AuthorMartin, Nancy J.
Committee ChairChaves, Mark
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation advances our understanding of the structure of social relations between small groups and the larger organizations within which such groups are situated. Specifically, I examine structures of leadership and authority to gain an in-depth understanding of group organization in one nondenominational and one Southern Baptist megachurch. Methods include in-depth interviews with church clergy, staff, and group leaders; participant observation in groups and other church activities; and a written survey for group leaders. Using this combination of methods, I investigate how small groups are structured in terms of their connections to the megachurches within which they reside. I examine the extent to which the church staff provides oversight and exerts control over groups, and I connect variation on this dimension to how groups relate to their members and to the outside world.My findings include, first, that market metaphors permeate the organization of groups in these two megachurch organizations. The diffusion of ideas and practices from other institutional realms is notable in these two sites, and this may be true for megachurches more generally. Second, I argue that understanding strictness in religious groups is at least as much about the structure of relations between church leadership and membership as it is about beliefs. Third, small groups in megachurches look very much like small groups in American religion more generally, and church oversight may not make much difference in solving problems in small groups identified in previous research. Finally, I find that the level of oversight and control exerted by church leadership on the organization of groups may have a critical influence on the function of groups. Loose and tight connections appear to encourage a more outward and inward focus, respectively.Sociologists studying religious strictness or small groups in any setting should pay particular attention to the structure of relations connecting groups to the larger organizations within which they reside. Religious leaders interested in organizing groups of members should understand that the structure they create to connect with group leaders is at least as important as beliefs they teach leaders, in terms of influencing the focus of the groups.