are religious congregations permanently failing organizations?
The short answer…yes. In a research note published in the latest issue of The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Anderson et al use data from the 2005 longitudinal follow up to the 1998 National Congregations Study (a random sample of religious congregations in the U.S. obtained using the same hypernetwork sampling approach used in the National Organizations Study). They show that out for the original set of congregations in the 1998 NCS, the annual rate of failure is a whopping 1%. This, according to the authors “is among the lowest annual mortality rates ever observed for any type of organization.” To explain this result, they propose that religious congregations may partake of both the characteristics of “minimalist organizations” allowing them to survive on a dime even in turbulent environments. They also note that religious congregations may also be “permanently failing organizations” in Meyer and Zucker’s terms, and “limp along” even under conditions that would make any other type of organization close up shop. Pretty interesting!