Church affiliated Human Service Organizations (CAHSOs) are drastically understudied. Consequently, the experience of their executive leaders is understudied. Information on CAHSOs and the experience of their executive leaders is often blended into general faith- based organizational research. Yet, CAHSOs play a vital role in the United States and abroad. CAHSOs are responsible for the social welfare of millions of indigent people in suffering communities. These organizations provide housing to the homeless, food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and educational programing to at-risk youth, among many other things. These organizations, however, only function because of the expertise and work of executive leaders. This research study used the phenomenological qualitative research method to interview executive leaders in CAHSOs. The goal of this research was to determine the challenges executive leaders face within CAHSOs and the strategies they use to overcome these challenges while gauging their definitions of success and documenting the advice these executive leaders have for others in their field. The analysis revealed various challenges including lack of financial, human, and real estate resources; unqualified staff; stressful work expectations; and strained relationships. Their strategies included measuring successes, building external networks, and leveraging religious practices. Executive leaders defined themselves by organizational performance and money. They encouraged other executives to leverage general business practices while evaluating their motives for working as an executive leader within a CAHSO. Generally, the results of this research offer insight into the challenges and celebrations of executive leaders of CAHSOs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Human services -- Management; Nonprofit organizations -- Management; Religious institutions -- Management

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;