Walking Backwards: How the Re-Storying of Collective Identity Unlocks the Potential for Churches to Make Significant Changes to their Congregational Practices

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2023

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Abstract

How do churches change? In the life of congregations, collective identity informs congregational practice which, in turn, informs collective identity, forming a reinforcing loop that artificially prevents congregations from making significant changes to their congregational practice. To change the practices would be to change the identity, and to change the identity would be to change the practices.This thesis explores the interaction of collective identity, congregational practice, and change. After a review of pertinent scholarship concerning organizational and congregational change, this study provides an in-depth analysis of three churches that have made significant changes to their congregational practice in the last decade. Employing a multiple case study methodology, the actions of these congregations are compared to one another and to existing change literature. In the end, these three congregations demonstrate how the effective use of engaging with their histories to re-story their present collective identities allowed them to meet these new changes in a way that fits with their identities. Rather than preventing them from making significant changes, the reinforcing loop of collective identity and congregational practice propelled them.

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Treadway, Major (2023). Walking Backwards: How the Re-Storying of Collective Identity Unlocks the Potential for Churches to Make Significant Changes to their Congregational Practices. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27550.

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