Faith-based organizations are major providers of welfare services in Australia. Many of these services receive much, if not all, of their funding from the state, which brings expectations that services will be provided to all members of the community irrespective of their religious beliefs, rather than just to members of a particular religion. Furthermore, in order to deliver contracted services, faith-based organizations often need to employ staff who are of another or no religion. It is perhaps not surprising that the distinction between faith-based and secular organizations is sometimes questioned, and is a concern within some faith-based organizations. Drawing on interviews with 20 Australian social workers who were or had been employed in faith-based organizations, this paper examines a range of ways in which organizational spirituality manifests itself in the workings of faith-based welfare organizations that receive state funding. Expressions of organizational spirituality reported by research participants include strategic directions, processes associated with staff recruitment and induction, employment conditions and philosophies underpinning service provision. Nevertheless, in some organizations, expression of organizational spirituality seems to occur on an ad hoc basis, such that some staff were not sure if they were working in a faith-based organization. As to how faith-based organizations express their spirituality when receiving state funding that requires ostensibly secular service delivery is not just an issue for welfare agencies but also for many providers of a wide range of health, social care and education services in many countries. Hence, this paper addresses challenges that go beyond the boundaries of professional disciplines or national borders.
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