Many of the work-levels people have worked with churches on their organizational issues. This includes the Church of England and the Illinois association of American Baptist churches. (Anyone know of more?) Let’s take a look at what some of them have said.
Elliott Jaques, who coined the term “mid-life crisis” and was an accomplished psychoanalyst in addition to be a landmark organizational thinker, dealt with the issues of church very briefly in A General Theory of Bureaucracy:
A similar problem [to that of universities] arises in the case of church organization; here again there is a tendency to think of the organization of clergy in bureaucratic manager-subordinate terms. This view fails to take into account that a church is an association and that the clergy are members of that association, members of the church, and not merely its employees. Once the clergy become regarded as employees within a manager-subordinate bureaucracy, the congregation come to be regarded as the customers. The sacred relationship between clergy and laity will be completely lost.
Most churches over the centuries have overcome this problem by providing effective life tenure for clergy, often underwritten by the local parish. Under these conditions the sacred relationship between priest and parishioner can obtain, [sic] without managerial interference or control but within ecclesiastical policy and central monitoring. The organization is best though of as horizontally differentiated (on a geographical basis) rather than in terms of a vertically differentiated hierarchy.
Jaques continues briefly, noting that hierarchy comes from the Sacred. I checked with the Online Etymology Dictionary that “hierarchy” comes “from ta hiera ‘the sacred rites’ (neut. pl. of hieros ‘sacred’) + archein ‘to lead, rule.’”
It’s interesting that the very churches that eschew hierarchy seem to be the ones following the Great Man. I don’t think that this is a mistake but the function of natural human grouping processes. The same thing happened in the Reformation. Think Munster.
Ralph Rowbottom had already done consulting work with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) at this point. Gillian Stamp would do her dissertation on the organization of the Deanery in the Church of England (a new type of organization for them), which is available from the GO Society archives. Others would work with the Illinois Association of Northern Baptist Churches and more with the Church of England, including some in Australia and Canada. John Morgan uses Requisite Organization principles in his pastoring of Pinon Hills Community Church, a large evangelical congregation in the American southwest.
Let’s remember the difference between Associations and Management Accountability Hierarchies.
It’s still interesting that Jaques is unaware of the pure congregationalist model, liked by Baptists, where there is no external oversight. This is the model that dominates American Protestant churches that are growing and one that we need to deal with.
Image Credit: Church near Junction City, Kansas. ca. 1942. John Vachon, photographer. US Library of Congress collection.