Leadership and Institutional Decline

“And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.” -Jeremiah 22:25

The rector at my parish gave the clerical staff an assignment earlier this week. We were to watch the following video (about 3 minutes long) and report on an aspect of our individual areas of responsibility or the Church in general in light of its conclusions. You can also read the full article if you like.

Watch the video or read the article, then come back to read the rest of this post.

The author, Jim Collins, posits five stages of institutional decline (again, read the article or watch the video for more):

  1. Hubris born of success
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
  3. Denial of risk and peril
  4. Grasping for salvation
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death

After watching the video or reading the article, I invite each of you reading this to report on an aspect of your church life (at whatever level, but not on other jurisdictions, or political units) in view of these stages. Is your chosen aspect already on this path, or is this something you don’t have to worry about right now? If your chosen aspect is at stage 3 or 4, what is the evidence of being there? If stage 5, what’s the evidence of that?

Again, this is a leadership blog, so professionalism and courtesy are appreciated. Please mention the aspect you’re addressing (“my parish,” “my diocese,” “our evangelistic work,” etc.) for everyone’s benefit.

2 comments on this post.
  1. A Concerned Believer:

    I’m sorry, Fr. Basil, but I don’t want for anyone from the parish I’m speaking of to recognize me. You’ll decide whether to run this post or not.

    I often attend a nearby parish. It’s one that is holding on to its ethnicity, let’s say, St. Victor Venetian Orthodox Church (fictional name). The parish membership is dwindling. Donations are not matching expenses – by a big gap. The older ethnic generation is dying. I would say that some of the parish is in #3 Denial of risk and peril; while the very small active core group and their priest are in #4 Grasping for salvation.

    Over the years that the current priest has been at St. Victor’s, he has destroyed parish leadership. He runs ever parish organization meeting, from their ladies’ group to the St. Victor’s service organization. He tells people working in the kitchen how to chop the fruit for the fruit salad. Twice now he has been elected Parish Council President! (Obviously that Archdiocese does not outlaw this in their bylaws.) They have dependency on fundraisers, and still they are losing money. They have so-so attendance at Sunday Divine Liturgy, and very poor attendance at any non-Sunday services.

    They do not pray together. They are not growing. They do not have much witness to the community around them. Those who want to hold on to their ethnicity say, for example, if we’re not going to be the Venetian Orthodox Church, then why are we here if we’re Venetians? And even if just a few people understand the old country language, once a month the Liturgy starts in Venetian.

    It’s sad. There are good people who attend St. Victor’s. Will the doors still be open in 1 year, let alone in 5?

    I pray for this priest and the faithful of this parish.

  2. Diane:

    Father Basil, that article was awesome. I do not so much relate it to church stuff as to my own current Dilbertian situation at a Fortune 500 company (where I’ve been for nearly 12 years). When I get a chance, I will email you privately re this. :)