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Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model


The research topic is “establishing a leadership model for reaching migrant workers in the Malaysian Church”. It intends on determining the most effective leadership approach for reaching migrant workers in Malaysia. A number of strategies are available to church ministries, but organizations must select the best model for the migrant situation in Malaysia.

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Significance of the study

If an appropriate model for leadership among migrant workers is available, then the church will be able to create a greater impact in its community. This would transform more people and thus influence society positively. All churches in multicultural communities would benefit from the research because they would have some direction on how to reach out to needy members of the community (Lei, 2009).

The church, as an organization, is not just limited to its own members. The Christian doctrine calls followers to reach out to other members outside the church. The author of the Christian faith – Jesus – told his followers to reach out to the suffering and the sinful in order to build his Kingdom. Therefore, churches need to look for strategic approaches for reaching out to other members of the community; especially migrant workers. This research will provide insights on how to carry this out effectively (Engle, 2012).

Research background

Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with a large group of migrant workers. The church is an institution whose influence exists for close to 500 years in the country. It has traditionally measured its success through conversions and increases in church membership. However, modern-day dynamics require a new approach to church leadership in Malaysia. Now these institutions ought to focus on public engagement with members of a plural society. One way of achieving this is through migrant workers. Scholars have found that Malaysia is in need of moving beyond the church as its main group of focus to marginalized communities in the country. This must be done in a planned and strategic way or else it may not yield desirable results.

Migrant workers in Malaysia represent approximately 30 % of the working population. Robertson (2008) reports that most of them perform jobs that Malaysians have rejected. Some of the jobs could be dangerous, dirty or extremely difficult to carry out. As a consequence, migrant workers over-represent the agricultural sector (especially plantation farming), manufacturing, and construction sectors. A vast majority are illegal. Robertson (2008) affirms that close to 2 million undocumented workers live in Malaysia. The largest proportion of undocumented migrant workers in Malaysia are Indonesians who were approximately 101, 219 in 2006. The second most populous undocumented migrant group consists of Philippine workers who were 33, 487 in 2006. Thailand, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, PRC, Pakistan, Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam are the next most populous illegal migrants in that order.

Interviews conducted among recruiting agents, employers and migrant workers indicate that the groups face a lot of challenges in Malaysia. Agents recruit some of them and bring them into the country without offering them jobs. Additionally, many end up doing jobs that were different from what recruiting agencies promised them. Migrants also face difficulties in salary payment because their respective employers sometimes withhold payment to them in order to prevent absconding of duties. Some of them have to work under unhealthy work conditions such as exposure to harsh chemicals, lack of protective clothing, long work weeks and other similar situations. They have minimal access to justice when wronged and inadequate housing. Employers abuse some workers but they have not sought legal redress. Churches that plan on reaching out to such groups need to be aware of their problems in order to select the right approach.

The main challenge for outreach churches includes tackling the cultural challenges in the migrant group. Some individuals come to Malaysia on a contract basis, so they do not cement their ties to the country. Furthermore, a large number of them only enter the country for a few years. Therefore, few of them are familiar with customs, laws or cultures of Malaysia; this affects their propensity to interact with other groups, including religious ones. Christian churches need to make their leadership model suitable to such a multiethnic group of people. Additionally, many of them are dealing with basic challenges like the lack of housing, medical fees, clothes and even food. Christian leaders ought to use models that can respond to these basic needs prior to dealing with the spiritual element, as well. Some long term investment needs to be made within the group such that they can be equipped with useful skills. It would be essential to empower migrant workers with skills that can sustain them in Malaysia and when they go back to their country. The last component may also be a challenge for Christian leaders as the likelihood of leaving the country for good is a reality. Churches ought to use models that will coalesce with members of other churches in the countries from where the migrants emanate. This will ascertain that they remain strong in the faith even after their sponsoring institutions cease to exist.

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Literature review

Musa (2010) explains that local churches can act as development agents through the use of values transformation. In this regard, they can preach and teach community members principles that alleviate poverty such as discipline, hard work, honesty and creativity. Therefore, churches in Malaysia have the option of adopting such a strategy, where they could become value transforming institutions. Baptism, worship and bible cells would be some of the ways of reaching out to these groups effectively (Hope for New Life Ministries, 2012).

Alternatively, churches have the option of engaging in social organization. In this regard, a church leader would bring members of the community that the outreach program is targeting together. These individuals would identify the key problem they are facing and brainstorm some of the possible solutions to those challenges. The chief advantage of such an approach is that it empowers people to come up with solutions to their problems. The church would support some of the solutions such as women groups, farmers associations or business group. It would be a facilitator of the program rather than a manager. Long term projects such as computer classes or literacy classes also fall in this leadership model. However, churches should work in tandem with sister organizations in their countries of origin.

Alternatively, a church could choose the human rights defense model in which it would assist migrant workers access justice for wrongs propagated against them. In this regard, the church would assist them to get legal documentation for their stay or assist them in filing complaints if undergoing human rights abuses. Leaders must build relationships with migrants in order to earn their trust in this model. Additionally, they must be prepared to confront authority in certain circumstances.


This research will be insightful in showing how various leadership models may be used to reach migrant workers in the Malaysian Christian community. Analyses of the various models will occur to decide on the most effective one. Church leadership must weigh the pros and cons of the human rights defense model, the development agent model, and the social organization model.


Engle, M. (2012). The seven steps of the research process. Web.

Hope for New Life Ministries. (2012). Hope for new life. Web.

Lei, S. (2009). Critically analyzing information sources. Web.

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Musa, D. (2010). The local church as primary development agent. Web.

Robertson, P. (2008). Migrant workers in Malaysia; Issues, concerns and points of action. Fair Labour Association, 1-15.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, January 3). Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, January 3). Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model.

Work Cited

"Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model." StudyCorgi, 3 Jan. 2022,

1. StudyCorgi. "Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model." January 3, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Reaching Migrant Workers in the Malaysian Church: Establishing a Leadership Model'. 3 January.

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