By George Bullard
The vast majority of congregations have within their membership successful and insightful business leaders. They daily make a significant impact in the marketplace. Some are entrepreneurs who started their own businesses or assumed leadership of a family business they saw developing as they grew up in the home of an entrepreneur. Others have risen within the ranks of an already well-established business and learned proven organizational principles.
Regardless of their pathway, these business leaders can contribute much to their congregations. Congregations should make use of sound business principles in the way they develop their strategic journey. Too few actually do this.
Some do not do this because they believe business principles have no place in a congregation.
Others do not do this because the pastor, staff and influential key leaders are clueless about sound business principles. They do not realize that if their congregation was a for-profit business it would declare bankruptcy on a periodic basis in order to survive.
Business principles applied to congregations can organize congregations for efficiency and at times for effectiveness in the fulfillment of the mission of God. For example, there is a lot some businesses can teach congregations about customer service that can be applied to congregational care efforts and assimilating new people into congregational life.
Before you get the idea I believe we ought to turn congregations into business organizations, let me share the downside of introducing business principles into congregations. The downside is that too often they can be the wrong principles with the wrong mindset and the wrong outcomes.
Business principles come primarily from a secular organizational framework. Fortunately we see a few wonderful exceptions to this principle. Congregations have a spiritual organism framework. At least we hope they do. Way too many cultural enclaves seek to pass themselves off as Christian congregations.
Organizational and organism frameworks do not mix. They are, indeed, oil and water. Too often neither the business layperson nor the congregational clergy understand where they are missing one another in this discussion. They just know they are in conflict over how to run the church.
This situation is particularly true when it comes to congregational vision. Congregational vision, as has been stated in previous posts, is a movement that is memorable rather than a statement that is memorized. Statements are for organizations. Movements are for organisms. Here is a vision insight that speaks to this perspective. The first 33 overall insights about congregational vision are contained in posts found here.
Vision Insight 34: Vision crafted using an organizational model misses the fact that a congregation is a spiritual organism.
Vision in an organization comes from the passion and dreams of leaders. They desire to work hard to push their organization forward to achieve success. Even with the best of apparent altruism, the goal is the success of the organizations.
Obviously, the philanthropy of some organizations, and some of their leaders, moves into the realm of significance. However, success remains the primary goal. Also, the move to significance often follows the achievement of success.
Vision in a spiritual organism comes from God. The desire of congregations is to allow God to pull them forward to achieve significance and ultimately full surrender to God’s leadership. As spiritual organisms, congregations are movements of people rather than the production and selling of products and services.
Significance is both a time and importance priority for congregations so it is pursued first. The hope is that success will follow so the congregation is sustainable and can achieve a mindset, attitude, and quality of surrender to God’s will.
An organizational model focuses congregational efforts on being fueled by accountable management and flavored by programmatic emphases, or product and service oriented efforts. Budgets are met. Costs are held down. Staff positions are few. Programs are successful. The congregation is growing in numbers and as a byproduct quality.
A spiritual organism model focuses on visionary leadership and relationship experiences which express themselves through spiritual formation, leadership development, and missional engagement. Congregations deepen in the quality of the fulfillment of their vision, and as a byproduct may also be growing in numbers.
Therefore, if it is all right with you, let business leaders leave their ideas about congregational vision at the office. Let them empower the process of vision within their congregation as an approach they take with them from their congregation to their office to enhance the quality of their secular work.
This is the 14th in a series of posts on congregational vision. To see all the posts go here. Look for the next post entitled “Is congregational vision written then experienced or experienced then written?”