Formal and informal



How to Cite

Tappel, E. A., & Sirris, S. (2024). Formal and informal : Two patterns of organizing voluntary work. Scandinavian Journal for Leadership and Theology, 11, 78–98.


Volunteering is a pressing concern in civic organizations. This article explores how voluntary work can be best organized by using a case study from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, which is characterized by both voluntarism and professionalization. Drawing on interviews and observations in congregations following different modes of organizing, we investigate the roles of volunteers and professionals. The findings highlight how actors distribute their work tasks and interpret functional and moral responsibility. The patterns of roles and responsibilities reflect two ideal-typical forms of organizing. We discuss the degrees of formalization in each context and propose a new categorization, which we conceptualize as informal and formal organizing of voluntary work. The first places emphasis on the individual employee, who works through personal relationships, and task distribution is scarcely regulated. The latter is formalized by explicit mandates and responsibilities shared systematically. We conclude that congregations, professionals, and volunteers can benefit from a formal approach to organizing voluntary work.


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