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