Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Gary Kelsey


The research literature reveals a number of studies conducted on unethical behavior, including nepotism, within the broader nonprofit sector. However, the effect of faith community leadership nepotism on parishioners has not been studied. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to fill a gap in the literature by exploring parishioner perceptions of leadership nepotism through the lens of servant leadership. Specific to this study, it was unknown whether parishioners of a Protestant church view nepotism as having a positive, negative, or neutral impact related to leadership performance. Specifically, the study explored parishioner impacts related to 5 elements of servant leadership: (a) listening, (b) empathy, (c) healing, (d) stewardship, and (e) building community. Individual interviews were conducted with 9 parishioners from 1 church where nepotism was known to exist. The interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and thematically analyzed to identify and extract patterns and themes. Among the findings, the data revealed the presence of servant leadership characteristics found in leadership, which appeared to mitigate the negative influence of nepotism. The study may provide faith community leadership with information that can be used to create and implement important policies related to nepotism.