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The church as a local organisation : a comparative case study in the sociology of organisations

By Kenneth John Roberts


This thesis uses a comparative case study as the means\ud for demonstrating how the policies and attitudes of\ud local churches are influenced by organisational factors. A\ud model based on open systems theory reveals that each\ud local church mediates and processes a variety of\ud environmental inputs. As a result, the inputs are converted\ud into outputs or products. The model, therefore, draws\ud attention to the relationship between the churches and\ud their environment and also to their internal structures\ud and processes.\ud In this instance a single input was followed\ud through 'the system'. This concerned the question of\ud the response of local churches to high levels of\ud unemployment, and associated socio-political issues. The\ud resultant data underlines how important for these\ud churches is their 'religious' environment, particularly\ud when it involves their parent denominations. The main\ud finding, however, is that the two churches investigated\ud were both able to mediate and modify environmental\ud inputs on unemployment. It is, therefore, the 'internal'\ud polities and organisational structures of local churches\ud which are of prime importance.\ud Despite the fact that these churches had different\ud polities, it was possible to discern in each case the\ud key interaction between formal and informal\ud organisational structures and processes, and how these\ud related to the position and activities of agents such\ud as the minister and lay leaders. It was found, in more\ud specific terms, that the most crucial influence on the\ud internal processes of these churches came from the\ud ministers.\ud The investigation required a fourteen-month period\ud of intensive fieldwork during which the writer was a\ud participant observer in both churches. Other methods\ud of data collection used included both structured and\ud unstructured interviews and the monitoring and analysis\ud of a wide range of secondary material.\ud The findings presented here are a contribution to\ud both the sociology of organisations and the sociology of\ud religion. They also illustrate the value of ethnographic\ud studies of the church in its manifestation as a local\ud organisation

Topics: BR, HM
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4184

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