A Socio-Cultural Analysis of Leadership Approaches in Ethiopian Immigrant Churches in the United States: Leadership Styles and Implications for Missions

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Douglas Rutt


The central research issue is to develop an understanding of how Ethiopian immigrant church leaders explain their lived experiences within the changing social contexts in the United States to determine leadership style and to draw relevant implications for missions. This study has attempted to investigate situational leadership theory, particularly the contingency leadership model from an overarching socio-cultural perspective. The purpose is to examine how the contingency leadership variables, leader- member relations, task structure and position power help to diagnose leadership situation and styles with the view of determining mission outcomes in the Ethiopian immigrant churches. Data collection is utilized in two ways: phenomenological interview (face-to - face and telephone) and leadership style survey. The sampling comprises pastors and elders of Ethiopian immigrant churches who have leadership experiences in their home country churches as well as in the United States. Phenomenological interviews and leadership style surveys are analyzed and integrated to determine the findings of the studies.

Research findings show that the Ethiopian immigrant church leadership is seen from the following variables: home church influence, culture change, economic issues, relationship tensions, power/authority issues, task structure and spirituality and missionary roles. Since the study's objective was to investigate the impact of social status change on leadership style, the finding clearly shows that there is a direct relationship between social status change and power competition. Thus, power tension is one of the major variables that brings about poor leader-member relation, entangled task structure and impoverished missionary role in the Ethiopian immigrant churches. As a result the biblical aspect of servant leadership is highlighted from a Scriptural and Confessional perspective as a foundation for the study.

Since stressful power competition created unfavorable situation for missionary endeavors, the need for critical planning and strategy is crucial, Further, even though Ethiopian immigrants came from a relational culture, personal or collective attachments are often established without proper understanding. Moreover, migration reconfigures peoples' expectations and outlook. Thus, relationship remains delicate and volatile. Therefore, the Ethiopian immigrant church leaders need to critically reinterpret and renegotiate their relational worldviews in light of the new cultural realities to render productive ministry. Nonetheless, the Ethiopian immigrant churches' social ministries and transnational missions are seen as effective strategies to spread the Gospel by demonstrating Christ's love through proclamation and caring ministries. Recommendations include further research on value-based leadership that focuses on missionary leadership formation in light of an increasingly diverse and changing cultural world.


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