Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The leadership succession process in megachurches
by Wheeler, Meredith Edward, Ph.D., Temple University, 2008, 434; 3320074
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study is to examine the succession processes and experiences of senior pastors in megachurches. The term succession is used in the study to refer to the transition in which one leader leaves an organization and another one takes her/his place. The term process speaks of the sequence of individual and collective events, actions, and activities unfolding over time in context (Pettigrew, 1985). The term senior pastor is used to refer to the top leader in churches with multiple pastoral staff. The term megachurch is used here as a descriptive term to refer to Protestant churches with 2,000 or more attendees in their worship services each week (Thumma, 1996).

Few changes have greater impact on an organization than the change of the senior leader. Historically, succession processes in churches have been disruptive events often leading to temporary or, in many cases, permanent decline (particularly when the predecessor led the church to a perhaps unprecedented time of growth). Succession was often an undiscussed matter until the departure of a predecessor. Since the proliferation of megachurches is a relatively new social phenomenon, little is known about the succession processes of senior pastors in these churches. This study on succession process seeks to address a gap in the literature regarding succession in megachurches by offering first-hand descriptive accounts by those who have lived through the succession process. Further, this study seeks to enrich the literature by seeking to integrate current leadership theory with this succession study.

Examination of the processes of succession and the nature of the proposed research questions favor a qualitative approach methodologically. Since this is an attempt to holistically describe what is going on and to build a knowledge base for developing theory rather than test hypotheses, the methodology adopted needs to allow maximally for serendipitous discovery, description and explanation. This study proposes to describe, analyze and compare the succession processes and experiences of senior pastors in three megachurches through in-depth interviews with those most immersed in the succession process, through document review, archival review and through a basic organization profile survey.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Folger, Joseph
Commitee: DuCette, Joseph, Jones, Trish, Krafft, Larry
School: Temple University
Department: Communication Sciences
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 69/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Clergy, Organizational behavior, Organization theory
Keywords: Church leadership, Leadership, Leadership retirement, Megachurch, Succession, Transition
Publication Number: 3320074
ISBN: 9780549708476
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