“Sent”: Religion Entrepreneurship And The Origins And Negotiation Of A Church-Founder Identity

Team Members/Contributors

Richard N. Pitt Vanderbilt University Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

This research is part of a larger research agenda which explores the rhetoric used in describing calls to ministry, how these accounts differ based on characteristics (e.g., race, gender) of the minister, how callings are translated into ministerial identities, and how we are to understand these identities when aspects of their performance are unconventional. Recent research on the clergy reflects scholarly interest in the question of the congregational call to ministry, probing institutions to determine who can be called and what claimants are called to do. But not all pastors are employed by congregations. There are hundreds of pastors who accepted a call to found a church rather than accept an established congregation’s call to pastor. This research is an attempt to fill in this gap in our understanding of clerical identity, values, and behavior. I will engage in open-ended interviews with a diverse group of clergy who have started their own congregations: religion entrepreneurs. The primary goal of this project is to amass a set of unique interviews for use in answering four related questions: 1) What is the variation in the way religion entrepreneurs describe their call to pastoral ministry; 2) What are the forces, both sociological and psychological, that move people who might otherwise be satisfied as religion “intrepreneurs” to the more risky role of religion “entrepreneur”; 3) How is religion entrepreneurship similar to and different from how the literature explains other forms of entrepreneurship; and 4) Do founding pastors describe experiencing the same kind of encumbrances (e.g., stress from congregational demands) their “hired” colleagues experience and how do they manage them?