How a Business Mindset Influences the Church
A church and its congregation shouldn’t let a corporate mentality infiltrate it’s thinking
In “Why Business Practices Hurt the Church” we discussed how business thinking has improperly affected the big-picture perspectives of church. Yet the business mindset goes deeper than that, negatively influencing church practices and attendee attitudes.
Spiritual Outcomes Are Not Quantifiable
The business world measures everything, but when churches try to do that, they end up with a focus on finances and attendance.
Churches shouldn’t measure their success numerically. And when they do, they shift the focus from what matters to God to what matters to humans.
We can’t measure changed lives, but that’s precisely what matters most to God.
Measure What Matters
I once attended a church’s annual meeting. They spent much time talking about the 103 baptisms they did that year and the 103 people who joined their church. It was a grand celebration of their success and the marvelous manner of God at work.
However, as an addendum to the end of their meeting, they shared their beginning and ending membership numbers. The difference was not 103 but one! In a busy year with 103 baptisms and 103 new members, they had only grown by one person. That meant 102 people quit their church.
Don’t measure what makes you feel good, but count what matters.
The business world calls this loss of customers churn. If a business churns customers so fast that all their effort is spent trying to stay even, then something is wrong, seriously wrong. But this church wasn’t smart enough to realize that—or at least to admit it.
Some churches call this the back door. They grow when people come in the front door and shrink when these folks slip out the back door. Another apt term is leaking. Some churches leak people—a lot of people.
Churn is bad for both businesses and churches. It must be fixed, yet the approach to do so differs. Businesses address churn by looking at customer service and product offerings. Churches should not. Their problem goes much deeper than service and product, but until they realize this, they’ll never fix it.
The Consumer Mentality
When people feel free to leave a church, often over the smallest of slights, they view themselves as a customer shopping for the church that offers the most value. This is a consumer mindset, not a godly perspective.
We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Instead we should look for a faith community we can help.We shouldn’t shop for a church that provides the services we want. Click To Tweet
Consumerism Turns the Church into a Service Provider
When people go church shopping, the church becomes a service provider. Which church offers the best services? Then the focus shifts to programs, service styles, and preaching power.
Instead of asking, “What can the church do for me?” the better question becomes “What can I do for the church?” Don’t seek to be served but to serve.
The business that wants to improve, grow, and remain viable listens to its customers. While we all like to hear good news from happy people, the real value comes from the frustrated people who still care enough to share their opinion. So the wise business leader listens.
Yet when most people apply this attitude to their church and share their “concerns” with their pastor or church leaders, they do so with the wrong motives. In reality they want to turn the church into their vision of an ideal congregation that fits them perfectly. Their so-called concerns are little more than a selfish attempt to change the church into what they want for themselves.
Church is Not about the Customer Experience
Businesses talk much about the customer experience. They strive to make the experience of each customer the best they can in order to retain patrons who will continue to buy from them.
When church leaders apply this to their congregation, they begin pandering to the demands of members in order to maintain their attendance and receive their offerings each week. Yet each move in this direction is a step away from God.
Members Are Not Customers
Applying business practices to church implies that members are customers. This carries with it all sorts of negative connotations, such as a consumerism mindset and the need to maximize the lifetime value of members, that is their donations.
The best response is for churches to do away with membership. After all, it’s not biblical.
While modern business practices do much to advance the cause of capitalism and commerce, these same thoughts hurt the church. We must keep this from happening.
[Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.