CofConomics: Congregation Size and the Theory of the Firm

Scholarly study of the Community of Christ has tended to focus on its history and theology. These are clearly important, but there gaps in Community of Christ studies that could be productively filled with reference to insight from the social sciences, like economics, political science, sociology, anthropology and social psychology. In this post, I want to highlight this potentially fruitful avenue of research by applying microeconomic theory to explore why Community of Christ congregations tend to be quite small (in the 30-50 people range).

Before I begin, I must start with a caveat. I am not actually an economist; I am a political scientist.  I dabbled around the very edges of economics in my Master’s and PhD degrees, and went to a graduate school obsessed with economics. So, if there are any real economists out there reading this — feel free to comment below.

I will start with a problematic: Why is that most CofC congregations in North America and Europe rarely average more than 30 to 50 active members? My hypothesis is that they rarely expand beyond this size because of their predominantly lay leadership and middle-class members. As a result, congregations do not have have the money or human resources to attract or to minister to many more people. Pastors have other jobs, so have little extra time for counseling, home visits, outreach, etc. Moreover, a lack of seminary training reduces pastors ‘productivity’ as spiritual leaders.

The ‘Theory of the Firm‘ is one of the foundations of microeconomics. Among many other things, it tries to explain why certain economic activities are done inside a company, rather than outside it in the market place. One of its applications can be explanations for the size of a firm — why does the hot-dog stand require only one employee, but Target requires hundreds of thousands? I would like to loosely apply this idea to an assumed ‘average’ North American Community of Christ congregation, asking: Why is it the size it is? Is this because it fills a specific niche in the ‘spiritual marketplace’?

Perhaps the best place to begin is with a basic ‘production function‘: the economic Output of a firm is a function of the Labor and Capital (including Land) that is at its disposal (that’s Y=fn(L,K) for the geekier ones among you). In our context, Output, rather than meaning money, means the quality and quantity of spiritual services provided by a congregation. Labor is the work put into the congregation by the pastor, priesthood and lay volunteers. Capital includes the church grounds at building (Land) as we as the financial assets they gain through contributions of offerings and tithes. In short:

The ‘Spiritual Output’ of a congregation = Function of the Labor of priesthood and volunteers and their financial and real estate assets.

As with any production function, this one is subject to a Law of Diminishing Returns.  This means that each marginal new congregant who walks in the door receives less spiritual return from their investment of coming to church. This is because the financial and human resources of the congregation can only stretch so far.  In particular, a pastor who has a full time job is not going to have the time or energy to provide pastoral support to an infinitely large congregation. As s/he is not paid for his/her work and has other responsibilities, s/he likely has an absolute maximum of eight hours a day to spend on church work (eight hours in his/her paid employment, eight hours sleep, eight hours for everything else, including church stuff). Likewise, congregants do not have an infinite amount of money they can put in the offering plate. This scarcity of offerings and tithes similarly limits the amount of programs and services, and the size and quality of the building, the church is able to offer.

At a certain point, there seems to be a ‘tipping point’ where , as the congregation ‘fills’, the opportunity costs of going to a CofC congregation are higher when compared to a well-funded, well-staffed church down the road, that can devote more attention to each marginal new congregant.  In the CofC, this tipping point seems to be around 30-50 congregants, before the church seems unable to accommodate more people. In the spiritual marketplace, the CofC is thus more of a niche ‘boutique’ player – the neighborhood health-food store – rather than a diversified supermarket, like a mainline denomination or a massive Wal-Mart like a Mega Church.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; if the congregation is aware of this dynamic, they can exploits their comparative advantage in this niche: such as providing a small, homey, informal feel to the congregation, a family-like atmosphere.

Nonetheless, the basic production function is not an iron-clad prison. The Solow Growth Model suggests that firms are able to overcome diminishing returns if they can constantly increase the productivity of their labor (through training, mechanization, digitization, etc.) and capital (through improving land and real estate and through savvy investment of finances). For lack of a better word, all these things that increase productivity are lumped under ‘Technology’. (Mathematically, this is expressed as Y=A*fn(L,K), where A=Technology).

This would suggest that a congregation could improve the ‘productivity’ of their labor and capital and thus be able to increase their size beyond what their limited resources might suggest. This could be done through training of priesthood and pastors, better management and support of them by the church bureaucracy and through improving the site where the church is located.

While it may seem crass and mercenistic to think about religious institutions from the profoundly secular standpoint of economics, the church nonetheless operates in a world of scarcity and in a ‘spiritual marketplace’, in which there is competition with other churches. Therefore, seeing the church through an economic lens can help us understand dynamics that seem to be unexplained by theology and history.

-Matthew Bolton

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31 comments on “CofConomics: Congregation Size and the Theory of the Firm

  1. FireTag says:

    Well, Matthew, I think you’ve got the right science, and I’m really glad to see someone take up the economics of church organization who isn’t concerned with just meeting the budget!

    But I’m not sure you have the right solution. In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ve got the wrong solution because churches that have professional pastors don’t coordinate with overall denominational growth (even if they should correlate with congregational size, which would be a good thing to test)

    The church for more than 50 years has been in a steady, mathematically predictable decline in quantity of leadership. For 75 years before that, we were locked in a stable equilibrium, despite gross changes in resource allocations that dwarf anything we can generate today. Today we’d have to increase our baptismal rate in North America by nearly a factor 0f 600% just to stabilize ourselves, let alone grow.

    The more you professionalize the leadership, the more lay leaders and volunteers who are already underinvested in all the non-church aspects of Christian community will shift their investments away from the church and let the professional do it. In other words, I think you will find that most congregation in the church have 30-50 members not because that is the maximum size for kay ministry, but because they’ve shrunk from larger sizes and are at a minimum weight to avoid dying.

    Professionalism will kill more congregations faster than it will restore survivors. Look at the Chapter “Growing the Church to Impact Public Life” in Graceland’s Theology Forum, Volume 14 if you care to see the data, or drop a comment on my blog and I’ll e-mail you a preprint.

    Oh, and don’t worry about considering church economics crass. Apostle Austin used to ask rhetorically, “Just who do people think invented the principles of economics?”

    • Rick Collins says:

      Just on professionalism, I agree that people tend to look at professional ministers as a replacement of lay ministry. The work is too hard, so now we have someone to do it for us. I’ve seen it again and again.

      I would like to see our professional ministers work like Human Development Facilitators in Outreach International. They go into the church community, and work to empower the people to minister actively in their community.
      I know this is a major part of the way I will be approaching my job as one of the “professionals”.

      There are a lot of good thoughts here. I’ll be sure to re-read and re-read them in more detail.

      • FireTag says:

        Exactly, Rick. And once you’ve empowered them, release them. We need to become the denomination that glories in sending people OUT of the denomination. Like a tail on a dog, the denomination can only get bigger as the dog gets bigger. We will never get big enough to “wag the dog”.

        We do not attract people to the church in order to send them out. We send people out, and people flow back in as society gets more spiritually rich.

  2. David Howlett says:

    Brilliant post, Matthew! Have you read Starke and Finke’s works that apply rational choice theory to religion? I’m not a sociologist, just a wanna-be, so I do not know how they might critique any of your models as applied to “religious firms.” This is a great area for future investigation, though.

    Historically, I do wonder if Community of Christ congregations have been 30-50 for generations, or it this is simply a recent trend in the North American church. The churches in Independence certainly were far larger a generation ago–with hundreds in each congregation instead of the smaller groups that you see today. Just anecdotally, once Community of Christ groups pass under the 30 mark, it really becomes hard to hold a congregation together.

    From what I remember from Stark and Finke’s The Churching of America: Winners and Losers in Our Spiritual Economy, 1776-2005, large churches are successful not when more power is concentrated in the clergy, but when there is greater demand placed on the laity to be more involved and more committed, even if these are just symbolic boundaries and symbolic commitments. Churches, whatever their size, have to achieve a level of “optimal strictness” to survive and grow. (Meaning, we need clear boundaries that demand something from our members–people want this actually.) The decline of the mainline Protestants can be correlated in part to the lack of boundaries and demands placed on folks. If a church is too strict, however, the opposite happens–people flee instead of flock. Any way, I am rambling, but I think the decline of the CofC has much to do with the lack of boundaries that it experienced since the 1980s. We took away so many things that we have had a hard time replacing them with other clear boundaries. I say this as one who supports women in the priesthood, open communion, and peace and justice theology. The later, though, has been a very good thing for the church–something to rally around.

    Some have advocated that we can find this clarity (or create this “optimal strictness, if you will) by taking a strong pacifist stand toward violence. Perhaps. There may be other ways, too. The core values focus of the last decade has been one attempt to find clarity again.

    I see the beginnings of an article in your analysis, Matthew! Great last few posts!

    • FireTag says:

      F&S are one of several viable theories for why churches of the Christian left are in decline in North America. In fact, we have too many suspects rather than too few. (One of them is even that conservatives have more children than progressives!)

      But what most such theories have in common is that they ARE socio-economic theories in the first place, and they apply across denominational lines, which I think points to something going on that is unique to the Christian left, but larger than our denomination,

  3. Doug Gregory says:

    I like the line in Fiddler on the Roof when Tevye’s second daughter is being proposed to by the ambitious out-of-work student. He wanted to make a socio-economic proposal to her, and in response to her confusion, he replied “well, everything is economics!”, or something close to that.

    As a business person, I view the problem in somewhat different terms, althought I think your analysis (didn’t see the actual math) is intriguing.

    Our branches (as I prefer to call them) were modeled during the agrarian age. Our branch model no longer works at providing the level or type of ministry typically sought by a white collar population, so I have long believed that our branch model needs to change, where it can.

    When added to the fact that our church school curriculum does not equip our children with our teachings, and our worship themes also do not lead towards instruction from the pulpit, we have at least two generations raised without having the benefit of knowing the principles of the faith or why it matters to be associated with this denomination.

    As a business person, we know that when a model is broken, it needs to be rebuilt. All the energy we invested into going to Mission Centers was an absolute waste, as it never really meant anything.

    We are doing a better job of shaping our message, but we are lousy at communicating it. We still market like the days of door-to-door salesmen, and no one responds to a ringing door bell anymore.

    Our message is awesome. Our promotion of that message stinks, our operations are ineffective, and most of our energy is invested into survival, not taking the message out. There was one promising meeting a couple of years ago focused on business people and bridging the communication gap between the church and business people, but it never went anywhere.

    Your numbers are what they are because our input – our branch model and our marketing approach – will only support small results.

    • FireTag says:

      Doug:

      How would you change our model and marketing, bearing in mind that the “message” can’t really change unless we honestly believe it should? What churches of the Christian peace and justice wing have effective models? Or is the model that is broken the model of getting people into a “church” itself as the way of building the Kingdom?

      • Doug Gregory says:

        I haven’t created an answer to those quesstions yet, as I have not had the hope that they would be taken seriously. However, there are a couple of things I would suggest – some of which originated here at http://www.saintsherald.com:

        1. We need to determine how we are going to express this message of ours in the communities where we live. Have 3 – 4 key messages to focus on so a branch can select: family peace; local justice issues; community development; etc.

        2. We need a system to relate these areas of focus back to a single unifying message, such as temple ministries, or… One of the things I love about the church is the freedom to believe what I want to believe, but there is so much freedom in our community that there is a complete lack of direction on how to convert message into disciple-developing action. We are like a loose affiliation more than a united corp.

        3. We need to show people how to participate in the community and how to grow to the level of discipleship they choose. Woods Chapel in Lee’s Summit has developed a terrific model to begin this. I am beginning to work with two local presiding elders to take this into a duplicable model.

        4. We need to seek scale. We need to study to see how big a branch should be to be effective at expressing a ministry, what types of resources are required, etc. Through unforced consolidation, we need to invite branches to join together in mission so that they can actually go where God is inviting us to go.

        5. We need spiritual leaders and we need program (operational) leaders at all levels in the church – they should not be the same people. It is too much to ask, and most people do not have both sets of skills. Focus, focus, focus.

        6. Let everyone – from new families to senior leaders – choose their mission to focus on. Region-based leadership may be great for pastoral care, but not for supporting mission. Align ourselves based on mission, not on historical or geography-based choices.

        7. We need full-time leaders of program at our larger branches if they are ever going to be effective ministerial organs. Not full-time pastors, full-time program leaders that support presiding elders in fulfilling the chosen mission of the branch.

        8. We need planning systems, ways to be accountable to each other, and we need to stop asking every involved person to be “great” at 17 things. The old adage is that we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan. 90% of our leaders don’t know how to plan, so we fail. Each message should be developed into a a kit that program leaders can follow, share, and be accountable to.

        9. Our WC leaders should concentrate on building, teaching, and supporting the model and the programming needs of branches. Program leaders need to act like product managers, making sure the systems are excellent, duplicable, and produce measurable results.

        10. We need to treat our facilities as assets that can be leveraged to support mission. We have hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in facilities that get used 3 – 5 hours per week, if we are lucky. That is not good stewardship, especially for an entity that is struggling financially to support our mission.

        11. Each branch should have a “board of directors” to vet leaders ideas, budgets, and plans before they get brought to the branch for approval.

        I could go on, but would rather do it in a form of a proposal. Anyone else have ideas to add?

  4. FireTag says:

    Good thoughts. What do you mean by not organizing ourselves geographically? I see how one might consolidate and specialize branches if close together, but isn’t that what we used to have stakes for? Few places were ever able to support stake structures.

    • Doug Gregory says:

      FireTag, we force branches together based on their geography instead of their chosen mission. That is what irritates me about “Mission Centers”, which are not about mission at all, but about branches that are related by geography. Stakes were the same way, except they had a density that could support more specialization.

      Either say that we would like to have a mix of missions that serve an area, or say that several branches with similar missions work together at improving their models, learning from each other through Best Practices, or joining together to gain scale on their chosen mission (I still cannot believe that we do not practice Best Practices, but count on people to build programs from the ground up, even if multiple people are doing it at the same time – we waste so much energy and time when we cannot share what works and what doesn’t with each other).

      Perhaps an apostle should not be responsible for SE US and Africa, but for local justice issues, and be the focused minister / resource / counselor for branches that choose local justice issues for their area of focused ministry.

      It is kind of like having business units in a company that sells multiple products through multiple distribution channels into multiple markets. It is a complex system, and our generalist approach means we give ourselves the worst possible chance of developing effective ministry programs. In a complex business, you have product managers that focus on specific kinds of co-related products, market managers responsibile for attracting and supporting distribution channels, and sales teams that implement programs from each. Since product managers and market managers are part of marketing, we used to say that marketing makes the snowballs and sales throws them. That is a simple way of defining tasks that our church leaders should be able to act on.

      In the Grand Rapids, MI area where I live, there are 4 CofC branches within 15 miles of each other. Each branch is doing okay, but within the last 10 years, each has faced major challenges. What if we said that one branch would focus on family peace, another would focus on peace and justice issues, a third would focus on community building, and the fourth on local justice issues. Each branch could focus on a particular mission instead of muddling along as the generalist institutions we currently are. That breeds more involvement, improved results, attracts a broader community, and creates recognition as “the church that does …”.

      A local Church of the Nazarene has a highly-effective ELL program, they work with immigrants on language, job placement, cultural training, how to shop, etc. Guess what they are known as, and whom they attract? That has become their mission focus, and everyone has opportunity to fit in and support it in one way or another.

      Hope my rambling on is helpful.

      • FireTag says:

        That sounds interesting, and would be something that would radically reorganize the functioning of the 12 and the seventy. I think of 4 branches within 15 miles of each other as still a relatively high density area for church members, however.

        In lower density areas, what would you think about specializing across denominational lines or even specialize across secular/non-secular lines? That doesn’t “market” the church, of course, but is the point of our calling to preserve the institution, or to complete our mission? And how are the two related?

  5. Doug Gregory says:

    Now you are really getting radical! We are going to have to choose what we are about, aren’t we? Are we about mission or denomination? Are we about attracting and retaining members or about building the kingdom? Why can’t our branches be centers of mission, working with all who are interested in the same things we are interested in? Many people would like to be more involved in building community, peace and justice issues, families, etc, but have no vehicle to participate in. Why can’t we provide the vehicle, as long as it fulfills our mission?

    If we begin with the end in mind – the kingdom – and move from there to work on the components that help lead people to an encounter with the principles and foundation of the kingdom, are we not acting on our calling as a faith movement?

    We Share was an outstanding exercise in creating a Vision and Mission Statement. Now comes the hard part – how do organize ourselves to deliver on the mission, where do the resources come from, who will our partners be, how do we measure progress and success/failure, how do we change from being “nice guys” to being “kingdom builders”? How do we change from focusing on who we are to what we are called to do?

    This is what I do – I am a strategic planning and market development consultant to businesses that range from $20 – $100 million in annual sales. We think differently in this world than we do in the church world. And since JS brought to us the understanding that the spirit and element are eternal, we could extend that prophetic insight into a belief that there is no sacred or profane, only God’s creation. We should use insight from all of our endeavors to build a new model of how we build God’s kingdom, and get real about the task.

    • FireTag says:

      But this (amazingly) gets us back to Matthew’s original post: the theory of the firm. If we started with the MISSION today, not as stuck with a legacy “firm” from the 19th Century, would we pick THIS firm to do the work in the first place.

      The hardest cultural assumptions for a faith community to question are the assumptions that come with being a faith community. Professionally, you get hired by people who are already committed to the firm, but maybe really being radical and getting real are one and the same: being willing to expend the firm in order to support other vehicles that God is emplacing to complete the mission.

  6. Doug Gregory says:

    In other words, can General Motors, aka Government Motors, really learn to build cars the public will prefer over its competition? Sigh…

    Perhaps there is an alternate approach, because I understand how difficult it is to change a brand or a company culture – it is next to impossible. However, if we as a body choose to embrace the idea of becoming a prophetic people, perhaps we can change the culture and get the results we believe we are being called to work towards.

    An alternate approach would be to follow the US liberal movements approach over these past 40 years (I can’t believe I am saying this) and work from the inside to effect this change. A guerilla movement can be started anywhere in the church, and it does not necessarily require heirarchical approval. We can associate with whomever we want and model the change we think needs to happen without mission center or HQ approval. We can find branches that will believe in the model, or we can do as I have thought of for several years and gather together like-minded church members and start our own branch, even if it is not an official one.

    We do not have to wait for approval to do what we want to do – creating the change from within seems to have proven pretty effective for liberal activists who have patience, and could in this instance as well.

    All of a sudden I feel like breaking into a Joan Baez song, or something…

    • FireTag says:

      Welcome to the revolution. I think of it as focusing on being “prophetic people” without worrying so much about the “a” part.

      The church can be, if it wishes, a gateway to the Spirit, but it can’t become a gatekeeper for the Spirit. God can run the universe just fine without running it through Independence first.

      • Doug Gregory says:

        So, are there many in?

      • FireTag says:

        Many more than any of us realize. But the whole point is that by shear numbers, most of them aren’t in the church to begin with, so we’ll never know until we have a “need to know”.

        God has good operational security, you see. :D

  7. Matt Bolton says:

    A couple of responses:

    1. Regarding church growth. This model does not necessarily mean that the church as a whole cannot grow, only that there are likely to be limits on the size of individual congregations. By analogy, the company of Starbucks has grown rapidly, but the size of individual coffee shops remain all within a certain size range that is appropriate for the service they deliver (you don’t see any Wal-Mart-sized branches of Starbucks). My suspicion (not empirically tested, though someone certainly could) is that when CofC congregations grow, they will have a point at which they will either plateau at a particular size or will divide, because at a certain point the congregation becomes to big for the institutional structure to manage.

    2. Regarding professionalism: Perhaps I did not phrase things adequately in the original article, but I did not necessarily intend for this to sound like a call for the professionalization of church leadership. Indeed there are some very successful ‘firms’ (several nonprofits, the Boy Scouts, political movements, etc.) which are heavily reliant on volunteer labor. Moreover, model above, ‘Technology’ also includes things like better organization of a firm, better marketing of products, etc., not just training of staff. Therefore, it is entirely plausible that we could see sustainable growth and improvement in the church rooted in lay leadership. However, this will take an intentional effort and an understanding of the best ways to organize church institutions, develop leaders, improve services, etc.

    • FireTag says:

      I will owe you a longer reply than I can give you this weekend, but, based on what has happened in Baltimore at the Power House and at Dundalk — two congregations that are/have been frequently cited in the Herald magazine as successful models — the success generates demands for services from the surrounding community faster than the church congregation can grow with internal resources.

      So the resources are drawn in from other areas of the church (financially and/or in labor) and those other areas are consumed. The congregation grows, but the decline of the denomination is unchanged. An urban area like Baltimore contains millions of people; until the average “spiritual capital” of the society reaches the same level as the congregation, the net flow of resources goes into growing the community, not growing the denomination. So you run out of World Church before you run out of needs, even on this single city scale.

      Now, consuming ourselves in the service of others is sort of the whole point of our mission, so I’m not saying we shouldn’t do this. I’m saying it won’t stop the decline of the church, and we need to set our face “steadfastly toward Jerusalen”.

      We run out of resources soon. We have to focus on tying the community to meeting its own needs, not running meeting those needs through us. Because what God is doing in the world has very little to do with our denomination; it’s much bigger than that. We have ALREADY been unable to affect our own growth rate for at least 125 years.

  8. Doug Gregory says:

    It seems good to remember what Jesus talked to his disciples about – mustard seeds, leaven, salt, etc. I have no doubt CofC will never be a “major” church, but just like we were pioneers in developing Sunday School, stewardship emphasis, etc., God can use the small gifts we bring to move the larger Christian community closer to Him.

    Personally, I’m okay with that.

  9. “10. We need to treat our facilities as assets that can be leveraged to support mission. We have hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in facilities that get used 3 – 5 hours per week, if we are lucky. That is not good stewardship, especially for an entity that is struggling financially to support our mission.”

    One of the problems with this is the one we encountered when we wanted to use our new building as a gathering place. We allowed two child care training groups to use the building and two scrap booking groups. That put it being used four more evenings every couple of weeks, plus our own use. We wanted it to be a community center and gathering place for them.

    When the world church learned this, they informed me that every group using “their” building would have to have a million dollars in insurance. The scrap booking groups could just sign a lease agreement.They would need three copies of the lease agreement.

    Then they learned that we paid an independent business man to mow our five acres. Now we have to file a form every year with the IRS. Now the only thing we pay him for is the mowing. He has his own equipment. But they insist he is “our” employee….even though he mows for many others.

    Many of our 32 members are deeply involved in the community. I know I am. I have a column called the Minister’s Message on a rotating basis in one newspaper. I also do an Editorial on a rotating basis in another newspaper. I do the invocation at City Commission meetings and County Commission meetings. We do a monthly Sunday afternoon worship service at a nursing home. Bob and I also belong to an organization called PINCH, which works at socializing the black community with the white community. We also participate in a “Living the Question” group every other Sunday evening. We watch a “Living the Questions” video and have a discussion about the material afterward. We have five Methodists, two Presbyterians, two Baptists, one agnostic, and three Community of Christ folks.

    One couple of our congregation are very active in their local VFW and are on the board of the senior citizen group in their community.

    Another woman is active in Hospice. She sits weekly with a woman who is in the process of dying.

    I could go on and on but I think you get the drift. We may be 32 but we are an involved 32.

    We have great fellowship and get along well together. We have nine who come regularly that are not members.
    Seven friends of the church attend our Peace Colloquy with me and they love it. They think we are engaged. Are we?

    • FireTag says:

      Margie:

      My sympathies to your bureaucratic complications. With government benefits, there comes government taxes, and government reporting requirements to ensure the government can find all the taxes to collect. With property and a society that likes to hit litigation jackpots comes the need for huge insurance pools and high insurance rates.

      Your congregation is certainly involved, Margie, but if you were starting from scratch today to fulfill the mission as you understand it, would you build a church building as the way to do it?

  10. Possibly not. However, it was the wish of my congregation and I would have been outvoted in 2000, when we built this church.

  11. FireTag says:

    Margie: Your observation matches mine, but I wonder why we see our legacy of accomplishment as buildings — not lives?

  12. Tradition, I guess. I think meeting in the homes like PINCH does and our “Living the Questions” group does is so much more intimate and satisfying than “doing church” and shares a lot more ministry.

  13. mattfrizzell says:

    Interesting post, Matt, especially as I work on my dissertation on theology and economy. But, I don’t want to argue theory.

    I haven’t read the astute comments above, so forgive me if I am redundant.

    I’ll just make this point about theory. I think there is alot to be learned from thinking this way. However, the fatal flaw of such an approach, I think, is the problem of quantification. In the end, I believe economics is phenomenological, but attempts to legitimate itself with endless output of mathematical models. I don’t want to snub these models. They have definite application – far more, most would say – than theology.

    To go down this road, would push us to get very clear about what “product” an increase in productivity would produce. The validity of any model is to apply it and test it; manipulate it.

    I have a tendency to believe that RLDSism, by the 1950’s, was no longer a religion interested in the market. Today, the market of existing members is very different than non-RLDS members, therefore, the nature of our product, i.e. what capital and labor actually produce, is undecided. I think that describes some of where we are.

    This is an awful illustration, but it says something. You may remember that in 1981 Cadillac came out with the Cimarron. The Cimarron was built on the same body as the Chevy Cavalier. And it showed. It looked like a Chevy Cavalier with a Cadillac hood ornament. Sales were awful.

    Is the Community of Christ in a similar position?

    If we can clarify some of this, most importantly at a local level, we might be able to start apply the type of thinking you are trying here more effectively.

    • FireTag says:

      I think your illustration says a lot. I thought to myself, “What’s a Cadillac Cimarron?” And I wasn’t having a senior moment.

      The 1950’s in certainly the critical time — that’s when our baptisms in the RLDS peaked at ~5x what they are today.

      • And that’s when we used to have our missionaries in America doing series of meetings to which we could invite our friends. Often baptisms came out of those.

        Let’s just face it…most of us are not effective missionaries. We need the professionals to do that work.

  14. “Is the Community of Christ in a similar position?”

    Of what would we be a cheap imitation, Matt?

  15. Doug Gregory says:

    I am probably not an effective missionary (although I hope I am an effective emmisary), and that may well say more about me and my generation than it does pointing to the need to have professional missionaries.

    As a product manager for much of my life, I am getting more impressed with the quality of our product message. Our execution of that product in our branches is not good (good design, lousy production). I continue to believe we need a new model for our production (branches).

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