Personality, Prosperity, Priority, Productivity, and Piety: Selecting Congregational Valued Lay Leaders

Ram Cnaan, Marquisha Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Religious congregations are community hubs of welfare and health services. They are known mostly for their spiritual and faith-based activities while being the largest providers of social care with the exception of social welfare services. Their leaders, the clergy, do not work alone. Members that work alongside clergy are essential for the congregation’s functioning but are under-researched, which limits our understanding of the inner workings of local religious congregations. In this exploratory study, we surveyed clergy to assess the characteristics possessed by their most trusted congregants—the valued members. This study helps to better understand the organizational behavior and an overall understanding of congregational members, who work most closely with clergy. We used an online survey of clergy across religious traditions within the United States (N=202), who provided personal data and described their valued members’ collective characteristics. Alongside our conceptual literature review, the findings identified five key groups: Personality, Prosperity, Priority, Productivity, and Piety. Overall, the valued members ranked highest were high on productivity and lowest on prosperity. We also found differences between clergy ranking based on their age, gender, and religion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-405
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Health and Human Services Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 SPAEF.


  • Congregations
  • Group dynamics
  • Lay leaders
  • Leadership
  • Social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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