Organizational Sensemaking, Trust, and Church Planting
Magruder, C. C.
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This mixed methods research study examined the lived experience of evangelical church leaders making sense of a disruptive phenomenon, the vision from the district superintendent to address chronic organizational decline by encouraging each church to plant new churches. All but one of the district churches appeared to agree to embrace this vision and take concrete steps to shift from an inward perspective on survival, restoring health, and revitalization to an activist focus on outreach to unchurched population groups in the respective neighborhoods. My assumption was this overwhelming support was based on trust in the superintendent (De Furia, 1996) and that the dominant leadership styles exhibited by the senior pastors (Korn Ferry, 2019) would reflect this trust and organizational sensemaking (Weick, 1995, 2005).The interpersonal trust survey results suggested a concern with the trust environment but the analysis, integrating the qualitative data, could not resolve the numerous inconsistencies between the results from the two methods (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2018). Findings suggested Weick’s (1995) organizational sensemaking provided a framework for examining the phenomenological event but was not a predictive variable for trust nor leadership style choices. Concerning leadership styles, most leaders employed or preferred coaching, contrary to literature (Goleman, 2002). Unexpectedly, the superintendent engaged in sense-giving, shaping the sensemaking of the church leaders through robust support and guidance (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991) and resulting in increased evangelicalism (Bebbington, 2019) and successful change, meeting the vision metrics. This study contributed to research on sensemaking in a distributed organization, by leaders in a shared leadership structure, and within a religious institution.
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