Practical Theology III

Felix Roleder

Kirche in Netzwerken. Eine Kirchentheorie der Relationalität


The circulation of religion as well as the elementary functioning of church essentially depend on social ties that interconnect religious agents. It is through social ties that the interchange of religious ideas and religious socialization takes place. As another example, congregations recruit their members and their volunteers through social ties. From an analytical perspective, a cluster of social ties can be conceptualized as a social network. The dissertation undertakes a detailed study of church as a social network phenomenon, analyses how social networks emerge in the context of church and assesses the importance of social networks for the operations of church. In doing so, an interdisciplinary approach is pursued that unfolds in close dialogue with the research field of Social Network Analysis within Sociology. Drawing on the data of the 'fünfte Kirchenmitgliedschaftsuntersuchung der EKD', the most comprehensive network survey ever conducted in Germany, the research project will result in a new understanding of church. Church cannot be exhaustively depicted as an organization or an institution. Rather, church presents itself as a networked landscape of social interconnectedness with decentralized social structures.