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This frame is about understanding “how we do things around here.” Shaped by their very nature as voluntary associations, congregations organize themselves through a variety of formal and informal processes.

(A) Decision-making.

Congregations make decisions both big and small. Understanding how it goes about this process of decision-making is reflective of a congregation’s traditions, social setting and the people themselves. When decisions are made, pay attention to the decision making table.

(B) Ideas.

Speaking of decisions, how are new ideas brought to the table? Do they come from a centralized authority, from a visionary pastor or local board, or from the collective brainstorming of the members? How are new ideas vetted and how are they implemented?

(C) Formal Processes.

When considering a congregation’s processes, it’s helpful to notice both the formal and the informal processes. Formal processes are prescribed and explicit. Their logics and structures are often explained in official documents such as constitutions. Examples: Tax-exempt financial arrangements, staff policies for hiring and evaluation, budgets, and hiring (calling) a new religious leader.

(D) Informal Processes.

Informal processes are those that are assumed, implicit, or perhaps they take place behind the scenes. Which processes are formalized and which are left to informal, self-organizing can vary significantly. Some examples might include: welcoming new members, how to get involved, or starting a new program.

(E) Who’s at the table?

Just like any activity of a congregation, its important to notice who’s at the table and who is not when a congregation is making a decision. Some congregations have large staffs who run the day to day operations of the congregation. Others rely on volunteers. Some congregations share decision making widely, while others concentrate that authority to just a small group of members.

Frame in Action

Social Engagement and the London Megachurch

The Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK has funded a three-year study of London’s megachurches and their social engagement activities, to be complete at the end of 2016. Using the definition of a megachurch developed at Hartford Seminary Institute for Religion Research as 2000 or more people per week attending a Protestant church for worship, twelve megachurches were identified in the UK as of 2016, with ten located in London. Although there has been considerable writing and research regarding megachurches in the USA, far less has been done to study megachurches in the rest of the world. This project seeks to contribute to conversations about megachurches in the global...
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Faith and Political Engagement: Latina/o Protestants At the Intersection

From the outside, Allen Temple Ministerios Hispanos (ATMH) is unimposing. Located deep in poverty-stricken East Oakland California, ATMH’s neighbors include two fellow protestant churches, a bar and a liquor store. It’s the week before Thanksgiving. Inside the Baptist church, Esther, the pastor’s wife and church leader, is finishing up the announcements for the close to 40 faithful parishioners. The church of immigrant and second generation Latino/a members will be able to participate in various opportunities to feed the poor and homeless on the days leading up to and including Thanksgiving. Esther stresses that members of Allen Temple should not approach the events with other churches...
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Related Tools

Asking Questions

To understand the processes of a congregation be sure to conduct some interviews. Be sure to ask both leaders and regular participants.
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Survey Says!

A survey of the congregation can be a helpful tool for understanding the process frame. Be sure to review the section on developing questions.
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Step Back, Watch & Listen

When it comes to the processes of a congregation there's really no substitute for stepping back and observing how they unfold.
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