Monday, March 20, 2006

What's Wrong With Church? - The Business of Church

I have heard complaints from people who are angry that their church is being run too much like a business. I've never quite understood that objection -- after all any group of people who collect money should have some sort of business organization, for accountability if nothing else. I wouldn't put anything in the plate if the money was just dumped in the vestabule and was gone by the time the last person left the building. Church bills must be paid -- electricity, phone, etc. Employees who draw a salary must have taxes withheld. Clearly there must be some sense of "business" to a local church.

I think the objection is more rightly described as a church being run with the same goals as a retail store or a factory. The bottom line for a business is the bottom line. The bottom line for a church is glorifying God. That is the bottom line, right? We may try to statistically analyze every possible indicator which can be added, subtracted and divided by pi, but it's all about glorifying God. Right?

Sure, I've known church board members whose major concern is the financial picture. Some of them don't seem to have much concern about the need for evangelism, especially when the offerings are down. But then again, those people were using their God-given abilities to help the ministry of the church.

So what about using marketing techniques to reach more people? Are there specific rules to be followed if a church wants to invite seekers to visit? Are radio ads too worldly? What about a television spot? A full-page newspaper advertisement? It seems that anything other than posting service times and unlocking the doors can be seen as too commercial and anything less can be viewed as uncaring. It's a lose-lose. Anyone can complain and see that their complaint has merit. Perhaps this criticism is more a matter of preference than a definite standard. Perhaps I'm missing something, but for the most part I don't see a church being run like a business to be a problem, provided the goal is to glorify God instead of to make a profit.

This does lead us into another area though...

Up next: Conforming to the World.


Jennifer said...

The only advertising we do is reaching out to the community – buying playground equipment for the school next door, holding a back to school carnival to give out free school supplies, buying Christmas presents for neighborhood children, etc….. When people see us involved in the community, willing to help meet needs, then their interest will be piqued and they’ll show up at church.

As for the business part, I am uncomfortable with mass-market sermons that are purchased and played on powerpoint. I don’t like the feeling I get some places that the pastor is trying to be a CEO instead of a shepherd. He gets up there and does the presentation some company put together for him, and that’s it. He doesn’t know the names of 90% of his parishoners. He never connects personally with a soul. And I can’t stand pre-packaged songs performed by singers and musicians who think they are putting on a concert. It’s completely contrived, devoid of any real worship. You’re right: the bottom line is glorifying God, not ourselves. I think WAY too many churches are only out for their own glory.

Eva said...

I'm enjoying your series...thanks. :)

Something I see as being wrong with the business aspect is when churches rejoice in their great growth when the people who are added to their congregations are not new believers but Christians from other churches. It's like a contest of May the Coolest Church Win. Leave your boring, traditional worship service that's run by old white guys in suits [no offense meant to anyone!] in favor of our friendly, happy, encouraging, multicultural, professional, entertaining, postmodern one. Challenging sermons preached once a quarter. We'll give you fair warning.

Hmm...I'm sounding kinda cynical here...sorry.

Shelly said...

I've got two words - Building Programs.

We were at a church once and had pledged to be part of one. After a year, we were in the process of moving out of town and had laid down our ministries. We were house hunting every weekend and not even attending church.

First we got a letter telling us that we had fallen behind and then a nasty gram signed by the priest demanding and explanation for our tardiness in payment. I guess someone didn't get the memo.

A former co-worker had the same problem in the same denom, but different church. Except - she had a stroke and was in intense rehab. The building program sent them letter after nasty letter. Very sad. Drove them right out of church.

Not very glorifying to God.

Dan Edelen said...


Ah, how easily we forget Barna and TQM and Jesus, CEO!

You know I write a lot about the Church and the Business World. The social Darwinism of the business world has penetrated the Church in America to the point we can't even see it anymore. Nearly every church affiliated with the Church Growth Movement has proudly hailed the subsuming of the Church by business practices.

Case in point: some churches were going out of their way to hire their pastoral staff out of big companies. I know one church in our area that boasted that it was hiring top execs from P&G, using the same elements that made that company successful to make the church successful.

No one else has encountered this? If that's true, I'm stunned.

A Human Bean said...

I guess I agree with Rev-Ed. Business practices are important in the running of the church. Efficiency and effectiveness must be achieved and maintained. What has to be considered is what is measured as efficient and effective. I don't have a problem with the Church Growth Movement, but I do have a problem with only counting numbers. Sunday morning AM attendance is only one area to measure. Why not define what is a disciple of Christ and measure it? My church has what they call 3C Christ-followers - Celebrate (Worship), Connect (Small Groups) and Contribute (time, talents, treasures). This is what is really measured. If people are not growing to become 3C followers than the leadership knows there is a real problem with spirutal health and they take corrective measures. I think the real issue is not the use of marketing techniques and business acumen, it is measuring what matters.

julie said...

I have noticed that churches who run like businesses tend to size people up to determine how attractive a package I have to offer. Good job... an educator (we can use that)... good communication skills (that's valuable)... basic understanding of the Bible (never hurts)... 6 credit hours of seminary (good!)... has read books that have 'purpose driven' in the title (a must for us to aggressively persue this perspective member) ...
I think it almost always equals snobbery.
A church should be, in my opinion, a group of people travelling together on a spiritual journey. In a buisness, people are USED to promote corporate objectives.
I don't like it.

Iris Godfrey said...

The problem is in the attitude. There is a big difference between business (fundamental goal is to make money) and the church (fundamental goal use it for people or give it away -- the term "christian business being an real problem in goals). I don't see any problem with using successful methods to reach people, but do see a big problem with substituting modern money making, people attracting principles for the Holy Spirit in the various roles of the church. Presently I see and hear of much "monkey see/monkey do" in church leadership. Seems we all want to do almost anything to get the people and the money to build big. That is a big spirit problem.