|dc.description.abstract||The biblical imperatives for Christians to love their neighbour (Matt 22:39; Mark 12:31), care for widows and orphans (Jam 1:27), seek the good of the communities in which they are located (Jer 29:7), and respond to the basic needs of those around them (Matt 25:36-40) have resulted in a range of responses to social needs from adherents of the Christian faith. A number of mainstream Christian denominations and individuals within New Zealand, motivated by their faith, have sought to respond to social needs, including those of families. They have institutionalised their responses, establishing organisations dedicated to carrying out humanitarian endeavours on their behalf. However, institutionalisation brings with it a number of significant challenges for these faith-based organisations (FBOs). Financial pressure, requirements from government agencies and professional bodies, complex relationships with the church, and the distractions of daily operational activities, all influence the way that FBOs engage with their foundational faith commitments. This raises the question: How does theology shape practice in faith-based organisations providing support to families in New Zealand?
Having identified FBOs with national scope, I selected two as major case studies and three as minor cases. The study of each FBO involved a survey of their online presence and publicly available documents and publications. References to faith-based values and mission in these sources revealed an espoused theological position which the FBO publicly portrayed. Five interviews for each of the minor cases and ten interviews for each of the major case studies were then conducted. Interviewees were selected from service centres in the Waikato and Auckland regions of New Zealand’s North Island, and from a representative cross section of the FBO with regard to length of employment, seniority, and personal faith affiliation. The interviews revealed the operant theology expressed in the practices of the agency. This allowed an analysis of the coherence between the espoused and operant theology of the FBO, and a cross-case analysis enabled industry trends to be identified.
While I was looking for how theology shaped practice, I found that the effect practice had on theology was a more significant feature in most of the FBOs. Although a strong value of compassion motivated most participants, and some referenced this in biblical or theological terms, a theological view of family was only weakly developed in most interviewees. The effects of practice shaping theology resulted in increasingly complex relationships between FBOs and the church and in organisational mission drift. Resource dependence, along with management structures and leadership, influenced both the risk of mission drift and the health of the relationships between the church and “their” FBO. The extent to which the FBO’s activity was considered a ministry of the church also influenced this relationship. Explicitly stated mission, values, and policy statements had a negative correlation with mission drift, as did the celebration of organisational origin stories. This thesis concludes with a discussion on some of the implications of these findings for the faith-based social service sector and for church ministry.||