This question might bring some strong opinions, but before we make a decision on how to think about it, let’s look at some of the similarities between a church and business.
I have run a business from home for several years, so I have some experience with it. Let’s look at some of the basic elements of running a good business.
Provide Good Customer Service
If you don’t take care of your customers, you won’t be in business long. People want to know if they support you by buying your product or service, you will, in turn, be good to them. If you ignore their requests or feedback, they will probably go elsewhere for what they need the next time. You want to offer them customer special discounts and show them loyalty. If you’re always out looking for new customers without paying attention to your current ones, you will end up with one-time buyers but no repeat business.
Now let’s compare this scenario to how a church is run. If the pastor is out looking for new people to come to the church and spending his time on ways to increase the size of the congregation, but not attending to the needs of his current attenders, he is likely to see a steady stream of people coming and going. That’s not what you want. We used to attend a church that had a “revolving door” – people came and stayed for a period of time, but then left. Some of this is inevitable at any church, but it shouldn’t be the normal course of events. A strong core group of people who stay and are happy with the “day to day” is so important to the health of the church.
Whether you are selling a product (like books) or a service (like web design), if you don’t offer quality, your business will fail. People may pay once, but they won’t come back or refer you to their circle of influence. In our line of business, which is web design, we are constantly trying to improve and become better at what we do. What does that involve? We have to keep up on trends in web design and be continually learning. We wouldn’t expect our business to last if we offered a product that didn’t look good or work well.
Looking at this in relation to a church, the pastor wants to offer a message that people want to come and hear. The service and sermon are not a “product” but they still have to be of the quality that will bring people back week after week. Granted, that’s not the only reason people continue to come to a church. They may feel called there, or enjoy the fellowship or opportunities to serve. But ultimately, the pastor feels a responsibility to keep things interesting.
Ok, now I probably really struck a chord! I know there are many of you who don’t like the term “church marketing” but sometimes words can get in the way of what we need to do. What is marketing anyway, but letting others know about what you do and offer? We have built up visions of pushy people trying to get us to buy something we really don’t want. That is not marketing – at least not effective marketing. In simple terms, marketing is letting others know about what you offer. If you offer something good and helpful, you’re really doing them a favor by letting them know about you.
A church is no exception to the “marketing” idea. Churches need to let people know they are there and what they offer – such as ministries, opportunities to serve, Sunday service, etc. Don’t let your church be the “best kept secret” around! Churches have the best news of all, so you need to let a hurting world know about you.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
A business exists to make a profit. A church exists to share the gospel and help people in the journey called life. It’s there to provide a place where people can come to learn about God and His Word and join in worshiping Him. These are major differences.
So, let me answer my original question,”is a church a business?” As we can see there are many similarities, and some things do need to be handled like a business. But I feel that the church is a more of a ministry than a business. Yes, there are overlaps, but if we get too “business minded,” people get hurt and we may forget the real reason churches exist – to help and support the people that come there and to share to gospel message with others. That has to be first and foremost.
By Laurie Neumann