Social relationships in the local church. A comparison of networks in the rural and urban church
Social network theory is a useful tool in charting the relationships which exist between the members of any social group. Any local church consists of people gathered together, and centred round a special interest which is the worship of God and the expression of the Christian faith. The social interaction which occurs within the church community has this special focus, but it creates social relationships which are open to analysis by social network theory. To examine the effectiveness of the theory's application two contrasting local churches were chosen as case histories to demonstrate ways in which network analysis could illuminate relationships within their constituencies. One local church was in a suburban situation and the other in a rural location. The aim of the study is threefold: to indicate how social network theory can provide a contrast in the churches' structures as human groups; to indicate the quality and the outcomes of social relationships; and to explore how the application of the theory to other local churches can be useful for mission and outreach in their own neighbourhood communities.
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