Recent articles on religious leaders and religious communities

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The Danielsen Institute’s Director of Research, Dr. Steven J. Sandage, collaborated with colleagues Dr. Peter J. Jankowski and Dr. David C. Wang to investigate different longitudinal trajectories among seminary students during the pandemic in relation to resilience, burnout symptoms, and well-being. This study makes a contribution to conceptual and empirical discussions about the definition of resilience, as well as highlighting certain diversity considerations. The study also looks at the role of transformative experiences using a measure we developed many years ago based on the interesting work of William Miller and Janet C’de Baca in their book Quantum Change. The results of the present study highlight the roles heightened emotions and new constructions of meaning in transformative experiences, which are probably uncommon topics in the formation curricula of many seminaries. Below are the citation and article abstract.


Jankowski, P.J., Sandage, S.J., & Wang, D.C. (2023). (Re)framing resilience: A trajectory-based study involving emerging religious/spiritual leaders. Religions, 14: 333. https://

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a unique circumstance for the study of resilience. At the same time, clergy resilience has garnered increased research attention due to greater recognition that religious/spiritual leaders are an understudied population at-risk for elevated levels of anxiety and burnout. We examined longitudinal patterns of change in a sample of emerging leaders (N = 751; Mage = 32.82; SD 11.37; 49.9% female; 59.8% White). In doing so, we offered a conceptual and methodological approach based on historical and critical evaluations about the study of resilience. Results revealed a subgroup that exhibited resilience over three waves of data collection. The labeling of this trajectory was based on established criteria for determining resilience: (a) significant adversity in the form of COVID-19 stress at time 1, which included highest levels of the subjective appraisal of felt distress; (b) risk in the form of low religiousness/spirituality and identification as a sexual minority and younger, relative to those who were flourishing; (c) a protective influence for transformative experiences to promote positive adaptation; and (d) interruption to the trajectory in the form of improvement in levels of symptoms and well-being. Practical implications center on aspects of transformative experiences: heightened emotions and new meaning. 

Currently In Press

The Danielsen Institute’s Director of Research, Dr. Steven J. Sandage, contributed to a forthcoming article synthesizing some of the relevant research and theological grounding and outlining practical steps for Christian communities that want to move forward on racial DEI efforts. Below are the citation and abstract.


Hook, J. N., Zuniga, S., Wang, D. C., Brown, E. M., Dwiwardani, C., & Sandage, S. J. (in press). Conviction, competence, and context: A three-level model to promote racial diversity, inclusion, and equity among Christians. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. 


Racial division has been a long-standing problem throughout the history of the United States, and these problems persist among Christians and the church today. There is often hope that Christians can offer help and healing to the problem of racial division, but many Christians and Christian institutions have maintained racial systems of inequality, oppression, and White supremacy through lack of action, endorsing colorblind racial ideology, and even overt opposition to movements and viewpoints supporting racial justice, claiming that such movements are antithetical to the Christian faith. In the current article, we first discuss the problem of racial division within the context of American Christianity, focusing on the following themes: (a) lack of motivation to engage, (b) low levels of cultural competence, and (c) comfort, familiarity and the reinforcement of self-interest by historical structures that have favored the majority culture. Then we present a three-part model for supporting Christians who want to work toward racial diversity/equity/inclusion (DEI), focusing on (a) increasing motivation, (b) increasing cultural competence, and (c) implementing contextual and structural changes. Finally, we offer some ideas about what a program based on our model might look like and briefly review existing research that supports our model and program.