Selling Vacuum Cleaners, Part 2

So how do business people help the church work?

Imagine Joe, the new dairy manager. Right away he notices ice cream production is way down. He reads Ice Cream Monthly and he knows there’s no shortage of ice cream lovers. Joe rolls up his sleeves and gets to work. He increases milk orders by 20% and begins hiring new staff. There’s only one problem. Joe never discussed his ideas with the senior staff.

Three months earlier, the board of directors had voted to discontinue ice cream production. Although the product was popular, the company planned to position itself as the “healthy alternative” by producing soy products instead. The conversion would take place as soon as the last milk contract expired.

While such a scenario is preposterous to the average business person, similar scenes take place in churches. Business people get to work fixing problems which seem obvious without taking the time to understand why the problem exists or what are the ultimate goals of the church. Rather than helping ministerial staff, they undermine and disrupt pastoral leadership.

Why is this result so tragic? Business people who do understand and embrace a church’s goals are golden. They are the ones who put sails on vision. When they remember that God alone provides the wind propulsion for those sails, their skills become catalysts for rather than detractors from a church’s mission. So here’s my version of A Christian Business Leader’s Guide to Making a Sail:

  • Seek understanding. Before making an action plan, pray for open mindedness, humility and the courage to release any agenda. Ask questions, tough questions if necessary. But don’t disguise an assault as a question.
  • Become a follower even if you don’t understand. Pastors are human like the rest of us. The sting of past betrayals can create some hesitation to explain every decision. If you don’t understand, try following before fixing. Don’t turn off your brain. In fact, you should be more intellectually engaged than ever as you learn by doing. Believers working together clumsily are far more effective than those who evaluate from the sidelines.
  • Invest whole-heartedly or not at all. At some point, you will understand enough of the church’s vision to know if you can embrace it or not. If the answer is yes, roll up your sleeves and get to work, but talk as you go. “This is what I understand the goal to be and this is how I propose we address it.” Working with transparency requires a hefty dose of humility. When we communicate our intentions, we open ourselves to correction and criticism. Those who invest half-heartedly are people whom psychologists label passive-resistant. They create division in the church and render her ineffective. The Bible has harsh words for such people. It’s best to move to a congregation you can support whole-heartedly.

These are my guidelines. What are yours?

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