Communication ETDs

Publication Date



This dissertation applies organizational culture, identification, commitment, and leadership theories to explain how United Methodist Church (UMC) congregations (members and pastors) view the work of the local church and how it differs from the recommendations of the denomination's top leadership. I develop case studies of congregations using a triangulated- methodological framework of observations, interviews, and textual analysis, which captures the experience of leaders and members of three UMC congregations located in different geographical areas. I analyze the data from these research sites using thematic analysis that produced detailed and comprehensive narratives about each congregation. These case studies identify the values that define the culture of the local churches in light of the characteristics of each regional area; describe how local congregations conceptualize the role of pastors; and explain how the church mission is expressed and enacted at the local church level in ways that differ from the mission established by the national church leadership. My analysis shows how organizational values, norms, assumptions, and contextual characteristics influence the fulfillment of the national church mission by the congregations through examining the organizational processes, practices, and pastoral leadership in local churches and identifying how these factors influence congregational identity. This dissertation makes a theoretical contribution to the organizational values research by expanding Wiener's (1988) classification of Organizational Value Systems. It also adds a new concept of implicit commitment and contributes to organizational identification research by expanding the conceptualization of Cheney's (1983b) unifying symbols technique. Based on the application of Fiedler's (1967) Contingency Model of leadership to the church context, it introduces an amended classification of elements influencing leadership effectiveness in religious organizations and proposes a new style of leadership appropriate for this unique context. This dissertation contributes to organizational research methods by utilizing triangulation, an approach based on thick descriptions of organizational members' conceptualizations of their organizational identities and of each congregation's organizational processes. The study demonstrates how the UMC's principle of "Connectionalism" links numerous local churches across different geographical areas into one denomination, while allowing them to retain unique identities and develop close connections with their local communities.




Organizational, Communication, Organizational Culture, Organizational Identification, Organizational Commitment, Leadership, Organizational Effectiveness, United Methodist Church, Church, Religious Organization, Organizational Mission, Values, Assumptions, Norms, Rituals, Practices, Processes, Church Member, Pastor, Denomination, Connectionalism, Congregation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Schuetz, Jan

First Committee Member (Chair)

Burgess, Andrew

Second Committee Member

Rodríguez, Ilia

Third Committee Member

McKinnon, Sara

Fourth Committee Member

Balas, Glenda