Date of Award

Summer 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua Henson

Second Advisor

Dr. Bethany Peters

Third Advisor

Dr. Carlo Serrano


When leaders experience personal failures, it often causes negative repercussions across an entire organization, and Burns (1978) noted that devastating leadership failures had become increasingly common at the close of the 20th century. Leadership failures have continued to be a prominent problem, and the failures of ministry leaders are just as prevalent and devastating (Shaw, 2006). Brown (2015) concluded that vulnerability is a powerful tool for maintaining trust and integrity for leaders, followers, and entire organizational cultures. This study centered on both the role of vulnerability exemplified by Jesus in John 13 and the lived experiences of Christian ministry leaders. The study was conducted using a two-phase approach, including a socio-rhetorical analysis of Scripture, as described by Robbins ( 1996a, 1996b) and Henson et al. (2020. An analysis of John 13 yielded nine core themes: disregarding hierarchy, challenging honor and shame codes, recognizing ongoing sanctification, addressing refusal, practicing mutual confession, loving one another, loving through betrayal, growing understanding, and setting an example. The second phase included interviews with 12 Christian ministry leaders based on the nine themes from the Scripture analysis. The findings of the study revealed that Christian ministry leaders view each of the themes form the exegetical analysis of John 13 as informative to the role of vulnerability in ministry today. Findings from the interviews resulted in the development of 30 categories of observations divided into perceptions, practices, and effects. The interviewed leaders perceived that vulnerability is vital and that practice is risky, but the effects are positive when entrusted to God.