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BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY INTRODUCTION
The church like every other human organization needs the understanding, goodwill and continued support of its operative environment to survive and exist. To accomplish this noble but obviously arduous task, the church ceaselessly seeks to identify and service or meet the needs and aspirations of its patrons, benefactors and even beneficiaries at a most profitable cost. It is more so with the Catholic Church in this era of church proliferation, especially, in Nigeria where church business has turned out to be a lucrative and serious venture. The race for membership acquisition is becoming increasingly hot and the Catholic Church is not left in this art of fishing men.
It is noteworthy that while some churches rewardingly achieve their objectives, others fail woefully. Failure in this regard is often associated with both internal weakness and or external threats. Internal inadequacies are manifested in the issues like employee discontent, poor or total absence of
communication, culture, poor administration/congregation (church council and the rest of the church membership) weak rapport or relationship, unnecessary power tussle for positions in the churches top hierarchy, inadequate conflict management mechanism and general unhealthy organizational/operative climate (industrial disharmony) among others. This is consequent upon the fact that the churches are made up of people with varied behavioural and attitudinal norms. Personal motives and aspirations are sometimes incongruous with the church ultimate goal-salvation for all.
Externally speaking (external threats), certain political, economic, socio-cultural and legal factors also constitute serious bottlenecks to churches progress, especially in the areas of unhealthy church-to-church (inter church) relations, poor financial relations, legal constraints, unsound government, media relations, environmental issues, corporate social responsibility, and so on. All these more often than not, combine and conspire to make the task of managing the churches and other similar human institutions increasingly
complex and overwhelming mostly as they sometimes condense into a more serious corporate image damage.
To avoid such an ugly scenario (serious image crack), the church needs to go back to the drawing board, undertake proper drastic image cleansing and then evoke the most pragmatic persuasive communication strategy towards assuaging the pains and winning back its members. The fact that the church is composed of responsible people makes the task of managing it more demanding and challenging. This is because it is in the nature of man (woman inclusive) to suspect, criticize and oppose any action that seems to run contrary to his held belief and position in any given matter or situation. It, therefore, requires great task, diplomacy and persuasion, through effective communication, which can only be rooted through sound Public Relations practice, in handling such disturbing moments in order to win his support and approval.
Ogunsanya, 1984:21 is of this view when he quoted Haywood thus: “today’s public is more demanding and unless we use communication in a positive way, we will not receive
the necessary understanding and support”. They thus need to be informed, pampered, served and carried along at all time if the best is to be gained from them, through a socially responsible and acceptable performance based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication. This development thus places an urgent distress call on the doorsteps of the seasoned Public Relations practitioner on whose shoulder the task of moving the organization (the church) forward rests. This perhaps evokes the opinion of (Baskin and Aronoff, 1988) thus way: “Public Relations is a profession in transition. In an environment of rapid social change, every organization must change or die. Public Relations practitioners must possess the communication expertise and social sensitivity necessary to help organizations adapt to their changing environment”.
The fundamental principles of Public Relations should be founded on the premise of sound relationship with the publics of an organization (the church) through the performance of social functions that are mutually beneficiary to both the church and its publics. This aptly captures the
opinion of Barnays, 1961:55 about Public Relations --- information given to the public, persuasion directed to the Public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and publics of those of that institutions. The driving force in any Public Relations efforts is, therefore, rooted in the support, solidarity, cooperation and blessing of both the specific and general audience who are essential for the growth and development of the organization (church).
Abraham Lincoln in (Nwosu and Idemili, 1992) paints the picture clear thus, “Public Relations is everything, with sentiments nothing can fail, without it, nothing can succeed. He who moulds public sentiments goes deeper than he who executes status or pronounces decision. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to execute. The foregoing embraces the public affairs and social conscience aspects of an organization as demonstrated in its responsibility to the public interest through its various Public Relations programmes. The church, as a dynamic and functional organization, has its numerous objectives which it hopes to
achieve through its various program. Such objectives include among others: Membership mobilization and retention, fund raising activities/launching for projects; award-giving/ investiture ceremonies, conflict prevention and resolution, image laundering and management, community relations, corporate social responsibility. However, no matter how laudable these objectives may appear, if they fail to win the desired public support and approval, they are to record no meaningful success. This is because, the success or otherwise of such programmes and objectives are dependent, to large extent on the knowledge, understanding, blessings or commitment of those for whom they are fashioned. Be that as it may, there is, therefore, the need to establish an effective and functional communication mechanism that will not only inform the publics about what is happening, but also the reasons for such actions.
Sound policies and responsible action alone are not
enough to gain goodwill. It is through effective communication with the public that the church leadership/administration (council), for instance, can make
the congregation and the other external publics understand and appreciate the needs, policies, programmes, targets and even the problems facing the church. It is also through the feedback mechanism that the church council can monitor the opinions, interests, agitations and expectations of the publics and then be in a better position to formulate acceptable and mutually beneficial policies and programmes.
(More and Canfield, 1973) endorsed this stand in their definition of the concept (Public Relations) this way: “A social philosophy of management expressed in policies and practices, which through sensitive interpretation of events based upon two-way communication with its publics, strives to secure mutual understanding and goodwill. All hands should therefore, be on deck to ensure that all possible impediments to effective communication in the church are eliminated so as to avoid misunderstanding, rumours, suspicion, gossip, grapevine, frustration, inaction and conflicts. It is on this effective podium that this study stands to critically and conscientiously review and assess the role of
effective Public Relations in the church with anchor on few selected catholic churches within Enugu metropolis.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS
It is an undeniable fact that institutional or organizational growth and continued survival is closely tied to efforts at accomplishing three good things- good identity, good image, and goodwill. These three “goods” can be effectively actualized through corporate self realisation which in the opinion of (Black 1989) “involves doing good and getting credit for it”
The need for the realization of Public Relations requisites re-echoes the uniqueness, the indispensability and the urgency of Public Relations practice in Nigerian. Social institutions like the churches, especially when viewed from the functional roles it plays in building, managing and sustaining the corporate image of organizations through its multiple activities in the areas of information generation, dissemination and monitoring, trend analysis, issues prediction, event management, conflict resolution and other
numerous services and oversight functions it plays in organizations. Unfortunately the church especially the Catholic Church is yet to attune itself to the numerous gains of sound Public Relations functions in organisations.
Consequently, this study is faced with the following problems:
1. It is not easy to ascertain the actual existence of Public Relations practice in church administration
2. Public Relations problems not being easily identified for effective church administration
3. Determination of Public Relations effectiveness in the churches is not easy
4. There are obvious and latent risks associated with Public Relations practice in the churches.
5. There is difficulty in pinpointing the contributions of Public Relations practice to church growth.
6. There is obvious lack of professionalism in the practice of Public Relations in the churches
7. It is hard to establish the contributions of Public Relations to church fund raising projects
8. It is hard to ascertain the role of Public Relations in conflict prevention and control in the church.
9. It is difficult to show the impact of Public Relations practice to successful church evangelism.
10. There is no distinct autonomous unit of Public Relations practice in the churches.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following objectives are formulated by the study
a. To ascertain the existence or otherwise of Public Relations practice in church administration.
b. To review and identify the problems militating against effective Public Relations contributions to successful church administration.
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