The Faith and Organizations Project

Project Number: 
2007 1512-000
Start Date: 
Saturday, December 1, 2007
End Date: 
Monday, May 31, 2010
Abstract: 

Scholars of social welfare in the United States have long recognized that much of the U.S. social welfare and health systems was founded by faith communities and religions also played a key role in education. Faith communities continue to have ties to
the organizations they founded today, as well as starting new initiatives. However, in some cases the relationship between founding faith communities and organizations has become attenuated or unclear. Despite faith community interest in strengthening the
connection between faith and works for religious institutions, few studies have focused on faith community connections to the non-profits they create. The Faith and Organizations project was created in order to remedy this situation by providing concrete data
on the relationship between faith communities and their organizations as well as practical guidance and tools based on this research. The project is unique because it explores the role of specific religion’s and denominations’ theology and religious culture
in service activities, providing concrete products specific both to that religion as well as more general theologically grounded materials. To date, the project has completed a pilot study, an overview report on project findings, a report outlining major findings
for each religious group and a series of eight short strategies documents intended to help faith based organizations (FBOs) maintain ties to supporting faith communities, while providing quality services. This new project continues work on this issue from
the perspective of faith communities by exploring ways that practical theology plays out in stewardship of non-profits created by mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Peace Churches, Catholics, Jews, and African American Christians. We define stewardship as
the faith community’s effort to maintain its practical theology of justice and charity in the activities of the non-profits affiliated with that religion or denomination. Practical theology means the every day actions that carry out that faith’s beliefs regarding
justice, charity and social equity. This project’s primary goals involve 1) documenting ways that faith communities maintain connections to their organizations and 2) providing practical advice on ways to strengthen stewardship or discern appropriate actions
regarding organizations no longer practicing the practical theology of that religion. The project explores three questions: 1.How do faith communities understand their practical theology, regarding work in the world, and how does that practical theology play
out in stewardship of organizations? 2.How does stewardship differ among the various branches of Christianity (mainline Protestants, Evangelicals, Peace Churches, Catholics, African American churches) and Jews? 3.What strategies can a faith community use to
address concerns regarding the faith base in organizations under its care or affiliated with that religion? Products: As a research/practice project, this study is produceing a combination of applied products for faith communities and organization boards as
well as academic and practitioner publications. An advisory committee drawn from hosting faith communities and faith based organizations, the Faith and Organizations Project advisory committee, and dissemination partners was developed early in the project
and met regularly during the research project to discuss preliminary findings and determine specific products from the project. These products include 1) a formal report on the study, 2) a dissemination event on the project as a whole, 3) a self assessment
instrument for faith communities and organizations on stewardship, 4) a series of brief publications and factsheets with best practices and guidelines for stewardship for faith community members and organizations, 5) webinar and/or seminar curricula on stewardship
for specific audiences, 6) a book for practitioners and several applied articles, 7) brief video educational materials, 8) academic articles and presentations.

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