Grounded Theory – Conflicting Expectations in the Church

Grounded Theory – Conflicting Expectations in the Church



Chapter 3: Research Method

(But everything should be done in a proper and orderly way)

  • 1 Corinthians 14:10


The literature review presented an analysis of the different bodies of literature relevant to the study of conflicting expectations within the church concerning the role of the pastor. The review of literature reveals that there are many factors that can contribute to the burnout of pastors and influence their decision to leave the church. However, the review of literature does not explain how difference expectations among congregants and pastors concerning the role of the pastor impact the pastor’s susceptibility of experiencing burnout or impact the pastor’s intent to leave the church. Herein lies the gap in research that does not provide adequate data on how difference expectations among congregants of the church and the pastors themselves, concerning the role of the pastor, contribute to pastoral burnout or impact pastors’ intentions to leave the church.

This research project will incorporate a qualitative methodology, using semi-structured interviews to explore the expectations within the church concerning the role of the pastors. These expectations will be gathered from different perspectives comprising that of congregants and pastors. Both the congregants’ and pastors’ viewpoint will be examined and analzyed for contributive factors that lead to pastors’ burnouts and their intent to leave the ministry. This research methodology will seek to provide rich descriptions of the participants’ perspective without placing limitations on participants in answering questions, allowing them to speak liberally concerning their expectations of the pastor; specifically, their concept of the role of the pastor.

The purpose of this study is to explore the role of the pastor from both the pastor and congregants’ viewpoint and its associated impact on the pastor. Specifically, this study will seek to examine the overarching question: How do conflicting expectations among church congregants and pastors in Kenya, concerning the role of the pastor, contribute to pastoral burnout and their intent to leave the church? Sub-questions of the principal question that this research seeks to answer are extensive covering the perceptions of church congregants and church pastors and their view-point regarding the role of the pastor in the church. The following questions will be considered:

  1. What perception do pastors and members of local congregation hold regarding the particular role of the pastor in the church?
  2. How do the perceptions about the role of the pastor likely to result to burnouts?
  3. How do conflicting expectations about the role of the pastor in Pentecostal churches located in Kenya, contribute to pastors’ intent to leave the ministry?
  4. What strategies can be undertaken by the church leadership to curb the conflicting views regarding the role of the pastor?

A qualitative research design and the grounded theory will be used to examine the different perspectives and answer the research questions and put every aspect of the research project in perspective.

Grounded Theory

History of Grounded Theory

Grounded theory was originally developed by two sociologists, Anselm Strauss and Barney Glaser in the 1960s (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) purposely to establish a theory of the phenomena of interest in research. Glaser and Strauss (1967) argued that researchers need a methodology that enables an advancement of data analysis to hypothesis so that new theories would be developed. Such new hypotheses would be distinct to the frameworks in which researchers developments were based on. According to Glaser and Strauss, the theories developed would be rooted in the data from which they had materialized and not rely on the logical constructs, aspects from the theories that existed before. Therefore, the grounded theory approach was designed to provide opportunity to advance the latest research on a given phenomenon and contextualized hypotheses (Glaser, 2001).

Grounded theory involves the progressive identification and integration of categories of data. It is the process of identifying different categories of data and the emerging theories from the analysis of the data. As a methodology in research studies, grounded theory provides the distinct guidelines for identification of the different categories and the means to establish relations between these categories (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Therefore, grounded theory is a process end product providing an explanatory framework with which the phenomena under investigation can be understood. Within this framework, Glaser and Strauss (1967) designed distinct techniques through which specific procedures of research can be conducted. According to Glaser and Strauss these procedures included: Theoretical sampling, theoretical comparison, coding, saturation and memo writing. These procedures ensure that the data required is collected, coded, compared and organized into progressively more conceptual categories to prompt the emergence of the theory. To this end, Glaser and Strauss unified research and theory as they systematically discovered a theory in the systematic research. According to these two proponents, grounded research is rooted in a process Glaser and Strauss initially outlined below:

  1. A collection of data, the researcher makes observations in the field and interacts with the participants.
  2. Taking of notes captures the primary elements of every data collection session in the field.
  3. Coding, the researcher here identifies the properties and categorizes the data in patterns.
  4. Memo writing and record creation. The researcher here makes notes purposely to formulate a theory that arises from coding.

Grounded Theory in Qualitative Research

Strauss and Corbin (1990) asserted that qualitative research is largely defined as any type of research that generates conclusions not reached through statistical techniques or other manners of “quantification” (p. 17). However, Creswell (2013) defined qualitative research as a method that produces a flow of information derived “from philosophical assumptions, to interpretive lens” (p. 44), and on to the processes used to examine social problems. Within this context, qualitative research provides a set of revelatory, material practices that reveal the world in a more visual sense (Creswell, 2007).

Qualitative methodology in research facilitates the study of substantive topics profoundly and in detail (Patton, 2002). Qualitative research is an intricate endeavor with a family of terms interconnected, concepts and assumptions that cover various fields, disciplines, and subject matter (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). The study of social phenomena requires a broad approach to covering the practical, interpretative research rooted in the everyday lived experience of the participants in question (Marshal & Rossman, 1999). In describing qualitative research, grounded theory combined with several other methodologies necessitates to a vast array of paradigms, moments, theoretical orientations, perspectives, strategies and approaches (Denzin & Lincoln; Marshal & Rossman, 1999; Patton, 2003; Creswell, 2013; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Therefore, grounded theories are derived from collected data that is apt to offer awareness, enhance understanding and offer a more telling call to action (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Creswell (2007) suggested that by using a grounded theory approach, it allows the researcher to explore a phenomenon “beyond description” (p. 62), which is the basis of developing a theory, instead of testing of an existing theory (Creswell, 1998).

The different point of views takes up a range of both ontological and epistemological premise, making it necessary for the declaration of philosophical stance as a prerequisite of any qualitative research methods (Locke, 2001). In response, qualitative researchers have attempted to position grounded theory in every perspective of philosophy. According to this theory, much of its methodology paradigm helps in putting the rhetorical wrestle into rest (Rennie, 2000). This is a presumably spherical process with limited recognition of the methodology and has subsequently led to many understanding and remodeled versions (Glaser & Holton, 2004). Perceived as a general methodology in research, grounded theory is not confined to any specific ontological or epistemological point of view; instead, it facilitates the philosophical views that the researcher embraces (Glaser, 2003).

Grounded theory as a qualitative methodology can prove a theoretical outline of the phenomena in the study (Glaser, 2001). It primarily narrows on the participants’ point of view and provides them with the prospects to present their views regarding issues they see as important, enabling them to make a reflection on these issues of concern for understanding and development of new approaches. This ability does make the theory superior to other qualitative or quantitative methods; rather, it makes it a complementary methodology (Glaser, 2007). Qualitative data analysis and quantitative research provide an explanation of collective and in-depth cases respectively (Glaser, 2003). Ground theory, on the other hand, provides a conceptual overview with rooted interpretations and the effects underlying the research making it suitable for use in this study (Glaser, 1998). Within the grounded theory approach, the researcher will be able to provide in-depth substance of “descriptive and conceptual writing” (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, p. 278).

The methodology presented by grounded theory fit the qualitative research by bridging the interpretative analysis with the conventional positivist approach because they are primarily used to bring out the meanings of research participants (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The methodology in this theory as well is suitable for the study of individual processes, interpersonal relations, and other reciprocal effects between the person and the social processes in entirety. Charmaz (2006) further pointed out that the grounded theory methodology is useful for studying substantive topics such as inspiration, personal experiences, and interpersonal conflicts. As the current study examines the conflicting expectations within the church on the role of the pastor, this methodology is appropriate and best suited to address the research questions proposed (Brown, Stevens, Troiano, & Schneider, 2002).

Qualitative research method of data collection is appropriate while seeking to identify and understand the experiences of participants in a particular phenomenon (Corbin & Strauss, 1998). In this research, the participants will give their experiences through semi-structured interviews with the researcher. The researcher will then make use of interpretative data analysis to explain, describe and comprehensively bring out the experiences of the participants through a clear description of the role perspectives, burnouts and how the pastors perceive the conflicting perspectives while carrying out their duties. The development of a theory is purely based on the understanding of a particular behavior and in this research; there will be no preconceived hypothesis or assumptions that will be applied to the collection of data or analysis. The data that will be collected from the beginning will be used progressively throughout the study. In the case of questions arising from the data collected, the researcher will go back to the data from which the research questions are built upon (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1998).

Rationale for Qualitative Method and Grounded Theory

According to Bogdan and Taylor (1975), qualitative research outline parameters that result in the gathering of descriptive data through exploratory methods, using participants’ exact words and visible behaviors. This qualitative proposal will attempt to explore what is not yet known in order to recognize the reality of the participants’ perspective in a more affluent sense (Creswell, 2007; Creswell, 2009) when it comes to their individual view of the role of the pastor.  Through an assessment of the qualitative methods regarding the expectations of the roles of a pastor within Pentecostal churches in Kenya, this study will describe the perspectives of the congregants, and of the pastor himself on the role of the pastor in the church. This way, this research will add to the existing body of knowledge insights on how these conflicting expectations within the church can lead to the pastor’s burnout and how it can contribute to the pastor’s intention to leave the organization. This research will provide participants comprised of congregants and pastors, the opportunity to describe their individual views on the role of the pastor. The results of this research could provide insight to church leaders on how to effectively manage expectations within the church that could mitigate potential burnout of pastors due to the effects of conflicting expectations on his or her role as the pastor.


This study will interview the Pentecostal pastors in churches in Kenya and the congregations as well as some members of the society as well. The study’s participants will comprise of congregants and pastors of various churches within the Protestant faith. The participating congregants of the church will consist of both women and men who are at least 18 years old. The age criteria listed is to ensure participants of this study are not limited to one particular age group. However, although there are women pastors within the Pentecostal church, this study will interview pastors that fit similarity to the criteria set forth in the New Testament of the Bible. It is written in the New Testament that a pastor is to be committed to his wife (Titus 1:6, 1 Tim 3:2) and knows how to manage his own household (1 Tim 3:4-5). Therefore, the participants in this study will be 21 years or older, a Kenyan national, married with children, a man and have at least 3 years of experience pastoring a church. In efforts to gather participants that closely aligns with the criteria of a Pastor noted in the Bible (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim 3:4-5), the aforementioned requirements, namely a married man with children, helps to fulfil the aforementioned criteria.

Participants for this study will be randomly selected. The number of participants that will be used in this study will be determined when the analysis has reached the point of saturation; that is to say, where further data analysis remains constant (Strauss & Corbin,1997). The researcher will conduct semi-structured interviews with pastors who are members of the Pentecostal faith-group located in Kenya.

Official invitations will be sent to participants and letter of consents will also be required which has been included in the appendix section of my proposal located in Appendix A and Appendix C. Participants will be recruited using convenience sampling based on Pentecostal churches that the researcher is already familiar with. Participants will be asked to provide others who also may be interested in participating in this research study.

Population and Sampling

The target population of this study will be comprised of church pastors and congregants within the Pentecostal faith group, located in Lamu County, Kenya. Convenience sampling will be used to recruit pastors and congregants in this study from known Pentecostal churches in Kenya developed through previous outreach programs the researcher was a part of with his home church in Maryland. Convenience sampling is a non-probability sampling which means the researcher did not consider selecting the subjects that are representative of the population but rather participants who fit the criteria of the study (Costanza, Blacksmith, & Meredith, 2015). Snowball sampling will also be used in this research proposal in which the researcher will ask participants to share with other pastors and congregants within the Pentecostal faith, who also fit the criteria for this study. According to Sadler, Lee, Lim, and Fullerton (2010), snowball sample was designed to gather participants that are located in “difficult-to-reach communities” (p. 370 in order for them to take part in research studies.  Since this study will involve participants from Kenya, to ensure enough participants partake in this study, snowball sampling will be considered a viable solution.

Data Collection


Data collection will be accomplished by conducting semi-structured interviews through phone and one on one interaction (Charmaz, 2006). The research needs no pre-determined number of participants for these interviews since it is purely qualitative research with reliance on in-depth interviews for data collection. However, the research will attempt to secure approximately 20-24 participants to take part in this study. Semi-structured interviews will be the main inquiry method for collecting data in this study, which are narratives of the participants. Each interview will be recorded using a digital recorder. If subjects do not feel comfortable being interviewed over video chat, alternative options will be provided such as a telephone conference. The list of questions that will be asked to each participant is located Appendix B. Each interview is expected to last approximately 1 hour. Lambert and Loiselle (2007) suggested that interviewing is frequently used in collecting data when leading a qualitative study to provide a comprehensive assessment of participants’ lived experiences when exploring a specific phenomenon. Memoing (field notes) will also be used by the researcher encompassing observations and cognizance during the collecting of data in order to express and articulate a theory (Birks, Chapman, & Francis, 2008).

Special measures will be used to ensure safe-handling of data collected from participants to ensure their privacy and confidentiality and respect for each participants to the highest degree. Participants will be asked to answer open-ended questions about their view of the role of the pastor. Individual interviews are expected to last roughly 1 hour. Collected data from the participants will be transcribed line-by-line, in order to accurately annotate their responses. Collected data will be safeguarded by utilizing a filing system in accordance with the University’s Institution Review Board research policy. Pseudonyms will be used to keep the participants’ identities unknown from those outside the study, besides the investigators. This will encourage participants to feel comfortable and at ease when being interviewed knowing that from the data they provide, they will not be identified. The transcripts from each interview will be secured and stored using filing cabinets located at the student researcher’s home for 3 years in accordance with the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) research policy. With this proposed research design, participants will be able to communicate more freely about their lived experiences that will lead to a better understanding of their reality, without the influence of the researcher preventing them from doing so (Creswell, 2013).

Ethical Considerations

Once approval has been granted by the University’s Institutional Review Board, each participant will be officially invited to participate in this study. A copy of the invitation can be found in Appendix A. Participants will be given comprehensive information regarding this study that will contain both the student researcher’s and associated faculty contact details in case there are any questions or concerns regarding this study. Participants will not be asked to disclose personal information that could expose their identity or their particular position. Each participant will be required to sign the informed consent form in order to provide assurance that their privacy will be strictly confidential and to clearly state that they will not be compensated for their participation. A copy of the informed consent form can be found in Appendix C.


Coding of data will form a crucial part of this research based on grounded theory (Brown et al., 2002). It will require interviews conducted in a good manner for quality coding. The data will be collected from open-ended interview questions. The use of such questions ensures that those being interviewed, essentially the pastors and the congregants are allowed to give their perspectives on their understanding of the role of the pastors in church without limiting them. The interview will be done to saturation, which will be determined by the consistency in the answers provided by the interviewees (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The audio records from the interviews are then transcribed immediately into paper, and each detail of the views provided by the interviewees be written down. This essentially, is coding, and according to Charmaz, (2006), it is best transcribe immediately after the researcher is finished with the interview.

Data Analysis

Based on the grounded theory methodology, analysis of data will adapt comparative methods which combine data analysis with the collection of data. These will include the three types of coding: axial, selective and open coding (Straus & Corbin, 1998; Glaser & Straus, 1967). The first phases consist of constant data comparison and question inquiries on aspects that is both understood and not understood (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The second phase involves connecting data together through inductive and deductive analysis derived from constant comparative analysis of questions asked. And the last phase involves identifying core categories and validation of the second phase’s conclusion and analysis. Only after the aforementioned is accomplish is when a grounded theory can materialize (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Open Coding

The researcher will start with the type of coding which involves labeling of the in the distinct perspectives regarding the role of a pastor in the church. The data collected will then be scrutinized and divided into different categories depending on their attributes (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Once this has been done, the researcher will then examine these properties for attributes that characterize every category developed (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The researcher will also make an in-depth examination and identification of the meaning of data through asking questions, making comparisons and looking for similarities and differences between each category. This will effectively make it easier for the researcher to group the different phenomena into groups that make up the categories. This step of coding will reduce the collected data into a small set of themes that appear to describe the phenomena under investigation and make it ready for the next coding step, axial coding.

Axial coding

Axial coding is the next step after open coding which involve linking connections among the different categories of data (Strauss & Corbin 1998). The following will be explored to allow the connections to be made: conditions, context, actions and consequences. The researcher will identify and link each of the different categories derived from the collected-data from the research participants to make it possible for identification of themes emerging from the responses from the study’s participants and their perceptions on the role of pastors will be highlighted and organized (Strauss & Corbin 1998). Essentially, axial coding will look into the different categories based on the identifications of these categories, the framework in which they are embedded, the possible strategies that the church can use to manage burnouts and the consequences of the strategies (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Furthermore, axial coding will involve back and forth movement amongst the data collection with continual refinement of the categories formed and their interconnections (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).

Selective coding

Selective coding is the last step of the coding process. Selective coding is the process used for the identification and selection of the primary categories by linking the categories from both open and axial coding processes to form a justification of the phenomena under study (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The above mentioned context requires researchers to consider different perspectives and emergence of similar perspectives from the different participants to develop a comprehensive explanation of the phenomenon under study (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Furthermore, selective coding involves the combination of the diverse categories together with their interrelationships to form a plot which best describes what the phenomenon under study.

Grounded theory provides analysis of data which leads to the development of a theory to explain the research under study (Glaser, 1978). Grounded theory can be accomplished through sorting of the various data collected and analyzed during interviews and coding respectively. For effective theory development, the researcher will explore the meanings of every data collected and incentive outlooks will be used to examine the concepts of data that emerge (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). The development of patterns will provide a formation for the development of the storyline based on the grounded theory. The above is considered to be theoretical sampling, with the cumulative depth of knowledge in the topic under study. In the final stage of this coding process, defining different terminologies that are essentially the same used by the research participants will be simplified in order to ensure that any emerging theory is clear and comprehensive (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Writing of Memo

Memo writing is essential for the development of conceptual framework for use in the development of the theory (Corbin, & Strauss, 1990; Glaser, 2001). As the researcher, I will make use of the memos to stimulate and record the analysis of thoughts, perspectives of both the pastors and the congregants to establish a comparison of the different perspectives. Case-based memos and conceptual memos will be used through the study to reflect on what the interview captured. It contains the impressions of the participant’s experiences and the reactions the researcher give based on the already existing ideas on the role of the pastor (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Memo writing will help in the development of the tables and diagrams to be used in data analysis. It will provide a guideline for the emerging data patterns and particular topics. Essentially, memo writing is crucial in the identification of gaps in the data analyzed, perspectives and interpretations (Charmaz, 2006). After this, the new theory will be written (Strauss & Corbin, 1998).

Criteria for evaluation

Several concepts will be used to develop the criteria through which the accuracy of the study evaluation will be based. Aspects such as reliability and validity are primary to these concepts. Such things generation of concepts, systematic relations between the concepts, conceptual density of category relations developed and the variations built into the theory, (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Other concepts of explanations of the different conditions that affect the substantive topic under study, the process to be taken to mitigate the same phenomenon and the development of the theory will also be considered during evaluation (Corbin & Strauss, 1990).

Researcher and Validation

Qualitative research making use of grounded methodology recognizes the researcher as an essential part of the research (Glaser, 1978). He or she should, therefore, demonstrate a hypothetical understanding of the restrained varieties of data while keeping in mind the combination of academic literature in both a professional and individual experiences (Glaser, 1978). Creswell (2013) noted that it is crucial that the researcher has the ability to express “explicitness, vividness, creativity, thoroughness, congruence, and sensitivity” (p. 249) when leading a qualitative study. Providing a comprehensive account that take account of all procedures used, including sample selection, data collection, and data analysis to increase the credibility of the research is crucial for qualitative researchers (Morse et al., 2002). Therefore, when conducting a qualitative study, researchers should consider “their underlying moral assumptions, their political and ethical implications, and the equitable treatment of diverse voices” (Creswell, 2013, p. 248). It is the researcher’s responsibility to be able to understand their own research, expressing knowledge and experience enlarged from past studies, and annotation of this procedure in the write-up of the study (Creswell, 2013).  This study will include an in-depth analysis of literature derived from scholarly research in order to provide this study with “substance to the inquiry” (Creswell, 2013, p. 248).

Strauss and Corbin (1990) outlined four techniques very important for use by the researcher while looking at the hypothetical context of the research:

  • Questioning of data collected.
  • Analysis of the different meaning of words, phrases, and assumptions
  • Comparisons of different ways of conceiving and presenting data through theoretical concepts
  • Making a probe of different terminologies such as always and never

The researcher will use Strauss and Corbin (1998) framework outline to make sure that the study is trustworthy. This will further be strengthened by the different concepts such as time in the field, exploring data from different sources, methods and the objectives of the study (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). Semi-structured interviews will be used with open-ended questions being asked for those participating to tell their perceptions using their understanding.

This research will take the constructivist view to reconciling the data collected into new theory since chances of varied perspectives regarding the role of the pastor are possible. Grounded theory will be constructed from the past experiences of the congregants, pastors, my interaction with these pastors tied with the scientific techniques (Charmaz, 2006). Grounded theory will provide flexibility while focusing on the participant views and their experiences, and not just one universal truth.

Summary Limitations

The purpose of this study is to explore expectations within the church of that of the church congregants and church pastors and its influence leading to the burnout of pastors and it’s impact on pastors’ intent to leave the ministry. The research questions that will be used in this study provide a basis for examining congregants and pastors’ perceptions on the role of the pastor and its impact on the pastor. The primary limitations to this qualitative study centers on the inability to generalize all pastors within the Pentecostal faith group in a universal sense, due to differences in cultures, traditions and social classes in Kenya. In this study, convenience sampling will be used to select the sample population. Although convenience sampling allows time and cost efficient data collection, it poses a risk of obtaining biased results since the data is not typically a representative of the entire population (Constanza, Blacksmith, & Coats, 2015).  Other sampling techniques could be used if the research was able to gather a list of all churches within the Protestant faith in Kenya who have similar biblical beliefs. Another limitation in this proposed study is the use of only male pastors. Doing so could cause bias in the results knowing that there are also women pastors within the Pentecostal faith group.


This chapter gives a qualitative methodology based on the grounded theory to further explain the different perspectives of the role of the pastors in the church. While there may exist some literature relating to the topic of conflicting roles of a pastor, the use of grounded theory in this study is crucial as it provides the qualitative approach to the same phenomenon.













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Semi-Structured Interview Questions

Demographic Questions:

  1. What Christian denomination do you attend?
  2. What position do you hold in the church?
  3. What is your age?
  4. What is your gender?
  5. What is your education level?

Interview Questions for Pastors and Church Members

  1. What is the role of the pastor to you?
  2. What do you believe is the primary function of a pastor?
  3. How should a pastor’s attitude be towards members of the church?
  4. How do you view the role of the pastor within his or her own home?
  5. How do you view the role of the pastor within the community?
  6. How should pastors spend their time outside of the church?
  7. How should pastors handle conflict within the church?
  8. How should the role of the pastor’s wife be?
  9. How should the role of the pastor’s children be?

Additional questions for Church members (e.g., non-pastors).

  1. Tell me about a time when you felt that the pastor did not fill his or her role as a pastor?
  2. How did you view the pastor after that experience?
  3. Tell me about a time when you felt that the pastor went beyond his or her role as a pastor?
  4. How did feel after that experience?

Additional questions for Pastors

  1. Tell me about a time when you felt that you did not fulfil your role as a pastor?
  2. How did you view your role as a pastor after that experience?
  3. Tell me about a time when you felt you went beyond the role of a pastor?
  4. How did you feel about being a pastor after that experience?