Original Research - Special Collection: Christian Leadership

Leadership challenges in Christian non-governmental organisations

Ana Maria Cabodevila
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 2 | a5944 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i2.5944 | © 2020 Ana Maria Cabodevila | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 January 2020 | Published: 22 December 2020

About the author(s)

Ana Maria Cabodevila, Department of Philosophy, Practical and Systematic Theology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


This article refers to selected issues elaborated from my interdisciplinary doctoral thesis accomplished at the University of South Africa in 2019. I investigated the ethical-theoretical frameworks as well as practices of Christian humanitarian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Germany by combining a theoretical part (including philosophy, theology, business studies and development studies) and an empirical part. The empirical part was accomplished by interviewing 11 NGOs from the humanitarian field (development and/or relief agencies in an international context). The findings of theory and practice showed that many Christian NGOs typically conform to the secular mindset and regulations in order to be able to function as organisations. The results also revealed that Christian NGOs have difficulties in defining their identity in order to be attractive and convincing to their current and prospective employees and donors. In addition, organisational and hierarchical structures are mostly taken from business companies but do not necessarily always fit to the individual organisations. The research is significant because it shows to what extent these NGOs experience tensions and insecurities having to work in a secular environment, and it helps to identify some typical challenges that Christian organisations face in Western countries. The purpose of the thesis was to impact on the reflection and practice of leaders of NGOs in their quest to understand developments and paradigm shifts, and ensure that they will act in a recognisably Christian way.

Contribution: This article has been held as a presentation at the Leadership Conference in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2019. It contributes to the research of specific Christian leadership, and particularly of leadership in Christian non-governmental organisations. This article aims to describe the challenges these organisations face, having to work in the midst of a secular environment.


Business ethics; Theological ethics; Leadership; Non-governmental organisations; Secularism; Christian faith; Charity; Human rights; Emergency relief; Development aid


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