Missions in Nigeria: How to Prepare

A Brief Cultural Analysis for Ministers Visiting Nigeria 

Michael Mooney, ministry practitioner



God is doing great things among us, far exceeding our expectations and requests!



“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20-21 ESV).



Executive Elders Gregory Roberson and Michael Mooney are scheduled to hold lectures during a ministerial conference being held at the Freewater Institute of Pastoral Ministry in Kogi State, Nigeria. The provost, Brother Freewater Issah is a member of the National Association of Christian Ministers, and the Bible college holds a spiritual alliance with the NACM.  Some 45 graduates are scheduled to receive ordination by the laying on of hands and ministerial licensing into during this event.  Elders Roberson and Mooney are humbled by the privilege to partake in this ceremony, while representing the NACM internationally.  With these things in mind, the following cultural analysis has been conducted for report.


Purpose of Report 


The purpose of this report is to establish background information in preparation for a missions trip to Nigeria.  The objective of the trip is to conduct a ministerial leadership workshop designed to equip emerging native pastors to effectively lead others in the 21st century.  Herein, the cultural differences and similarities between American and Nigerian perspectives of leadership are considered.  This report is written to prepare the traveling ministers with the knowledge necessary to position themselves appropriately within the culture; thereby, increasing the probability of successful communications, and interpersonal relations. 


How this Information May Assist Future Missions 


Missionaries from US cultures are often sent to Nigeria to establish new churches, and or to offer training to Nigerian pastors already overseeing established churches.  The information herein may be utilized to increase the effectiveness of Kingdom objectives during their expedition. 


Expectations for Leadership Acceptance 


Leadership training is likely to be well received by Nigerians within the concept of its definition and scope.  That is defining leadership as a process toward fellow persuasion within the domains of generating inspiration, developing and casting vision, modeling leadership behavior, and providing regular encouragement accompanied with feedback.  However, there are striking contrasts between American and Nigerian perceptions of power distances between authority, and appreciation for individuality.  For these reasons, special attention may be necessary when communicating leadership principles which emphasize originality, innovation, challenges to traditions, and prioritization of organizational goals above communal well being.


Rationale 


Leadership is a process by which initiators persuade members toward organizational objectives, visions and goals (Weathersby, 1999).  In other words, “leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Northouse, p. 3, 2010).  Kouzes and Posner (2002, 1987) describe leadership as something which occurs through modeling, inspiring, challenging, enabling, and encouraging constituents. This approach to visionary leadership has been more specifically defined within the quantifiable behaviors of: 


1. Challenging traditional process, 
2. Inspiring a Shared Vision, 
3. Inspiring others to take positive action, 
4. Modeling the “way” of leadership, and 
5. Encouraging the heats of those around us 


Following these five attributes, research by Zagorsek, Jaklic, and Stough (2004) found little differences between American and Nigerian approaches to leadership when samples were taken from MBA students in both countries.  The utility of this finding is that there may be a reasonable level of acceptance for charismatic approaches to leadership.  Although, it still should be anticipated that there will be differences regarding cultural attitudes  in areas such as power distance, individuality, and gender roles. In order to maintain mutual understanding, Americans should maintain a respect for those holding traditional mindsets toward gender and political power. Americans should be sensitive to varying opinions and careful not to assume that such cultural element are somehow wrong or discriminatory –in light of their US afforded freedoms.  Further, they should not attempt to undermine these dynamics while expecting to maintain welcomed communications.


Cultural Dimensions 


Geert Hofstede offers a systematic approach to cultural analysis which has become a standard in global relations.  His method seeks to view cultures through the lenses of five categories: 


1. Power Distance (PDI), 
2. Individualism (IDV), 
3. Masculinity (MAS), 
4. Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) and 
5. Long Term Orientation (LTO) (Northouse, 2010).  


According to the Hofstede Centre (2013), the cultural dimensions between Nigeria and the US are as follows: PDI 80/40, IDV 30/91, MAS 60/62, and UAI 55/46, LTO 16/29.  Each score is an assigned number out of 100.  These numbers are generally interpreted as existing in one of two categories: high or low.  A score is high when it is above 50, and low when below 50.  Comparisons and contrasts between two cultures are generally considered as being either similar or not similar. Below are the results between Nigerians and North Americans.


Nigerian & American Power Distance: Not similar 

Power Distance (PDI) describes the levels of social tolerance toward the gaps that exist between authorities and subordinates –in other words the lack of social equality.  Nigeria holds a high score at 80 vs. the US position of 40.  The implications are that Nigerians are much more accepting of social classes, and much more accepting of autocratic authority which clearly defines objectives (Hofstede, 2012).


Missions in Nigeria: How to Prepare

Nigerian & American Individualism: Not similar 


Individualism (IDV) considers societal preferences for communal solidarity.  Nigeria holds a low score in this category at 30 vs. the US at 91.  The implications are that Nigeria is a collectivist country, holding high regard for community, group membership, shared responsibility, and loyalty that at times supersedes rationality.  Even in matters of organizational promotions of leadership, decisions may be most influenced by family connections or group membership –as opposed to qualifications (Hofstede, 2012).  This position stands in contrast to the self-promoted society of the US.  Yet, there are many biblical similarities with the Nigerian concept of community, and their culture may be a good model for how church members should prefer one another.


Nigerian & American Masculinity: Similar 


Masculinity (MAS) describes the extent to which a society is competitive, results driven, and achievement oriented, as opposed to femininity, which describes success in terms of overall quality of life. Nigeria scores a 62 in this category, which is very similar to the US holding a 60.  Therefore, the implications are that both cultures are predominately masculine, while maintaining an appreciation for femininity (Hofstede, 2012).  


Nigerian & American Uncertainty Avoidance: Not Similar


Missions in Nigeria: How to Prepare

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) determines the extent to which a society is comfortable with undefined leadership roles, and how anxiety relates to unpredictable events (Jones, & Alony, 2007).  In other words, it is projected that people with high scores in this area are inclined to seek situations where circumstances are predictable.  Nigeria scores a 55 in this area, and the US a 46.  The implications are that Nigerians are prone to hold strict codes of behavior, prone to structure, highly regard punctuality, and value security as a great priority (Hofstede, 2012).  


Nigerian & American Long Term Orientation: Similar  


Long Term Orientation (LTO) is descriptive of a society’s view of the future in terms of something hopeful, innovative, and in need of preparation –as opposed to the short term orientation which holds high regard for tradition, enjoys quick results, and less likely to save for future endeavors.  Nigeria holds a score of 16 in this domain vs. the US which is a 29.  The implications are that Nigerians and Americans are typically interested in quick results and are often motivated to keep up with the social wealth of their neighbors (Hofstede, 2012).  


How to Use this Information in Ministry  



Missions in Nigeria: How to Prepare

From this analysis it may be concluded that Nigerians and Americans hold similar attitudes in areas of ambition, competition, results orientation, and achievement.  Ministers of the gospel may uses these as points by which to establish rapport and mutual understanding during times of general communication, formal training sessions, and selection of content for illustrations.  


Further, there is a shared interest in “quick fixes” and avoiding the pain of delayed gratification.  This information may be a useful launching pad by which ministers may point out their perusal weaknesses and lack of patience; thereby also developing opportunities to gain rapport while teaching from scripture.


Nevertheless, Nigerians and Americans hold different perspectives regarding social equality, individuality, and the willingness to take risks.  Therefore, careful attention should be given to these areas in order to enjoy the potential associated with effective communication.  Additionally, Americans may have a few things to learn from Nigerians in the virtues of their selfless contributions as members of greater communities.






References 


Hofstede, G. (2013). Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions: Greece. Retrieved June 1, 2013, from http://geert-hofstede.com/nigeria.html


Hugo Zagorsek, Marko Jaklic, & Stanley J. Stough. (2004). Comparing leadership practices between the united states, nigeria, and slovenia: Does culture matter? Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, 11(2), 16-34. doi:10.1108/13527600410797774


Jones, M., & Alony, I. (2007, January). The Cultural Impact of Information Systems — Through the Eyes of Hofstede — A Critical Journey. Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, 4(13), 407.


Kouzes, J., Posner, B. 2002. The Leadership Challenge. Jossey-Bass Publishing. 


Kouzes, J.M. & Posner, B.Z. (1987) The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Northouse, P. G.  (2010).  Leadership: Theory and Practice (5th ed.).  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.  ISBN: 978-1-4129-7488-2.


Weathersby, G. (1999). Leadership vs. Management. Management Review, 88(3), 5. 

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