Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dorothy Ettling


Howard L. Smith


Marie P. Thurston


Sarah J. Williams


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the phenomenon of Church Mothers as they perceived themselves as informal leaders in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. While it is generally acknowledged that there are gender and minority differences in leadership, there has been little exploration in how these differences affect the overall landscape of leadership and leadership theory in the African American community. Criteria for participant selection for the study were informed by Pielstick’s characteristics of informal leadership: shared vision, communication, relationships, community, guidance, and character. The study was conducted from the Womanist perspective as a way of understanding the unique lens of African American women in informal leadership roles. Using a basic qualitative inquiry format, the researcher used interviews to allow the participants to tell their stories, beginning when they were young and progressing into their informal leadership role in the church. Through the sharing of the lived experiences of the nine Church Mothers, the researcher gained insight into how these women view their contribution to their church and communities. The inquiry produced three reoccurring themes: service; compassion; and mentorship. Service refers to the selfless giving of time, talent and financial support to the organization/community; compassion is the non-judgmental support of others, and mentorship includes formal education and informal education which can include mentorships, apprenticeships or simple observation. This study will contribute to the body of knowledge by increasing awareness of African American women as informal leaders within the church community.

Included in

Education Commons