Mission and Management of Meagre Resources in Religious Organisations

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:20 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Oral Presentation
Margit WARBURG , Department of Crosscultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Religious organisations must organise labour and raise money for diverse purposes, such as preparing and holding religious feasts and social events, communicating internally and externally, maintaining property, and in most cases also proselytising. It is resource-demanding, however, to recruit new adherents and subsequently educate and socialise them into the religious and communal life. Since resources are limited, it is a common dilemma for religious organisations how much of their resources should be allocated for these different purposes. This dilemma can be approached analytically by distinguishing between Gemeinschaft-oriented and Gesellschaft-oriented activities, drawing upon Ferdinand Tönnies’ classical ideal types of social relations. Both kinds of activities are important for achieving a sustainable religious organisation with a potential for long-term growth. The author’s studies of the Baha’is and of fund-raising in Danish churches abroad provide empirical material for developing this proposition into a generally applicable model of the internal dynamics of proselytising organisations in terms of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. It will be argued that Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are complementary to each other and not opposing ideal types of social relations. On the one hand, the organisation must fulfil the members’ expectations of Gemeinschaft – otherwise, in the long run they will become passive or even resign. On the other hand, the functioning of the organisation must not be jeopardised by neglecting the need for administrative efficiency and proper management of resources, which by definition are Gesellschaft-oriented activities. If proselytising is a more permanent activity, it requires formal organisation, rational planning and money to be efficient. When resources are limited, investing in proselytising usually occurs, at least partly, at the expense of activities that strengthen Gemeinschaft. Eager proselytising can therefore easily lead to an organisational and human strain which is not sustainable.