Abstract

The purpose of this article is to enhance our knowledge of how congregational leaders understand and perform strategy in their work. By comparing findings from interviews with priests, churchwardens, and leaders of parish councils within the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway, this study explores their strategic agency through the illustrative case of a church development program. Role characteristics, responsibilities and cooperation are analysed. The article contributes empirically by clarifying how spiritual and administrative congregational leaders relate to the concept strategy work and elucidates its conditions in a folk-church context. Priests and churchwardens display a somewhat different conceptualization of strategy work. The former category places it within an institutional-cultural organizational perspective emphasising values and processes, whereas the latter understands it as rational-instrumental underlining goals and products. Parish council leaders hold a middle stance. The theoretical interest of this study is how these coexisting perspectives may both supplement each other and compete. The article discusses how and why strategy work is demanding in folk-church parishes characterized by complex structures favouring an internal rather than external orientation. Strategy work presupposes agency and close interaction between congregational leaders.

Keywords: strategy work, religious organizations, leadership, priests, church wardens, parish counsil leaders