The Washington Post asks: Can a church be too big to fail?
When do we have a responsibility to save an institution? And who should be on the hook to save it?
To answer succinctly:
We never have a responsibility to save an institution. No one should be on the hook to save them.
Yes, the institution may have created value in the past, whether that was yesterday, or one hundred years ago. Assuming the institution draws resources from voluntary donators or customers, its past performance means that people found value in what it offered, and threw their support behind it.
But there is a reason institutions fail: they are no longer providing value. For whatever reason, the institution spent too much, hurt too many people, or stopped meeting a need. When that happens, its customers decide to stop patronizing it, and the institution runs out of money, resources, support, and volunteers.
Sentimental attachment to institutions is the most illogical of human traits. It is not the name of a failing institution that once provided value – it was a particular combination of people, resources, and goals that aligned just right. When those are no longer in alignment, institutions fail, and no one should try to save them.
When we try to bail out a failing institution, we are throwing good money after bad. By refusing to move into the future, we are wasting capital, time, and money, which should have moved on to new ideas, entrepreneurs, and institutions who are more in touch with today’s needs.
The author of the article implicitly agrees with my conclusion that the real value of an institution is the people, not the name:
So what happens when these charismatic pastors, who galvanized their congregations’ growth, disappear? More often than not, there is no one waiting in the wings to ensure the church’s continuance.
When an institution fails, the value is gone. We should not waste resources trying to save it.