Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Shirley Freed

Third Advisor

Stan Patterson


The position of the president of a conference in the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (a senior leadership role) has currently no policy stipulating leadership training prerequisites. Leaders transitioning into the president’s position typically are selected from a pool of successful pastors, departmental directors, and executive secretaries by a constituency meeting of delegates from local churches and conference institutions.

This qualitative study probed the transition of 12 first-time local conference presidents. The information was gathered by recording in-depth interviews. Eight themes surfaced from the exploration. Leaders experienced the transition as overwhelming, challenging their spirituality, involving new constellations of relationships, and a shifting of identity. They also noted its impact on their family. Other themes dealt with the leaders’ prior job experience, intentional leadership preparation, and mentors.

The findings suggest the need for more intentional leadership and managerial training, including knowledge of basic business principles and financial management. There is also a need for gender diversity training and for support in the form of mentors, assessments, and cohort groupings.

Subject Area

Christian leadership; General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. North American Division, Church management