Have you experienced this? Is there a business mindset present where profit and loss are looked at; pastoral staff are seen as employees; parishioners seen as customers; and the council as management?
It begins with the best of intentions.
Bill knows his theology and the Bible. He leads a very well attended adult Sunday school. Everyone agrees that he’s gifted in administration and teaching. He works in upper middle management. He knows how to lead others and get stuff done. He’s been an elder a number of times and is once again elected as elder.
Jim is very caring. He’s deeply concerned about the spiritual care of the people of the church and leads the prayer team. He even visits people who are sick or having other issues. Jim is an owner of a small business which is growing. He is entrepreneurial. He was elected as a first time elder.
Sally has the gift of mercy. She rallied the congregation to support a local rescue mission, with the church serving dinner monthly. She’s led mission teams with World Renew. She’s an accountant at her job. She’s a newly elected deacon.
Tim also gifted in mercy. He runs a landscaping business in town and goes out of his way to hire veterans, especially homeless vets. He’s helped Sally in working with the rescue mission. He’s been a deacon a number of times.
Each person has the gifts for the office they been elected to do. As the council meets they begin to discuss different things going on in church.
First there’s the monthly budget report. Sally looks at it and it’s a mess. As an accountant, she can help clean it up and make it more efficient. It’s decided that she should be the church treasurer. She begins using an accounting software she’s familiar with, making the budget more efficient including showing profit and loss and giving trends. She reports the church’s profit and loss. Bad news is that giving is low and money is tight. The numbers clearly show things aren’t good.
Another issue comes: There’s been membership transferred out including of a couple of good givers. Jim mentions how people are starting to complain about different issues. Could this be the cause of the transfers? His entrepreneurial skills kick in. He wants to make sure they keep the people happy so they stay and help give to the budget.
In hearing this, Bill’s manager side kicks in. Is the pastor doing their job? Are they performing at optimal level? Are people happy with the pastor’s job performance? What, as an employee of the church, are they doing to help keep the customer base happy in order stay and give?
The complaints come in about the look of the church. Tim suggests some things he can do. He suggests scheduling a work day at church and offers to supply some needed items.
Jim spearheads a vision and mission plan to better run the church and create a way to bring in more people. Bill adds his thoughts to run the church more efficiently. Sally finds ways to cut the budget and create more profit vs loss. Plans are put into place, goals are made, and quantative measurements are set to see if they are successful. If not, then things will need to be done, usually concerning the pastoral staff for not performing properly.
Soon the elders become managers/employers, the deacons handle the purse strings and the grounds keeping, the parishioners become customers, and the pastoral staff becomes employees.
No one meant it to go this way. The church became a business with the employees (pastoral staff) to keep the customer base happy (parishioners) in order to make a sustainable profit to keep the church running. In good business sense, if the pastor isn’t performing at the right level you cut them so you can hire a pastor who can retain the customer base and even bring more people to supply the needed funds to run the church.
Soon elders don’t eld and deacons don’t deac. They manage. They maintain.
According to Church Order the council isn’t supposed to run this way. But how does this happen? Many times there is no training and they slip into what they know—the business world.
Training is needed. And this can be tough. For some it is so entrenched in the DNA of the congregation, it isn’t even seen. This isn’t the main cause of church conflict and other issues, but it is part of it. With proper training, education, and a willingness to learn, much can be done to stop doing the church as a business and go back to the business of the church—being the body of Christ.