A new book appeared this month which offers the first extensive empirical data regarding the role of servant leadership in creating and sustaining vibrant parishes.

Servant Leadership Models for Your Parish by Dan R. Ebener, Ph.D., reports on two studies conducted in the Diocese of Davenport (IA), where Ebener works part-time as the diocese's Director of Stewardship and Parish Planning and holds a full-time position in leadership studies at St. Ambrose University. The studies included:

  • A Parish Life Study, which included a series of objective measures of all of the diocese's 84 parishes undertaken in 2005-06;
  • A Parish Case Study, conducted by the author in 2006-07, which focuses on the role of servant leadership in the diocese's highest-performing parishes.

Dr. Ebener used the Parish Life Study to select the diocese's highest-performing parishes in three different size categories, and then conducted a case study of those parishes to see if servant leadership plays any role in their vitality. The smallest parish he studied had just 43 families, while the largest had almost 1700 families.

What he found was that all three parishes were marked by extensive signs of servant leadership — although it expressed itself in very different forms depending on the parish's size.

We plan to review the book more extensively in a future issue. But in view of its newsworthy findings at a time when leadership is on the minds of many Catholic Church members and leaders, we thought it important to highlight its availability immediately. You can order it from

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