An introduction to the exploration of congregations in South Africa: seeking significance

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It is possible to ask questions and to do research about a wide variety of topics within the study field of practical theology. An important question would be about the relevance of these research questions and findings.What difference does it make to explore within this field of practical theological investigation? The aim of this introduction is to describe a framework for doing significant practical theological research, but also to seek significance within the field of congregational studies. The field of study within the discipline of practical theology evolved over the past fifty years. There was a move away from the "clerically dominated view of pastoral care and the consequent emphasis upon other ways in which the wider church engages with its social and political context" (Reader 2008:6). The movement became even broader to include a wide variety of faith practices, not only within a clerically dominated focus, but also the role and influence of religion and theology within society. In his presidential address to the International Academy of Practical Theology, Ganzevoort identified the object of practical theology as ranging from the ordained ministry and the church to culture and society at large (Ganzevoort 2009:e-source). The search for relevance is not only within the clerical paradigm, but also to seek a wider scope and research field in order to identify significance within practical theology and, specifically, congregational studies