Speaking Without Words: The Role of Nonverbal Communication in Pastoral Ministry

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This thesis will address the role of nonverbal communication for clergy, while examining the impact such communication has on the ability of a congregation to most fully receive the gospel. My thesis contends that information shared by clergy is not received adequately by congregations when those providing these messages fail to understand the connection between content being offered, and the manner in which the content is delivered. My contention is not that communicating is merely a matter of technique; the Spirit works through our shortcomings as speakers to provide powerful messages which inspire transformation. Instead, my assertion is that we as clergy have a responsibility to embrace nonverbal communication practices that best serve to enhance reception of the good news, whether that communication is shared during a sermon, while teaching a class, participating in a meeting, or offering pastoral care.

Methodology to be employed during this work will draw together resources and experiences shared by communication consultants from my earlier employment as a television meteorologist, and research offered through texts related to nonverbal communication practices and the psychology of communication. Offerings from both early and contemporary church leaders will be included, as I seek to incorporate theology and homiletics related to nonverbal communication.

The primary conclusions of the study are 1) Oral communication is enhanced or subverted depending on the manner in which nonverbal communication accompanies the spoken word. 2) Nonverbal communication is transmitted in numerous ways, including facial expression, gestures, body posture, and eye contact. 3) Gender plays a role when interpreting nonverbal communication.


Doctor of Ministry




Smith, Steve (2018). Speaking Without Words: The Role of Nonverbal Communication in Pastoral Ministry. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/20179.


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