Why the Church Needs Business Principles

I had a conversation recently with a long time evangelist and church leader. He was bemoaning the state of leadership in the church and at one point said, with great passion, ?Pastors are not CEOs; they?re shepherds!? He is right. The pastor is not the Chief Executive officer of a church. That isn?t the calling. (Though in many churches it?s the cultural construct.) Pastors are called to lead, to care, to nurture, to protect, to feed.

Right about this time, though, the guy?s ideas jumped the rails. He went on to call out several pastors of mega churches (not present at the time) for ?bringing all this business into the church.? He decried business principles for ruining the church and undermining its mission and message.

It is true that the church is not a business. It is not a profit earning entity, at least it shouldn?t be. Church is about people and purpose not numbers of any kind. And top or bottom line numbers cannot accurately measure that purpose or the success of the mission. But to define the usefulness of business principles so narrowly as to say they ruin the church? is false (and also discouraging to business people in the church, but that is a separate issue).

Most effective business principles aren?t directly about profit; they?re about organizational health and effectiveness. And, while the church is not a business, it is an organization. This means that the principles of David Allen, Chip and Dan Heath, Seth Godin, Patrick Lencioni, Simon Sinek, and others certainly do apply to the church. Such principles don?t create life in the church and they are not an end in themselves. A church could feasibly be a healthy organization but worthless in the mission of Jesus. But such principles do remove obstacles to the mission. They can increase the effectiveness of those working toward the mission. And they can create an environment that is open to those being invited into the mission.

The church is the body of Christ. It is His representation here on earth. And it is imperfect. We, the church, do not effectively communicate the gospel of Jesus or exemplify his life. We are not good at working together and being a single unit pointed in the same direction. That?s why we need effective organizational ? or ?business? ? principles. It will always be the mission of Jesus that drives the church and defines its effectiveness. But good methods help us do that mission better.

photo credit:?angietorres?via?photopin?cc

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Barnabas Piper

I am married to Lesley and we have two daughters, Grace and Dianne. Being a dad and having a full time job means I don't really have time for hobbies, but what time I do have is spent reading, writing, or watching sports. I'm the author of The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.

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  1. Yerggie says

    This is important as you steward the church and her resources. However, taken to an extreme, the results can be damaging to the church and her members. I have seen (and been a part of and eventually left) churches with a business mentality whose goals include conversions to Christ, active membership, baptisms and other metrics. Pastors were measured on their effectiveness in the pulpit based on the number of conversions. People were enticed by coffee shops, rock-like bands for "worship" and other means to draw members. What eventually happened as a result of the goals being foisted on the staff was a compromise in what a "true conversion" looked like, a compromise on who should be baptized and how members were accepted, even a compromise in preaching as membership was desired more than the Gospel being preached. It started as a pure and well-intended enterprise, but ended up as a seeker-friendly church, where pride was abounding (for meeting goals) and the message was watered down.

    Creating a business is interesting,but to a point. Take caution when applying and NEVER compromise the message. It sounds easy but is a slippery slope.

  2. says

    The same applies to other fields that deal with how people or groups of people work such as social psychology. Certainly it's the spirit's work that matters and he can over-ride anything we do, no matter how poorly done. But, if we can find out how not to get in our own way through accidentally poor first impressions, less than optimally persuasive communication or any of the other pitfalls social psychology can help us avoid, it would be silly to not take heed.

  3. says

    I appreciated this viewpoint. Coupled with the recent post at Theology For Women, a well-rounded view is presented. A lot of churches could benefit from some changes in both directions.

  4. Ron says

    Business principles, if applied correctly, should create an environment where Stewardship blossoms. Too many times, religious organizations say something like, 'we're more like a family than a business'. Families are not always good to each other, they sometimes do bad things to one another. While we are all familiar with the image of the ruthless, 'anything for a dollar' business, I believe that sound business principles, applied in a manner of Christian love and discipline, will make us better stewards of the resources (dollars or people) that God has entrusted to us. (This philosphy comes from 41 years as a clergyman)


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