such stress often results from the requirement on pastors to provide continual, intense care and responsibility to others, with little reprieve. Pastors must not only serve the members of their congregations by providing services such as counseling sessions, which could be experienced as emotionally traumatizing in nature, but also find the time to care for themselves both personally and professionally (Jacobson et al., 2013).

Compassion fatigue can therefore be understood as a reaction to overexposure to human suffering (Geoffrion, Morselli & Guay, 2016), which manifests in feelings of burnout, secondary traumatic stress, and depersonalization from one's job. When pastors experience severe compassion fatigue and its resultant spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical consequences, then they run the risk of failing their churches and congregations through the conflict, destruction, and chaos that may arise (Krejcir, 2007).

It is clear from the above overview that compassion fatigue is a detrimental condition commonly experienced by pastors, and has the potential to negatively influence pastors' interactions with their congregations as well as their own mental, emotional, and physical health. This study seeks to analyze two proposed antecedents to compassion fatigue (namely spiritual intelligence and intrinsic motivation), which hold the potential to reduce the severity of this form of fatigue.

Spiritual Intelligence

King (2008) defines spiritual intelligence (SQ) as "a set of mental capacities which contribute to the awareness, integration, and adaptive application of the nonmaterial and transcendent aspects of one's existence, leading to such outcomes as deep existential reflection, enhancement of meaning, recognition of a transcendent self, and mastery of spiritual states" (p. 56). Such intelligence is comprised of four aspects, namely critical existential thinking, personal meaning production, transcendental awareness and conscious state expansion (King & DeCicco, 2009). Nita (2014) states that SQ is characterized by harmony, peace, and balance. It allows individuals to feel that they have a greater purpose and meaning to fulfill in their lives and leads to an increased feeling of self-awareness (Stupar, Pilav-Velic, & Sahic, 2013), offering individuals direction and resulting in an ability to demonstrate forgiveness towards others (Shabnam & Tung, 2013).

SQ aids individuals in handling limitations and discerning how to handle complex situations (Stupar et al., 2013) and also promotes an increase in the psychological well-being of individuals (Sahebalzamani, Farahani, Abasi, & Talebi, 2013). Moreover, SQ is said to promote better interpersonal communication and improved working relationships as a result of a high emotional intelligence (EQ; Joseph & Sailakshmi, 2011). According to Tasharrofi, Hatami, and Asgharnejad (2013), individuals who demonstrate higher levels of SQ show greater resilience and experience less burnout. These authors also found that those with high levels of SQ were better equipped to handle stressful events and solve problems seamlessly.

Stupar et al. (2013) state that a well-balanced individual should demonstrate intelligence in three areas: their traditional intelligence quotient (IQ), their EQ, and their SQ. Shabnam and Tung (2013) state that these three forms of intelligence are fundamental to effective leadership. These authors state that when a leader successfully integrates these intelligences, they are able to thrive even when facing uncertainty, deal creatively with unexpected change, and realize the full potential of themselves and their followers.

Intrinsic Motivation

Motivation involves the persistence (duration), direction (choice), and energy (intensity and effort) of an individual to take action and fulfill an intention or meet a pre-determined goal (Locke & Latham, 2004; Ryan & Deci, 2000). These authors note that individuals may be motivated by internal interest or "intrinsic motivation" when individuals desire to perform a task effectively purely for the enjoyment of completing it (Deci, 1971). Intrinsic motivation is an inherent tendency within an individual to seek out novelty or challenge in order to further extend one's capabilities and learn (Deci & Ryan, 2000), and it may account for an individual's natural desire for mastery, spontaneous interest, and a fundamental need to explore (Ryan, 1995).

Studies have shown that individuals who experience high levels of intrinsic motivation exhibit high levels of interest, excitement, passion, and confidence that often result in increased job performance, persistence, and greater creativity (Ryan & Deci, 2000). High levels of intrinsic motivation have also been linked to cognitive flexibility, a willingness to take risks, and openness to greater complexity, which in turn often lead to expanding the minds of individuals to more creative and innovative solutions to potential problems (Gagne' & Deci, 1995). Additionally, such motivation has been found to be positively correlated with nonprofit employees' levels of work engagement and satisfaction with their salaries, and negatively correlated with their intentions to quit their organizations (Renard & Snelgar, 2018).

Owing to the fact that pastors generally come to work in the ministry because they sense a calling (Evers & Tomic, 2003), rather than a need for financial gain, pastors are likely to be highly intrinsically motivated. Indeed, using a qualitative nonprofit employee sample that included church ministers, Renard and Snelgar (2017) found that three factors influenced whether such employees are intrinsically motivated by their work. Firstly, they feel personally connected to their work, since they perceive that their personal values, standards, and passions align with the mission and purpose of their organizations. They also perceive their career to be a calling, are emotionally connected to their work, and believe in the cause for which their organization stands. Secondly, such employees personally desire to make a difference through their work, since they long to meet the needs of others and see them grow and develop. They often exhibit pro-social behaviors, and feel personally responsible for meeting the needs of society. Thirdly, they are likely to personally desire to perform well and to go over and above what is expected of them at work. This may include reaching their own goals, obtaining a sense of accomplishment through such achievements, and putting in extra effort at work to produce high results.

The Relationship between Intrinsic Motivation, SQ., and Compassion Fatigue

Despite the fact that these are three operationally different concepts, no empirical studies yet link compassion fatigue, intrinsic motivation, and spiritual intelligence in a sample of church pastors. While compassion fatigue explains a condition experienced over time due to trauma exposure, SQ refers to the ability to connect transcendentally to a higher meaning in one's life. Intrinsic motivation, meanwhile, describes the desire prompting individuals to undertake their work-related tasks. This section provides some insight into possible relationships between these constructs, leading to three hypotheses.

Renard and Snelgar (2017) found that the Christian faith played a role in intrinsically motivating nonprofit employees. Participants noted that they relied on God for strength and guidance at work. Meanwhile, pastors who have a high level of SQ are believed to experience peace, harmony, and greater self-awareness, and to seek out more meaning in life (Nita, 2014; Stupar et al., 2013). This greater meaning or purpose is aligned with Renard and Snelgar's (2017) understanding of intrinsic motivation, suggesting that pastors who demonstrate high SQ will experience heightened intrinsic motivation. Thus, the following hypothesis is set:

H1 : SQ is positively related to intrinsic motivation.

A study conducted by Kaur, Sambasivan, and Kumar (2013) found that SQ and compassion fatigue were linked in the sense that those who had high levels of SQ were less likely to suffer from compassion fatigue. Van Schooneveld (2016) aptly discusses that in order to prevent compassion fatigue, pastors must focus on and seek God through prayer, so that his Holy Spirit can fill them with his love and he can lead them where to show his kindness and compassion to those who are hurting in the world. This implies that a high level of SQ may result in a low level of compassion fatigue. Based on this, H2 is set:

H2: SQ is negatively related to compassion fatigue.

Intrinsic motivation should energize and fulfill individuals (see Ryan & Deci, 2000), and its presence should allow pastors to overcome obstacles and inspire hope in them, suggesting that the presence of intrinsic motivation will reduce compassion fatigue. Moreover, Geoffrion et al. (2016) proposed that when individuals identify with their professions and gain meaning from their work, then they are better protected from experiencing compassion fatigue. Such professional identity aligns with an individual personally connecting with their work, suggesting a link to intrinsic motivation. Therefore, the following is hypothesized:

H3: Intrinsic motivation is negatively related to compassion fatigue.

The above relationships indicate compassion fatigue as the dependent variable. Since this study aims to investigate whether intrinsic motivation and spiritual intelligence influence the presence of compassion fatigue amongst pastors working within South Africa, the research question for this study is, "Do spiritual intelligence and intrinsic motivation cause a decrease in compassion fatigue amongst pastors, thus moderating this form of fatigue?"


Participants and Procedure

This quantitative empirical study involved administering a composite questionnaire to a sample of church pastors currently working within South Africa. We use the term 'pastors' broadly to represent fulltime and part-time, paid and volunteer ministers or elders; members of the clergy; lay pastors; or individuals fulfilling pastoral roles within churches such as grief or marriage counsellors. The study collected data from pastors from four denominations of churches within South Africa: Catholics, Anglicans, Pentecostal/ Charismatics, and ministers from the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, also known as NG ministers).

We used non-probability sampling, using both an electronic and a paper version of our composite questionnaire. In order to distribute the electronic version of the questionnaire, we sent e-mails to pastors from Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal/Charismatic, and NG churches throughout South Africa, using the databases of these churches available online. Every pastor within each database was personally e-mailed. The e-mail served as the questionnaire cover letter and included a web link which took respondents directly to the questionnaire. Using snowball sampling, we encouraged pastors to forward the electronic questionnaire link to their colleagues. To distribute the paper version of the questionnaire, and to attempt to improve the response rate, we dropped off questionnaires to a convenience sample of 49 Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal/Charismatics, and NG churches within Port Elizabeth, our home town in South Africa, requesting that each of the churches' pastors participate in our study.

Consequently, particularly owing to the use of snowball sampling, it is not possible to determine an exact population size. Our final sample comprised of 273 South African pastors, and Table 1 indicates the frequency distribution of the respondents. A relatively equal distribution across these four denominations was obtained. The majority of respondents operated in a full-time, paid capacity (81.0%) and had been working in a pastoral role for more than ten years (78.0%). The sample was primarily comprised of married (68.9%), male (75.8%) pastors, who were older than the age of 48 (65.2%) and had achieved some form of postgraduate qualification (59.0%).


Three measuring instruments comprised the structured composite questionnaire distributed to the pastors in our sample. To measure compassion fatigue, we used the Professional Quality of Life Scale (PQOL), which measures both positive and negative aspects relating to how individuals such as the clergy feel within their work roles as helpers (Stamm, 2010). It measures Compassion Satisfaction as well as Compassion Fatigue, the latter of which is comprised of two factors, namely Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress. Burnout entails feeling exhausted, angry, frustrated, and/or depressed, while Secondary Traumatic Stress involves the feeling of being directly or indirectly driven by work-related trauma and fear (Stamm, 2010). PQOL has 30 items distributed evenly between its three factors, and utilizes a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1 [Never) to 5 (Very Often). Five items within the burnout subscale needed to be reversed upon analysis, owing to the fact that these five items were phrased positively, while the remainder of the burnout items were phrased negatively. The positive items therefore needed to be converted into negative items through reversing the scores. Exploratory factor analysis resulted in a new structure for the Compassion Fatigue subscale of the PQOL (to be discussed within this study's results), which we termed the New Compassion Fatigue structure (NCF).

The Spiritual Intelligence Self-Report Inventory (SISRI; see King & DeCicco, 2009; King, 2010) is comprised of 24 items and four factors. These four factors are Critical Existential Thinking (seven items; determining whether an individual is able to critically consider existential or metaphysical issues such as meaning, purpose, reality, time, or death), Personal Meaning Production (five items; analysing an individual's ability to create his or her own personal meaning and purposes within physical and mental experiences), Transcendental Awareness (seven items, of which one is reversed in order to be framed positively; assessing an individual's capacity to recognize not only his or her transcendent dimensions, but also those of others and of the physical world when fully awake and conscious); and finally, Conscious State Expansion (five items; evaluating an individual's capacity to cross into spiritual states of consciousness at his or her own discretion). Each SISRI item is measured on a five-point Likert scale, from 0 (Not at all true of me) to 4 (Completely true of me).

We used the Intrinsic Work Motivation Scale (IWMS) (Renard & Snelgar, 2018), comprised of 14 items and three subscales, to assess Intrinsic Motivation. Personal Connection to One's Work uses six items to assess the extent to which employees are passionate about their work and affectively connected to it, whereas Personal Desire to Make a Difference uses five items to evaluate how employees long to improve society and the lives of others by means of their work. Personal Desire to Perform uses three items to discover whether employees are internally motivated to succeed and achieve their goals. The IWMS makes use of a five-point Likert scale that ranges from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree).

Data Analysis

Data analysis included both descriptive and inferential statistical analysis. We used the statistical packages Statistica version 12.0, SPSS version 22, and Amos version 22 for this purpose. Descriptive statistics include mean values and standard deviations, while the inferential statistics consist of Cronbach's alpha testing, Pearson's Product Moment Correlations, exploratory factor analysis (EFA), confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) and structural equation modelling (SEM). Pearson's Product Moment Correlations assessed relationships between the three constructs under study so that the strength of such associations and variations could be evaluated (Malhotra, 2010). We used SEM so that we could analyze the relationships specifically displayed in the theoretical model presented earlier. SEM combines aspects of multiple regression and factor analysis so that it can simultaneously estimate a series of interrelated dependence relationships (Hair, Black, Babin, & Anderson, 2010). In order to calculate total professional quality of life, we reversed scores from the burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress subscales so that they became positive in nature.

Reliability and Validity

The reliability of each of our three measuring instruments was assessed separately through the use of Cronbach's alpha testing. Such reliability testing determines internal consistency by evaluating whether all items in an instrument consistently measure those aspects that they should be measuring (Woods & West, 2010). We also evaluated both construct and criterion validity. The former, assessed through using Pearson's Product Moment Correlations, analyzes whether instruments measure the constructs that they are supposed to measure by determining correlations between each instrument's scores, which proves whether they can be regarded as relevant indicators of one another (Woods & West, 2010). On the other hand, criterion validity was determined through using SEM, which provided evidence for whether compassion fatigue could be predicted by SQ and intrinsic motivation. The specific form of criterion validity tested in this study is concurrent validity, since the variables were quantified at the same time as one another (Woods & West, 2010).

Ethical Considerations

For this study, we followed Webster, Lewis, and Brown's (2014) guidelines for conducting studies in an ethical manner. Firstly, we ensured that pastors experienced no unfavorable consequences or risks stemming from the completion of our questionnaire. We placed no unreasonable demands on their time or efforts and made it clear that participation was voluntary. Thus, no pastors were pressured or bullied into participating. In either the e-mail sent to respondents (in the case of the electronic version of the questionnaire) or in the cover letter (for the paper-version), we clearly stated that by completing the questionnaire, respondents were providing us with their informed consent to participate. Finally, we guaranteed anonymity and confidentiality--no individual names or church names were recorded on the questionnaires and no participants are referred to by name within our research results.


Descriptive Statistics and Reliability Testing

Table 2 provides descriptive statistics as well as the Cronbach's alpha values for each subscale and each measuring instrument in total. Positive scores were received for the three Intrinsic Motivation subscales as well as the IWMS in total, together with the four SQ subscales and the SISRI in total, as well as Compassion Satisfaction. The scores for Burnout, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Compassion Fatigue were lower in value. The highest standard deviations were obtained for Personal Desire to Perform, Critical Existential Thinking and Conscious State Expansion.

Utilizing Tabachnick and Fidell's (2001) classification of reliability values, it is apparent that the values for Personal Desire to Make a Difference, the IWMS in total, Conscious State Expansion, Transcendental Awareness, Compassion Satisfaction and Secondary Traumatic Stress are 'good' since they lie between the range of 0.80 to 0.89, whereas Personal Connection to One's Work, Personal Desire to Perform, Critical Existential Thinking, Personal Meaning Production, the SISRI in total, Burnout and the PQOL in total received 'adequate' values that fell in the range of 0.70 to 0.79.


Table 3 displays the results of the Pearson Product Moment Correlations that we conducted to determine relationships between the constructs under study. According to Gravetter and Wallnau (2009), correlations are statistically significant at the 0.05 level for n=273 if the correlation coefficient ([absolute value of r]) is greater than or equal to .119. Correlations are practically significant if [absolute value of r] is greater than or equal to .300. The factors within each instrument, when correlated with one another, all obtained positive and practically significant relationships.

It is evident that Intrinsic Motivation (IWMS in total) is positively correlated in a practically significant manner to SQ (SISRI in total). Negative (and either statistically or practically significant) correlations exist between Intrinsic Motivation (as well as its three factors) and Burnout and Compassion Fatigue. No statistically significant relationships exist between Spiritual Intelligence in total and Burnout, Secondary Traumatic Stress, or Compassion Fatigue. However, Burnout, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Compassion Fatigue were positively correlated in a statistically significant manner with Critical Existential Thinking, a factor of Spiritual Intelligence. Meanwhile, Burnout, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Compassion Fatigue were negatively correlated with Personal Meaning Production, also a factor of Spiritual Intelligence. Compassion Satisfaction was found to correlate in a positive and practically significant manner with all factors of Intrinsic Motivation in total as well as with Conscious State Expansion, Personal Meaning Production, Transcendental Awareness, and Spiritual Intelligence in total.


In order to test the model proposed earlier in this paper, we used SEM together with CFA. For the purposes of SEM, only the subscales of Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress (comprising Compassion Fatigue) were utilized. Prior to SEM and CFA, however, an extensive series of EFAs were conducted to determine the most suitable factor structure for the items measuring Compassion Fatigue. Utilizing a Principal Component Analysis extraction method with rotated sums of squared loadings and a rotation method employing Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization, we discovered we needed to remove the five negative items from the Burnout and Secondary Traumatic Stress subscales for the purposes of SEM. We conducted the final EFA with the remaining 13 positively-phrased items from the original two Compassion Fatigue subscales. This EFA indicated three factors, which we have named Compassionate Entrapment (comprised of two items from the original Burnout subscale and one item from the original Secondary Traumatic Stress subscale); Vicarious Trauma (comprised of five items from the Secondary Traumatic Stress subscale); and Traumatic Exhaustion (comprised of three Burnout items and two Secondary Traumatic Stress items). Owing to space constraints, these EFA tables have been excluded but are available upon request. The Cronbach's alpha values for these new subscales all fell above 0.70. The NCF (that is, the total instrument comprising these subscales) obtained an alpha score of 0.80.

Table 4 indicates the Goodness-of-Fit values for the CFA conducted for the NCF scale of 13 items, as well as the observed SEM fit statistics for the three measuring instruments (total of 51 items), which tests the relationships between the three constructs under study. The target values listed are for sample sizes of between 250 and 1000 respondents, with the numbers of items falling between 12 and 30 (for CFA), and above 30 items (for SEM) (Hair et al., 2010; Schreiber, Stage, King, Nora, & Barlow, 2006). It is apparent from Table 4 that both Chi-square statistics for the CFA are above the suggested targets, as are the comparative fit index, standardized root mean square residual, and all values for the root mean square error of approximation, thus indicating an overall satisfactory fit. In terms of the SEM results, it is evident that one Chi-square statistic, as well as all values for the root mean square error of approximation, indicate reasonable fit.

The model that was tested by means of SEM, together with its standardized regression weightings, is shown in Figure 1. Statistical significance for n=273 is shown by values greater than or equal to 0.119, and practical significance is shown by values greater than or equal to 0.300 (Gravetter & Wallnau, 2009). It can be deduced that the standardized regression weightings for H1 and H3 indicate positive relationships with practical significance, while H2 indicates a negative relationship with statistical significance.


Based on this study's findings, a positive, significant relationship exists between SQ and intrinsic motivation (confirmed both through SEM and correlations), indicating the acceptance of H1. While intrinsic motivation and compassion fatigue also correlated significantly, the correlation results found a negative relationship, while SEM suggested a positive relationship. For this reason, H3 is only partially supported, indicating preliminary support for the possibility that pastors might lower their levels of compassion fatigue by improving their levels of intrinsic motivation. This might be accomplished through developing their emotional connection to their work and their internal drive to contribute successfully to society. In this regard, Van Schooneveld (2016) draws attention to the fact that Ephesians 2: 10 reminds us that we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do. Thus, it is our responsibility to do something to make our world a better place. Pastors should indeed minister to others in order to make a positive difference in their lives, which is an element of intrinsic motivation. As noted by Casey (2013), compassion fatigue may be reduced by pastors feeling satisfied and rewarded by the work they perform, suggesting that being intrinsically motivated is likely to negate the feelings associated with compassion fatigue.

A possible explanation for the SEM result, which indicated that intrinsically motivated pastors are more prone to compassion fatigue, is that intrinsic motivation is likely to heighten pastors' performance levels, focus and/or effort, which therefore in turn increases their likelihood of experiencing compassion fatigue. The contradictory negative and positive relationships found between these constructs in this study point to a need for further research to clarify the impact of intrinsic motivation on compassion fatigue.

Our correlation results suggested a lack of statistically significant evidence to link compassion fatigue with SQ, while the SEM results showed a negative, statistically significant relationship between these constructs. The latter relational result aligns with Kaur et al.'s (2013) findings. Yet we found compassion fatigue to be correlated negatively with the SQ factor of Personal Meaning Production, suggesting that pastors will experience lower levels of compassion fatigue when they spend time creating their own purposes within their physical or mental states. Moreover, since it was found that compassion satisfaction correlated in a positive, practically significant manner with SQ, it is apparent that pastors may be more satisfied with the levels of care they provide when they are connected with God in a higher-order manner. Consequently, H2 is partially supported within this study.

We therefore propose with only a certain degree of confidence that one of the means by which pastors can overcome, or prevent, compassion fatigue is to place focus on developing their levels of SQ. Stupar et al. (2013) state that SQ is promoted through meditation, taking time to be silent, spending time in nature, being accepting of one's situation, listening to one's own heart, trusting God in big decisions, and remaining in a state of introspection. Moreover, Zohar and Marshall (as cited in Nita, 2014), explain that spiritual intelligence is developed through individuals being aware of their current state, feeling a strong desire to change themselves and grow, reflecting on one's deepest motivations, discovering and dissolving obstacles, exploring possibilities when moving forward, devoting to a particular path, and remaining open to new paths or new possibilities.

Recommendations for Pastors

This study found that its sample of pastors did not experience overwhelmingly high levels of compassion fatigue (which is supported by the findings of Jacobson et al., 2013). However, if high levels of compassion fatigue amongst pastors were to be detected, it would be important to provide the necessary emotional, physical, and spiritual support to overcome this state. Moreover, it should be an aim of pastors who are currently satisfied with their compassionate experiences to avoid falling into a fatigued state. Thus, in order to minimize levels of stress and burnout, Blackmon (as cited in Krejcir, 2007) suggests that pastors must set personal limits for themselves in an attempt to maintain balance in their lives. Blackmon also encourages pastors to place a focus on developing positive relationships with individuals outside of the church and on joining or forming support groups with other pastors. Indeed, Casey (2013) highlights the importance of individuals having a life outside of their work, since leading a balanced and well-rounded life (including a social and family life) is likely to reduce fatigue. Angood (2016) agrees, noting that "self-compassion" is necessary for pastors to look after themselves both emotionally and psychologically--leading balanced lives will result in heightened well-being, a more positive daily work life, and improved relations with those they counsel. As Van Schooneveld aptly summarizes, pastors, and Christians in general, simply cannot do it all by themselves:
   We need to be gentle with ourselves. We are living in a fallen
   world that we were never made for. We know two things: one, that
   God calls us to care for the suffering in the world. But, two, that
   we can't care for everything--not in a deep, soul-wrenching way
   that leads us to action. (2016, para. 8)

Additionally, Hudson and Haas (2012) highlight that Jesus had sustaining practices to ensure that He did not burnout while practicing His ministry. His practices included praying, worshipping God, spending time in fellowship with others, maintaining a close group of disciples, spending time in God's creation, meditating on the scriptures, solitude, rest, relating to individuals that others deemed unclean, welcoming time spent with children, and interacting with individuals of other faiths. LaMothe (2012) agrees, noting that pastors should practice self-awareness and humility in order to come to a full understanding of the Truth. We believe that pastors can and should implement such practices in order to maintain a close relationship with their Savior, thus developing their SQ, reaching a place of genuine rest, and preventing longterm compassion fatigue.

Krejcir (2007) appropriately notes that the first and foremost duty of a pastor is to serve Christ and to intentionally develop and practice their personal faith. He notes that pastors are responsible for bringing cohesion, growth, maturity, a sense of community and genuine spirituality to their churches. This can only be done when leaders demonstrate the character and love of Christ not only to themselves but also to their families and their congregations. This is apparent through their wholehearted desire to pursue Christ, their spiritual fruits as well as their obedience to, and growth in, Christ (Krejcir, 2007).


This research was the first to analyze the possibility of relationships among intrinsic motivation, SQ, and compassion fatigue for pastors. We made use of two Westernized measuring instruments to assess these constructs on a South African sample. The Cronbach's alpha scores indicate that all subscales and instruments utilized for this study were reliable in nature, and the correlation results highlight the internal validity of the instruments.

In terms of limitations, it is possible that misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the items may have taken place, owing to pastors in the study speaking numerous languages other than English (the language used for our questionnaire). A second limitation is that of the fit of the proposed models, since one CFA measure fell out of the recommended target values for Goodness-of-Fit, and four SEM measures fell out of the recommended target values in terms of their Observed Fit Statistics. This suggests the need for further research to support or contradict the exploratory findings presented in this paper.

We recommend that future studies further examine the relationships among compassion fatigue, intrinsic motivation and SQ, with particular focus on more clearly conceptualizing the differences between these constructs as well as the apparent overlap between compassion fatigue and both burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Such research could aid in clarifying the contradictory results found between these constructs in this study, and might proceed improved fit statistics. Future studies could moreover scientifically analyze the negative effects of compassion fatigue on pastors in greater depth, including what other variables might aid in buffering such negative effects within the religious sector. Finally, future researchers might consider the proposed three-factor structure for the subscales measuring compassion fatigue, as delineated in this study, from both a theoretical and empirical perspective.

This study provides initial exploratory evidence that pastors are intrinsically motivated to perform their work through their alignment with a higher power, particularly in the form of devotion to Christ. This enables pastors to experience a deeply personal and emotional connection to their work, which for some is understood as a faith-related calling. When a pastor's focus remains on Christ and his desires, especially when the pastor feels called to work towards a higher purpose, then compassion fatigue is likely to be avoided, to the benefit of the pastor's own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their congregation.

Robin John Snelgar, Michelle Renard, and Stacy Shelton

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Author Note: Robin John Snelgar, Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Michelle Renard, Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University; Stacy Shelton, Department of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Michelle Renard, Nelson Mandela University, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa. Email:


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Athor Information

SNELGAR, ROBIN JOHN Ph.D. Address: PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa. Email: Degrees: PhD (Industrial Psychology), Rhodes University. Specializations: Rewards, Intrinsic rewards, Intrinsic motivation.

RENARD, MICHELLE Ph.D. Address: Office 7A, First Floor, Moffett on Main Lifestyle Centre, 17th Avenue, Walmer, Port Elizabeth, 6070, South Africa. Email: Degrees: PhD (Industrial Psychology), Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Specializations: Intrinsic rewards, Intrinsic motivation, Work engagement, Non-profit management.

SHELTON, STACY. M.A. Address: PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa. Email: Degrees: MA (Industrial and Organizational Psychology). Specializations: Intrinsic rewards, Reward preferences, Psychological capital.

Caption: FIGURE 1 Structural Model with Standardized Regression Weightings
Frequency Distribution of Demographic Variables

Item           Category                  Frequency   Percentage

Church         Anglican                      67         24.5
denomination   Catholic                      64         23.4
               NG                            67         24.5
               Pentecostal/charismatic       75         27.5

Employment     Paid pastor/minister         221         81.0
status         Volunteer/Lay pastor          52         19.0

Tenure         0-2 years                     13          4.8
               3-5 years                     24          8.8
               6-9 years                     23          8.4
               10+ years                    213         78.0

Gender         Male                         207         75.8
               Female                        66         24.2

Age            18-27 years old                7          2.6
               28-37 years old               35         12.8
               38-47 years old               53         19.4
               48-57 years old               75         27.5
               58+ years old                103         37.7

Marital        Married                      188         68.9
status         Living with partner            0          0.0
               Divorced/separated             4          1.5
               Widow/widower                  5          1.8
               Never married                 76         27.8

Educational    Less than Matric               1          0.4
level          Matric completed              12          4.4
achieved       Diploma                       37         13.6
               Bachelor's degree             62         22.7
               Postgraduate degree          161         59.0

Note. (n=273)

Descriptive Statistics and Reliability

Subscale    Mean   S.D.   Reliability

PCW         4.46   0.50      0.70
PDD         4.54   0.53      0.80
PDP         4.46   0.61      0.73
IWMS        4.49   0.50      0.89

CET         3.70   0.66      0.73
CSE         3.35   0.86      0.88
PMP         4.08   0.53      0.78
TA          4.07   0.57      0.80
SISRI       3.80   0.51      0.77

B           2.22   0.50      0.77
CS          4.05   0.51      0.85
STS         2.57   0.57      0.80
PQOL        3.75   0.43      0.73

Note. (n=273); PCW = Personal Connection to One's Work,
PDD = Personal Desire to Make a Difference, PDP = Personal
Desire to Perform, IWMS = Intrinsic Work Motivation Scale,
CET = Critical Existential Thinking; CSE = Conscious State
Expansion, PMP = Personal Meaning Production,
TA = Transcendental Awareness, SISRI = Spiritual Intelligence
Self-Report Inventory, B = Burnout, CS = Compassion Satisfaction,
STS = Secondary Traumatic Stress, PQOL = Professional Quality of
Life Scale.

Pearson Product Moment Correlations

Variable      PCW       PDD       PDP        IWMS

PDD         .750 **     --         --         --
PDP         .678 **   .803 **      --         --
IWMS        .876 **   .934 **   .920 **       --
CET         .184 *    .172 *      .118      .171 *
CSE         .288 *    .320 **    .238 *    .307 **
PMP         .443 **   .524 **   .463 **    .523 **
TA          .284 *    .355 **   .381 **     .377 *
SISRI       .373 **   .423 **   .362 **    .423 **
CS          .444 **   .424 **   .445 **    .481 **
B           -.269 *   -.255 *   -.341 **   -.320 **
STS          .002      -.028     -.076      -.040
CF          -.138 *   -.149 *   -.222 *    -.189 *
PQOL        .281 *    .281 *    .344 **    .334 **

Variable      CET       CSE       PMP        TA

PDD           --        --         --        --
PDP           --        --         --        --
IWMS          --        --         --        --
CET           --        --         --        --
CSE         .506 **     --         --        --
PMP         .317 **   .412 **      --        --
TA          .562 **   .494 **   .593 **      --
SISRI       .772 **   .825 **   .696 **    .817 **
CS           -.061    .182 *    .369 **    .159 *
B           .203 *     .006     -.329 **    -.058
STS         .192 *     .061     -.152 *     .085
CF          .220 *     .039     -.261 *     .021
PQOL        -.189 *    .043     .343 **     .048

Variable    SISRI       CS         B         STS         CF

PDD           --        --         --         --         --
PDP           --        --         --         --         --
IWMS          --        --         --         --         --
CET           --        --         --         --         --
CSE           --        --         --         --         --
PMP           --        --         --         --         --
TA            --        --         --         --         --
SISRI         --        --         --         --         --
CS          .195 *      --         --         --         --
B           -.033    -.634 **      --         --         --
STS          .072    -.223 *    .607 **       --         --
CF           .026    -.461 **   .880 **    .912 **       --
PQOL         .059    .746 **    -.914 **   -.774 **   -.935 **

Note. * [absolute value of r] > = .119 (statistically significant);
** [absolute value of r] > = .300 (practically significant);
PCW = Personal Connection to One's Work, PDD = Personal Desire
to Make a Difference, PDP = Personal Desire to Perform,
IWMS = Intrinsic Work Motivation Scale, CET = Critical
Existential Thinking; CSE = Conscious State Expansion,
PMP = Personal Meaning Production, TA = Transcendental Awareness,
SISRI = Spiritual Intelligence Self-Report Inventory,
CS = Compassion Satisfaction, B = Burnout, STS = Secondary
Traumatic Stress, CF = Compassion Fatigue, PQOL = Professional
Quality of Life Scale.

Goodness-of-Fit Criteria for CFA and Observed Fit Statistics for SEM


                                 Target values            Observed
                               (250 < n < 1000;            values
                                 12 < m < 30)

Chi-square              [greater than or equal to] .050    .126 *
(Maximum likelihood)

Chi-square according       [less than or equal to] 3       1.22 *
to degrees of freedom
([chi square]/df)

Bentler-Bonnet          [greater than or equal to] .92      .76
normed fit index

Bender comparative      [greater than or equal to] .92     .94 *
fit index (CFI)

Standardized Root       [greater than or equal to] .92     .94 *
Mean Square Residual

Root mean                 [less than or equal to] .08      .000 *
square error of                                            .028 *
approximation (RMSEA)                                      .049 *


                                 Target values            Observed
                              (250 < n < 1000; m           values
                        [greater than or equal to] 30)

Chi-square              [greater than or equal to] .050     .001
(Maximum likelihood)

Chi-square according       [less than or equal to] 3       1.14 *
to degrees of freedom
([chi square]/df)

Bentler-Bonnet          [greater than or equal to] .90      .37
normed fit index

Bender comparative      [greater than or equal to] .90      .80
fit index (CFI)

Standardized Root       [greater than or equal to] .90      .78
Mean Square Residual

Root mean                                                  .015 *
square error of           [less than or equal to] .08      .023 *
approximation (RMSEA)                                      .028 *

Note. * indicates acceptable fit
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Author:Snelgar, Robin John; Renard, Michelle; Shelton, Stacy
Publication:Journal of Psychology and Theology
Date:Dec 22, 2017
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