How To Run Your Church Like A Business (Because It Is One)

Churches are undeniably unique. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from business best practices. If your church is struggling with business leadership, here are a few helpful places to get started.

Robert Carnes
July 21, 2021
Kids Ministry Leadership

The local church is different from any other organization. Our basis in Scripture gives us hope and truth that no one else has to offer. The Christian tradition stretches back thousands of years and predates nearly all of our modern economic and business practices.

Our churches are undeniably unique.

However, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from business best practices. Because despite our unique position, local ministries are still businesses. We still operate with finances and deal with people. We should still learn to use marketing and technology. If your church is struggling with business leadership, here are a few helpful places to get started.

1. Seek Out Help From Experts

What do effective business leaders do when they’re stuck or struggling? They seek out help from an expert in the area they’re weak in. 

This starts with identifying the areas where you need help. Those challenges are obvious in some churches. If you’re unclear of where your church could benefit from support, ask around to your staff, volunteers, and a few trusted members of the congregation.

Then ask for help where it’s needed. It could be that the right expert already exists within that same staff, volunteer group, or your congregation. But don’t be afraid to hire an expert if needed. There are plenty different church coaching groups ready to help—The Unstuck Group and the 4Sight Group are just two examples

2. Be Transparent With Your Finances

Most pastors don’t like to talk about money. Asking for tithes in a sermon can feel awkward. Regardless, being open and honest about your church’s finances is an important business decision. Unlike other nonprofits, churches aren’t legally obligated to share their financial information with the IRS. However, that doesn’t mean you should hide your financials from your own community.

Radical transparency about the budget allows you to have easier conversations around money.

For some churches, that means printing budget reports directly into the weekly bulletin. For others, it simply means providing financial reports to any community members who request it. Your goal is to be held accountable and demonstrate how you’re stewarding your resources. You could take this a step further by having quarterly or annual meetings to share your financial state with anyone in the congregation who’s interested. It’s important to encourage church members to participate in these discussions because it directly impacts them.

3. Invest in Marketing

How do you share the word about your church? There’s no doubt that one of the most effective ways is by encouraging active members to invite people they know within the community. But word of mouth is not the only marketing tactic available to you.

Some church leaders might view marketing their church as unethical or unbiblical. And there’s no doubt that some businesses (including some churches) do fall into that category. However, marketing your church isn’t inherently wrong. 

Taking the time to create an effective website, social media presence, and meaningful brand for your church only benefits you. These marketing tools allow you to communicate the message of the gospel more clearly and potentially reach a greater number of people for Christ.

Too many churches expect marketing platforms to come easy or cheap. But in most cases with marketing, you get what you pay for. So it’s worth investing time and money in quality marketing over time. Otherwise, you can’t expect your church to grow or reach new people.

4. Keep Technology Updated

Another area where many churches try to cut corners is technology. We assume that because the early church got by without electricity that we’ll be fine with outdated audio equipment in worship and VHS players for the kids’ ministry.

Sure, the Holy Spirit can still work regardless of which software you’re using. But it helps remove distractions and barriers when technology operates smoothly at your church. You don’t have to have pyrotechnics during worship—just start with screens and microphones that work properly.

Slack, Calendly and Zoom are great software options to start with

Think about if you stopped having someone maintain the church building. Gradually, the trash cans would overflow, the grass would grow wild, and the bathrooms would be a mess. People likely wouldn’t come to your church because it gives the impression that you don’t care.

Not bothering to invest into technology that works is similar. When everything constantly breaks or malfunctions, it sends a message to your community. Technology can be expensive, so you have to spend wisely—but it’s worth putting in the effort.

5. Pursue The Best Talent

Every business deals with people and your church is no different. That doesn’t just pertain to your congregation and volunteers. Because every church—big or small—has staff members who ensure that the administrative parts of the organization run smoothly.

A bad hire can cost your 10X the person's salary in lost time and productivity

Regardless of the size of your church staff, your leadership should focus on recruiting, hiring, and retaining talented people to get the work done (and done well). 

Managing a staff can be a challenge for many church leaders for a number of reasons. It can be more difficult to recruit professionals to work at a church for (usually) a smaller salary. It’s tempting to conveniently hire passionate volunteers rather than fish in a wider talent pool. And it’s hard to keep good people motivated and prevent them from burning out.

Nevertheless, a collaborative and skilled team is vital to the health of your church. Without being intentional about who is on that team, your leadership leaves too much to chance. 

6. Be Intentional About Your Culture

Closely correlated to filling your team with talented professionals is the concept of building a strong team culture. Plenty of church leaders say that they value organizational culture, but far fewer take the time to act on those intentions.

A team culture is made up of individuals—all of whom have the opportunity to influence their church’s culture. But ultimately, it’s up to the church’s leadership to guide this culture. This begins with who is hired on the team, how the staff is treated, and everything in between.

Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.

There are countless ways that a church leader can start being intentional about their organizational culture. There is no shortage of ideas and methods for growing as a team. That could be the subject of an entire blog post unto itself. The main question is whether or not you’re going to take the time to execute on those ideas. 

Taking Care of Business

Whether you acknowledge it or not, your local church is a business. It’s a special business that has the opportunity to change the world. Nevertheless, you still have to operate based on the same rules and principles of all other businesses.

In fact, your church could even learn a few things from other businesses. Ministries could improve and have more impact by adopting some practices from marketing, technology, and culture. That gives us the opportunity to show other businesses how to operate with the grace and love that only comes from Jesus Christ.

Do you view your church as a business? Why or why not?

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