Learning From Businesses

I have previously authored pointed criticism at treating the church too much like a business. In doing this, some have wondered what I have against businesses and what they can teach us. Actually, I am for business. I have learned a great deal from business literature and from having worked in the business world my entire employment career. My critique has had more to do with a desire not to lose sight of Christ-centered spirituality and biblical fidelity, than with throwing out business insights altogether. Indeed I realize we can learn from business, and the following is an example of some key points of learning I have gained over the years.

1. You have to have more money coming in, than going out. It is called profit. Why is it that the church tries to model itself after government by attempting to balance the budget? We all know how that has worked out for the government and for many churches. Why not show a profit by cutting unnecessary expenses, negotiating best terms for necessary expenses, and then investing wisely with any undesignated revenue which exceeds authorized expenses? Notice I said invest, not spend. Expenditures are not investments. The sooner we learn this, the better off we will be. We have seen in recent weeks what the government’s policies reap. How about a little business savvy instead?

2. Build your people intentionally. Training does not happen by accident. Oh wait, it does if you want them to learn that they can make policy decisions and key strategic moves on the fly, with no accountability. But of course not. We want to unleash creativity and empower leadership within the rubric of appropriate accountability. Good businesses have strong HR protocols and excellent intentional training/mentoring platforms. Churches would be wise to follow suit. Hint: Take a look at companies like McDonalds for training ideas. Take a look at companies like Google for creative collaboration ideas. Take a look at either of these companies and others too, for HR ideas.

3. When considering businesses to emulate, look at those which are innovative in form, function and cross-pollinization. Which ones are best postured to weather tough economic times? What are they doing? Do they own their own buildings free and clear? How does their branding make them unique? How might you use branding to point people to Christ? How are office spaces set up? For ideas, check out Google again, and also Gospel Light Publishing and Group Publishing. Since many of my readers are in small churches, how might you learn from successful small businesses, including those which are done out of a home? How might you collaborate from home with other churches and leaders in town, or other persons in your church?

4. What are you doing to learn about your culture and the people you are trying to reach for Christ? Businesses have to be students of their potential clientele. Are you? Do you know what they want and need even if they do not know it yet? Do you know how to make them aware of the urgency? This can be construed as making faith into a commodity. That is not what I mean. I am talking about making Christ known to them in a way which they will appreciate, understand, and act upon with heartfelt conviction as the Holy Spirit works in them and through you.

5. Good businesses know their purpose. They have a lazer focus in terms of revenue stream. Whether they sell a product, a service, or some combination of both, they become synonymous with it. Cases in point: Linoleum is a brand, and also a specific type of flooring product using linseed oil; Formica is a brand and also a type of laminate countertop; Pergo is a brand and also a type of laminate flooring. All three of these brands are synonymous with their product lines from the perspective of people in the public. If someone comes into my store looking for Pergo, they usually mean laminate flooring in general, not realizing that Pergo is one of many very fine brands available on the market. When people think of your church and your children’s ministry? What is the first thing that comes to their mind? The love of Jesus? Squabbling among members? Ethics issues? Service to the poor? Poll the unchurched in your church’s vicinity. Ask them what they think. You might be surprised at the answers you receive, hopefully in a positive way.

What is your take? What would you add? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

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