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Five Types Of Organizational Dysfunction

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 25

The Church Is...Neurotic???
As a Christian, I believe in original sin. My conviction is confirmed in the real world in which individuals, groups, and Christian Churches are thoroughly infected with this essential aberration of God’s plan.
Though Jesus promised that the "gates of hell" shall not prevail against His Church, nevertheless there is the somber recognition that in the church militant, Satan has worked hard to make the Body of Christ as distorted and dysfunctionally paralyzed as he possibly can.
What’s the result?
The Church, though blessed with Word and Sacrament and given Christ’s ultimate promise of victory, will nevertheless experience various neuroses characteristic of a world corrupted by sin until Christ comes again.
Manfred Kets de Vries and Danny Miller’s book, The Neurotic Organization, identified five neurotic organizational styles. The five neurotic organizational styles are the…
  1. Paranoid Style;
  2. Compulsive Style;
  3. Dramatic Style;
  4. Depressive Style; and
  5. Schizoid Style.
I believe they have one of the most unique and, from a ministry health perspective, one of the most useful paradigms for understanding organizational dynamics and behaviors within congregations including…
The Neuroses Described
On the negative side, the five neurotic organizational styles have some distinctive characteristics.
1) Paranoid Organizations are characterized by...
2) Compulsive Organizations are characterized by..
3) Dramatic Organizations have an intense drive to…
4) Depressive Organizations have...
5) Schizoid Organizations are characterized by...
Strengths Of Each Style
Paranoid style churches have a good knowledge of threats and opportunities outside the organization and are able to use this knowledge to reduce risks of failure.
Compulsive style churches, for example, are efficiently operated organizations with fine-tuned internal organizational controls. They are also well-integrated in their ministries and are focused on their overall ministry strategy.
Churches characterized by the Dramatic organizational style are able to develop momentum for passing through critical ministry plateaus and times of ministry re-vitalization.
Churches marked by the Depressive style are noted for their efficiency of internal process and their focus on maintaining the internal processes.
Schizoid style congregations enjoy the influence of people from various levels in the development of their overall ministry strategy and in their willingness to consider a variety of points of view.
Which Neuroses Does Your Church Have?
The organizational style most characteristic of your church may greatly affect the degree to which leaders like yourself can influence the organization. It also may give strong indications as to what kinds of responses leaders may expect from the organization, and will certainly influence a host of other issues such as…
An analysis of your congregation’s organizational style may help you make sense as to why your congregation continues to perpetuate various behaviors, demonstrate resistance or acceptance patterns, etc.
An analysis of your congregation’s organizational style—no matter how strongly neurotic it may be—may give a realistic basis by which to develop strategies for constructive long-term
intervention and congregational health.
An understanding of your congregation’s organizational neurosis may help you to shape your expectations for ministry in your place and relieve you of unnecessary self-inflicted guilt. It may also help answer those gnawing questions such as "Why do these things keep happening?" "Why does something that works someplace else not work here?", etc.
Taken to a higher level, another application of these five neurotic styles might be to assess which styles are used by key congregational leaders—pastor(s), staff, lay leaders, congregational pillars, antagonists, et al. Such assessment may give interesting leaders by identifying organizational style preferences and areas of potential conflict.
Which Organizational Style Dominates Your Church?

Unfortunately, Kets de Vries and Miller do not provide a definitive organizational analysis instrument. However, an Organizational Analysis Inventory Instrument has been developed--and is still in testing--and is located in the Ministry Health Reprints and Resources. Complete directions for this tool are given at the Web Site for those interested in participating in this instrument still developmental stage.

Another simpler resource is the Checklist For Congregational Functioning Style. For further insight, comments, or suggestions on implementation, feel free to e-mail the author and/or consult the book, The Neurotic Organization.

Thomas F. Fischer

Adapted by T. Fischer, based on Kets de Vries, M. and Miller, D. The Neurotic Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1984, pp. 23-24.

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:46 PM