Power in Religious Organizations: a Study of Principals' Perspectives as Seen in Three Religious High Schools in Michigan
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Higher Education Administration PhD
David S. Penner
William H. Green
Brian E. Strayer
Problem. Power is a phenomenon that is known to almost everyone, and is evident in any relationship that involves at least two individuals. Despite its inescapability, not many individuals are aware of its nature and characteristics and how it displays itself, especially in the organizational setting. This study focused on how power displays itself in religious organizations, and described particular activities that occur in the context of three religious schools in Michigan.
Method. To accomplish the purpose of the study the literature on power was reviewed to identify the existing theories. This documentary approach was combined with case studies to examine the phenomenon within real-life contexts. The case study techniques used were interviews, observation, note taking, and reviewing extant documents in all three schools to obtain a sense of what the observed world was really like. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyze the data. This occurred throughout the process but especially when the data were categorized in a case record by subject and site, and when the database was read several times to look for patterns and to make inferences.
Conclusions. The religious institutions studied were characterized by systems of organization, authority, and ideology, which kept things in order and allowed them to accomplish their mission and maintain their status quo. The lower organizations such as the schools operated in a similar way to the church body which owns them, and to ensure that this happens, the head of the church organization serves also as the titular head of the schools and has representatives on the boards of these lower organizations. The policies by which these schools operate are drafted by the parent organization, and specific school policies required approval of the higher organization before becoming effective.
Authority is the most evident form of power in the schools and is legitimized by position, person, and performance. The CEO is authorized by the board to lead the institution. His power is further strengthened by his character, ability to use the elements of the spiritual life, and resources for the benefit of the organization. Ideology was identified as the sieve through which education is transmitted, and played a major role in the employment of teachers.
The systems of organization, authority, and ideology provide opportunity for a high potential for abuse, because of the rigidity in their structures and expected adherence. The principals are required to enforce the standards and model the qualities of the Christian life as was evident in Jesus Christ. This posed a serious challenge as the servant leadership which they would like to model was frequently subsumed to the need to fulfill organizational requirements.
Authority--Religious aspects--Seventh-day Adventists, High school principals, Seventh-day Adventist secondary schools
Allen, Patrick L., "Power in Religious Organizations: a Study of Principals' Perspectives as Seen in Three Religious High Schools in Michigan" (1998). Dissertations. 186.
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Christian Denominations and Sects Commons, Elementary and Middle and Secondary Education Administration Commons, Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion Commons