I’m writing this article in reference to the article, http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/09/8-reasons-most-churches-never-break-the-200-attendance-mark/ that is circulating with some of my Christian friends. I hope you will read the original article and my thoughts on the subject.
Churches as Businesses? The question first on my mind is what emphasis should be placed on the structure of a church organization. I will be looking at the church as a business structure, which is basically what that article is about, and discussing the goals that Christianity dictates to our organizations. Let’s start with this quote from the article.
“You know why most churches still don’t push past the 200 mark in attendance You ready? They organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization.”
I am a business person and I can tell you one thing about business. The structure of your organization is not what brings business through the doors. The organizational structure is there to efficiently handle the current business load and, hopefully, increases in business. Structure in and of itself does not provide growth for an organization. The marketing and advertising that is incorporated into the structure of the business is what promotes growth.
“The pastor is the primary caregiver. … When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding, funeral and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn’t scale. If you’re good at it, you’ll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can’t get to every event any more.”
Again the article is not talking about the organization structure providing growth. It talks about distribution of work in an organization that is not able to meet the growth and needs that it already has. In a small church, where the pastor can easily handle these things, reorganization makes no sense. Organizing like a big organization can actually do more harm than good.
I’ll give you an example. I know of a church that regularly has less than 200 in attendance. They try to organize like a bigger church in several ways. One notable way is a program of volunteers that makes calls to people who have missed church for several weeks. In such a small church, many of the people know each other but this is not necessarily the case. Instead of just asking someone who knows the person to call and see if there’s a problem, the church hides behind the anonymous mask of callers, without regard to the relationships of the people involved. I know for a fact that several members who left the church saw it as an inexcusable insult that they were put on a call list and contacted by people they didn’t even know, even though friends of theirs were part of the program. In a church that small, organizing like a big church in this way was actually detrimental.
Doing something unnecessary that places a dividing line between the clergy (or any aspect of the church’s administration) and the lay people in the church is not a benefit and very often these things cause harm to the church.
“The leaders lacks a strategy. Many churches today are clear on mission and vision. What most lack is a widely shared and agreed-upon strategy. You vision and mission answers the why and what of your organization. Your strategy answers how. And how is critical.”
From an organization standpoint, I agree with this. As a Christian, I believe the mission dictates the vision and the strategy. Jesus told us the one mission all Christians have when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and stregnth, and love your neighbor as yourself.” How do we know that this is our highest calling? Because he added, “On this all the law and the prophets hang.”
In other words, love of God and our fellows should dictate everything we do and everything we believe. Our doctrine, our strategy, should be about finding and meeting real needs in the lives of other people, showing them God’s love in our lives. Our goal is not to bring people into the doors of the church. Our goal is to love in a way that will transform the lives of the people around us. We meet needs as we find them. If people aren’t in your church because they are seeing this love and seeking it in their own lives, all your strategies and creativity are meaningless. Love and need dictates your strategy.
“True leaders aren’t leading. In every church, there are people who hold the position of leadership and then there are people who are truly leaders (who may not hold any position in your church). Release people who hold titles but aren’t advancing the mission and hand the job over to real leaders.”
Absolutely! Elders in the church should be people who are, well, our elders. They should be rich in life experience and wisdom as Christians who follow the law of love. In other words, they should not be young in years, in thinking, or young as Christians. They should have a track record of selflessness in their community. A true elder is a loving servant who demonstrates this in daily life. In fact, every person in the church should be trained to be a servant. The separation between the paid church members (leaders and administrators) and the lay membership should be blurred as the church follows one goal, the realization of the law of love in every individual who walks through the doors of the church.
“Too many events and programs that lead nowhere. Activity does not equal accomplishment.”
Did you notice that I skipped a few lines from his article? Let’s just handle those with this small thought. Need dictates how we organize. This means that you organize for the amount of “business” coming through your organization. However, love dictates our mission and our actions. It supercedes every other doctrine or creed.
Your activities and programs should not be geared toward bringing more people into the church. Your activities and programs should be planned because there is a need in the community, in the lives of individuals, that you can meet. Every activity should be a celebration of love, toward God and toward people. If you do this, people will be drawn to the love coming from the people in your church.
“I realize the diagnosis can sound a little harsh, but we have a pretty deep problem on our hands. And radical problems demand radical solutions.”
I absolutely agree with this! However, I think our deep problem involves authors like this who think of the Church as a business or a non-profit organization. If your church cannot exist without the organizational and legal structure, it is a club, not Church.
Your church should be part of the one, true Church, following the law of love in all things. How you organize should always be dictated by need. What you do should be dictated by love. Seeking to be more like mega-churches is seeking to walk away from a relationship with God and the true Church. The supreme law is about relationships and we cannot have real relationships with people as long as our focus is on numbers, whether those numbers be the members of our churches or the dollars we need to pay the bills.
If your church crawls to 10 members and the property is foreclosed because you can’t pay the mortgage, will you consider the church a failure and disband? If you do, you have let the world win. None of these things matter! Meet as Christians because you love God and others, because you want to have a relationship with God and others. On this, the continuation of the one, true Church of the living God depends.
In my opinion, churches should not have mortgages. When you owe someone money, you are their servant, and your church should serve only one master. If the church is worried about bringing in money to pay the bills, it has already lost Christ as its focus.
In my opinion, churches should not depend on being non-profit organizations. This places the church under the authority of the government, allowing it to dictate how the church will operate and organize. When you are under the authority of the government, your church is, again, trying to serve more than one master.
The Church is love for God and love for people. The law of love will direct and guide it. A church that seeks to be popular, building a cult of personality for its pastor or putting on a big media show, has already lost and is no longer the bride of Christ, the Church of the living God.