By Published On: June 19, 20220 Comments
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…
  • a congregation’s friendliness or coldness;
  • whether a congregation will act on an aggressive vision for growth or remain in a perpetually unshaken status quo;
  • whether a congregation will be on the cutting edge of innovation or living in a constant state of dependency and helplessness;
  • the manner in which professional staff are respected and supported or disrespected and scape-goated; and
  • many other issues which may reflect the relative health and dysfunction of a congregation which may or may not be in the pastor’s or leaders’ control.
The Neuroses Described
On the negative side, the five neurotic organizational styles have some distinctive characteristics.
1) Paranoid Organizations are characterized by…
  • a general atmosphere of distrust and paranoia (“somebody’s out to get me” feeling), especially among leaders;
  • hypersensitivity to relationships, organizational issues, hidden meanings and motivations;
  • hyper-alertness for problems;
  • a constant, hyper-vigilant lookout for the “enemy”;
  • looking for ways to confirm one’s subjective suspicions of others.
2) Compulsive Organizations are characterized by..
  • Pre-occupied with trivialities;
  • Highly rigid and well-defined set of rules;
  • Insistence that people submit to “their way”;
  • Defining relationships in terms of control/submission;
  • Almost total lack of spontaneity;
  • A constant sense of control anxiety which underlies all its activities (e.g. Will we do it right? Will they do it right? Can we let them do it? How will it threaten us, etc.);
  • An obstinate sense of dogmatism in which everything is seen in stark shades of black and white;
  • Highly focused belief that in all conflict one is either right or wrong.
3) Dramatic Organizations have an intense drive to…
  • need to have positive attention from outsiders;
  • impress others with “WOW” types of experiences;
  • display superficiality (the “happy” mask);
  • act merely on the basis of “hunches” or gut feelings;
  • tendency to (over-) react to minor events;
  • have a great sense of being able to do what is necessary in a “miraculous” manner;
  • have a sense of being in control of their destiny vs. Being at mercy of events;
  • Seldom have past events which dominate its thinking (e.g. past splits, lingering guilt, unresolved grief, skeletons in closet, etc).
4) Depressive Organizations have…
  • a profoundly low sense of pride;
  • very a great deal of guilt (skeletons in the closet from splits, etc. from the past which dominate its thinking);
  • a strong sense of indecision and unwillingness to take risks;
  • focus on dying or out-moded areas (“markets”) of ministry;
  • little sense of competition;
  • apathetic and inactive leadership.
5) Schizoid Organizations are characterized by…
  • a marked cold, unemotional detachment and isolation;
  • non-involvement with others in and outside the organization;
  • a permeating belief that interactions with others will eventually fail and hurt the organization;
  • a feeling that it’s safer to remain distant and isolated than close and collaborating;
  • afraid of risks…even small ones;
  • lack of excitement and enthusiasm;
  • climate of suspicion and distrust;
  • indifferent to praise or criticism;
  • aggressive behaviors, especially when feeling threatened;
  • Frustrates the dependency needs of others;
  • inconsistent or vacillating strategies.
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…
  • Are the people in this organization able to catch a vision?
  • How large (and what kinds) of visions are most suitable for this organization?
  • What kinds of ministry programs best suit their “neuroses”?
  • What sermon series topics would be minister to this congregation?
  • What kind of changes…can happen, might happen, or will never happen in this congregation?
  • What leadership styles are most effective (e.g. when it is appropriate to be patient? When to push?)
  • And a plethora of other issues!!!
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

Leave A Comment