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Towards a definition of performance for religious organizations and beyond: A case of Benedictine abbeys

Silvia Payer-Langthaler (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)
Martin R.W. Hiebl (Institute of Management Control and Consulting, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Linz, Austria)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 18 November 2013

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to analyze how performance may be defined in the context of a religious organization. The authors do so by studying the case of a Benedictine abbey.

Design/methodology/approach

Using an etymologically derived understanding of performance, and predominantly based on the Regula Benedicti (the central guideline for Benedictine monks), the authors first conceptually develop an understanding of performance in Benedictine abbeys. The authors then apply this understanding in a single case study.

Findings

The authors found that in order to comply with the Benedictine mission laid out in the Regula Benedicti, Benedictine abbeys need to balance sacred and secular goals. The authors also derived six key actions in order to accomplish these goals. The case study shows that an imbalance in these key actions may cause severe (financial) distress.

Research limitations/implications

The study provides an alternative framing of the term “performance” and further evidence that only a combined pursuit of sacred and secular goals seems useful for religious organizations. Researchers interested in religious organizations might find the conceptual approach and findings useful to analyze performance in such organizations.

Practical implications

Benedictine abbeys and other religious organizations may find the analysis valuable to critically analyze their current strategies and focal activities. Moreover, this paper's results might also be worthwhile for other faith-based or third-sector organizations when seeking an alternative framing of performance.

Originality/value

This paper provides a new framing of “performance” and is the first to analyze what performance might mean in the context of a Benedictine abbey.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers as well as Carolyn Cordery and Rowena Sinclair (the guest editors) for helpful suggestions which helped to greatly improve this paper. The authors also gratefully acknowledge valuable comments by Birgit Feldbauer-Durstmüller and Dorothea Greiling on earlier versions of the paper. Eventually, special thanks go to the monks and non-monk employees of this case abbey, who devoted significant amounts of time to this research project.

Citation

Payer-Langthaler, S. and R.W. Hiebl, M. (2013), "Towards a definition of performance for religious organizations and beyond: A case of Benedictine abbeys", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 10 No. 3/4, pp. 213-233. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-08-2012-0033

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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