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Financial Commitment Within Federations of Small Groups: The Effect of Cell-Based Congregational Structure on Individual Giving

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Abstract:

According to available research, congregations with strict rules and dense social networks are better able to screen out free-riders (“selection”) and encourage greater levels of commitment among members (“production”). Both selection and production raise levels of individual giving. Research testing these processes generally utilizes a measure of network density. This study examines whether organizations that are a “federation of small groups” are better able to monitor members and hold them accountable, thus assuring acceptable levels of commitment on the part of members. Results of multilevel modeling using data from the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey indicate that cell-based congregations elicit higher levels of financial giving among congregants, net of all other effects, including network density. Moreover, cross-level interactions between the cell-based congregation variable and theological exclusivity as well as attendance are significant and positive. Cell-based congregations provide a context in which individual-level predictors of giving become more robust.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01539.x

Affiliations: Department of SociologyBaylor University

Publication date: December 1, 2010

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