Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version

The application of scientific method to determining the overall benefits (or detriments) of practical, program implementations of "public policies." Interest in such research has been spurred by national legislators who desire to learn whether alternative, remedial programs in, for example, education, health care, criminal justice, and welfare have "paid off"—that is, whether they have met the criteria of efficiency (costs) and/or effectiveness (projected goals). Church policy refers to all programs and activities, including goals and implementations, carried on by denominations and congregations. Evaluation employs the basic tools of rational problem-solving, concentrating on determining the clarity of stated program objectives and the adequacy of program means used to reach such goals as well as uncovering undesired "side effects." Unfortunately, however, religious groups often adopt unstated, conflicting, or ambiguous goals, making evaluation difficult or impossible. Some authorities even term religious groups goalless .

The following are examples of current "policy" controversies in the churches that need elucidation by evaluation research: whether and to what extent numerical growth should be the prime goal of denominations and their congregational units; whether and to what extent worship services should be based upon so-called entertainment models; whether and to what extent monetary contributing should be based on "tithing" models; whether and to what extent the traditional homily (versus alternate communication modes) should be the main pastoral vehicle for teaching and motivating; whether and to what extent the building of "small groups" within large congregations increases solidarity.

See also Decision Making, Organization Theory

Ross P. Scherer


T. R. Dye, Understanding Public Policy (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1992)

P. H. Rossi and H. E. Freeman, Evaluation (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1985).

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