A pastor trained in psychology examines the personality dynamics at work in any diverse congregation.
Kruger (In Jars of Clay, 2008), a longtime preacher from Nebraska, favors the view of a congregation as an ark, and all types are welcome, even “snakes”—his term for those problematic parishioners who deceive or at least confuse those who do not know how to handle them. He argues that the inherent inclusivity of Christian and other religious communities can enable certain personality disorders to disrupt the communities’ order. Even veteran preachers have difficulty navigating conflicts with parishioners who show signs of psychological instability. Citing The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V—the holy book for the field of psychology—Kruger classifies the more destructive types of mental disorders into three clusters of trait types based on the challenges they present to a pastor and congregation as a whole: those who challenge inclusivity, those who challenge management, and those who challenge “meaningful care.” Each cluster is cataloged in its own chapter, with anecdotal examples drawn from Kruger’s own experience and those in other church communities. The latter part of the book provides specific tips for handling each personality disorder, such as a paranoid personality, a schizoid personality or an obsessive-compulsive personality. Although Kruger has experience with diagnosing and counseling these disorders, many of his descriptions take the form of “snapshots” that consist primarily of rehashed conversations. This presentation downplays the value this guide has in recognizing underlying psychological disorders in a casual setting. Kruger approaches the intersection of psychology and religion with the intent of helping pastors more effectively handle their congregations, but the danger may lie in allowing religious leaders untrained in psychology to attempt to counsel churchgoers who would derive greater benefit from working directly with mental health professionals.
A field guide of armchair psychological diagnostics to be used within a congregation.