Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Second Advisor

Dr. John Sandberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Arnold Gallegos

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Dickie


Missionary attrition is a costly experience for North American mission boards. Debilitating stress, related to resignations and early withdrawal of missionaries has led to human suffering on the part of missionaries and financial losses for those who sponsor the mission overseas.

This study investigated the factors that were stressful for missionaries of the Christian Reformed Church that worked in West Africa and attempted to identify those stress factors that are primarily responsible for missionary attrition. Previous research, with other missions on other continents provided the basis for identifying factors related to missionary stress. A Likert-like scale was used to measure the relative degree of stress on 106 items in the instrument. The study allowed for items that were stressful for some to be scored as a satisfying experience for others.

This study was also designed to determine if the country of residence in West Africa, and the setting in these countries, either rural or urban, was a factor in the differences in the stress levels of the missionaries. A third variable, to determine if the site or location of the missionary at the time of responding to the instrument was a factor in the stress levels reported by the missionaries, was also studied.

The results of the analysis isolated fifty-nine individual items that were considered primary stressors leading to attrition, in six major stress areas. These stressors were: cross-cultural stressors, personal stressors, support system stressors, caring stressors, mental health stressors and occupational stressors. In addition, the data analysis indicated that the country of residence is related to the level of stress reported. Higher stress scores were reported by the Liberian and Sierra Leone missionaries than their Nigerian colleagues. Stress scores were also higher for missionaries completing the instrument at work in West Africa compared to those at home in North America. The hypothesis that there is a relationship between stress levels and the setting, rural or urban, where missionaries lived, could not be supported from the data.

Further research, to address problems identified by missionaries who have resigned from further service, is recommended. Adequacy of missionary salaries and that relationship to possible stress is also suggested for further study.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access