Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education and International Services


Leadership PhD

First Advisor

Erich W. Baumgartner

Second Advisor

Isadore Newman

Third Advisor

Randy Siebold



Personal observations and anecdotal accounts attest that some of the young people in U.S. Latino churches are developing as leaders within their congregations. This seems to come as a result of the organic or less-formalized leadership development dynamics and practices present within Latino congregations, where leaders often develop by being actively involved in leadership actions without necessarily first following a curriculum of study, completing a training program, or fulfilling a set of theological education requirements. In this way, many are acquiring roles and responsibilities by which they actively contribute towards local congregational and community life, and by which they develop as leaders through hands-on experiences. This less formalized leadership development dynamic in Latino congregations has yet to be empirically studied, as a means to further understand and learn from this unique characteristic that can be helpful to the church at large in our search for how to develop the next generation of leaders. Thus, there is a need to identify, describe, and empirically analyze some of the specific phenomena involved in these observed dynamics within Latino congregations that seem to be contributing towards youths’ leadership development.


Therefore, this descriptive and explanatory ex post facto study examined key congregational practices within Latino churches and the level of participation young people have in these as a means of analyzing the association of both with leadership development. The study drew on existing data collected through the Chicago Latino Congregational Study – Youth Survey (CLCS–YS) of 63 randomly sampled Latino congregations in different Christian denominations: Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline, and Pentecostal. The sample population consisted of 307 Latino youth ages 13 to 19. After examining the 104 questionnaire items of the CLCS–YS for applicability, 23 were selected to analyze youth’s religious participation, social service involvement, and engagement in leadership tasks, while controlling for demographic characteristics. Aspects of Positive Youth Development (PYD) theory pertaining to youth leadership development provided a means to select and create the variables studied, which were derived from socioreligious descriptions of Latino congregations that are linked to the aforementioned organic leadership dynamics.


The data analysis revealed that youth in Chicago Latino congregations have a high aggregate score for both Religious Participation and Engagement in Leadership Tasks, and both scores increase with their age. Although their aggregate score for Social Service Involvement was found to be low, the frequencies of the reported habits, actions, and behaviors regarding Social Service Involvement indicate that a high percentage of youth are involved in volunteering or social service in and out of their local congregation. A significant relationship was also found between youths’ level of Religious Participation and their level of Social Service Involvement and Engagement in Leadership Tasks, with both scores increasing as their scores in Religious Participation increased. The results of the individual survey frequencies served to create a contextual description of socioreligious phenomena present in Chicago Latino congregations, as well as a wider reference into the religious habits of Latino youth. The findings support the observations and anecdotal accounts regarding the level of engagement youth have with organic dynamics for leadership development in Latino congregations. Based on PYD theory, the study also provided a proposed set of variables and measurements by which to approach future studies on this topic. Youth congregants are involved in hands-on experiences such as social service projects and exercising leaderships tasks, and they are also engaging very frequently with their supportive religious community. These are all characteristics of ecological contributing contexts which PYD postulates can potentially contribute towards the leadership development of youth, and their continued contribution as leaders in adulthood (Avolio & Vogelgesang, 2011; Murphy & Reichard, 2011).

Subject Area

Christian Leadership, Hispanic American youth, Young volunteers in social service, Social service


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