Learning from Lyle Schaller: Social Aspects of Congregations
Olson, Daniel V. A., The Christian Century
A survey that William McKinney and I recently conducted invited 1,500 conservative and mainline Protestant denominational leaders to choose from a list of 63 contemporary religious leaders and authors the ten who have had "the greatest impact on your thinking about the church's life and mission today." Among the choices were Peter Berger, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Charles Colson, Harvey Cox, Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jesse Jackson, Martin E. Marty, C. Peter Wagner and James M. Wall. While these names were, checked by many respondents, none was checked more frequently than that of Lyle Schaller (checked by 43 percent).
Why is Schaller so popular? Unlike most other names on the list, he appeals to both conservatives and liberals. His numerous articles and more than 30 books offer readable, practical answers to problems church leaders commonly face. Having visited thousands of churches in dozens of denominations, Schaller is considered an authority on congregational life. A less obvious but perhaps more important explanation for his influence is that he brings a social-science orientation to his understanding of congregations, a perspective that is not familiar to many church leaders.
While many seminary students receive training in psychology in preparation for pastoral counseling, few learn about organizational theory, group processes or sociology in preparation for congregational leadership. When church leaders run into problems that are not easily diagnosed in theological or psychological categories, they often find help in Schaller, who has reworked some social-science concepts and insights in popular style. His work suggests that the frustration experienced by leaders and members of congregations is often due to a failure to understand the basic social principles that operate in all human organizations, including congregations.
Though Schaller was trained as an urban planner, he is not actually a social scientist. He ignores conventional research methods, often supporting his claims with nothing but appeals to his own experience. Though he incorporates the findings of social …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Learning from Lyle Schaller: Social Aspects of Congregations. Contributors: Olson, Daniel V. A. - Author. Magazine title: The Christian Century. Volume: 110. Issue: 3 Publication date: January 27, 1993. Page number: 82+. © 2009 The Christian Century Foundation. COPYRIGHT 1993 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.