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The Church as a Social Institution.

The Church as a Social Institution.


The church must be considered as a social institution in much the same manner as we consider the school or local government. Functions of the church include teaching, exhortation, provision for communal religious activities, welfare and recreation, personal counselling of members, and acting as one of the agencies of social control. There are three general forms of church organization: the congregational, the episcopal, and a combination of the two. Certain social consequences derive from each form. Membership in a church is voluntary, in contrast with membership in most other major institutions. The number of denominations and sects increased from 212 in 1926 to 256 in 1936; but 96 per cent of the total church membership is contained in 36 denominations with 100,000 or more members each. Average membership per church was 280 in 1936, with regional variations from 145 in the East South Central States to 605 in New England. Protestant churches predominate in rural America; Catholic Churches are only 20 per cent rural; and Jewish congregations are less than 1 per cent. Financial support of churches is voluntary and varies widely between rural and urban groups and with general economic conditions. Rural churches are, generally speaking, inadequately financed. Ministers are poorly paid. The clergy of rural churches frequently serve more than one congregation and often four or more. The conflicts which often occur between members of the community in their concepts of the role of the minister and the concept which the minister himself has of his functions, sometimes lead to subtle difficulties of a social psychological nature. This is an area which calls for further study. Pastors need more leisure and opportunity for study in order to keep up with developments in a changing world. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved)
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