Church Sponsored Service Through the Lens of Self Determination Theory: A Case Study
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Given the critical need to nudge congregants toward sustainable service, surprisingly few studies have explored the possibility of internalizing Christian beliefs and practices through intrinsically motivating ministry activities. According to Self-Determination Theory (SDT), an emerging meta-theory of adult motivation, such activities consistently move individuals from external to internal regulation of behavior. Perceiving undeveloped believers as marginalized members of Christ's body, this emancipatory study sought to build awareness of the need to empower all believers to make kingdom contributions through intrinsically-motivated service that internalizes orthodox faith. Following protocols of a qualitative single case study, the researcher explored the rich perceptions and divergent meanings associated with church-sponsored service among a critical array of stakeholders in a thriving evangelical church. In a vivid portrait gleaned from observations, interviews and documents, SDT's theoretical lens shaped the questions, informed the data, and inspired the cause. In the process, traditional assumptions about servant leadership, Christian formation, and spiritual giftedness were challenged. The study's ultimate aim was to stimulate meaningful dialogue on the need to reform church structures that foster Christian formation through inherently satisfying, Spirit-empowered ministry. Organizing the data under the SERVE acronym, the researcher concludes with a motivational model of Christian service.