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Clergy can have a negative impact on churches and other individuals when they knowingly or unknowingly attempt to save face, that is, try to protect their standing or reputation. The desire to gain face and the fear of losing face and feeling ashamed will likely permeate clergy’s decision-making processes without even being noticed. This study explores the essence of face and face management and the relationship between face management and two characteristics of servant-leadership—awareness and healing—in both Chinese and American churches through the methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology. Prior to this study, to my knowledge, no hermeneutic phenomenological research of face management has been conducted in a church setting. Through a review of the literature, four areas are explored: face and shame, face management, servant-leadership, and face, shame, and face management within the church. This study obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board and informed consent from the participants. Three Chinese and three American Christian ministers were chosen to complete a question sheet and participate in two semi-structured interview sessions. A first cycle of open coding and second cycle of pattern coding were used during data analysis. Face experiences are discussed in light of eight major themes: body, triggers, becoming, face concepts, strategies, emotions, servant-leadership, and the church. Findings from the study help build a servant-leadership and face management model, which can offer an anchored approach for clergy and pastoral counselors to address face and shame and to develop therapeutic interventions.


Originally published in The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, January 21, 2019.