Profit: It’s often a ‘dirty’ word that often comes with the connotation of greed, so it’s not a surprise that the associations of businesses with profit and the associations of profit with greed lead many churches to be resistant to considering using principles proven in business with application in our church – although, it’s a little like saying everyone who wants to make a profit is greedy.
Greedy like that kid who shovels the snow from your driveway in the winter for $5 so she can buy her family Christmas presents or that restaurant owner who attends and tithes at your church who takes their leftovers to the homeless shelter at the end of the day, or the mechanic who is so successful that he employees 5 people in your town who all live well and provide for their families, or Paul who wrote a 1/3 of the New Testament was also a tent maker.
Of course, there are examples on the other end of the spectrum, where greed does drive profit (often accumulated dishonestly), but the interesting thing is that the business principles that work are what drive revenue into the business, it’s the business leadership that creates an economy of generosity or an economy of greed. (reminder: Money is not the root of evil. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.)
Let’s not boil down business to being only about profit. Profit funds a cause. For some, the cause is more profit, while for others the profit is a means to drive a cause. Let’s not be lazy enough to lump it all together as greed.
What brought us to this resistance?
A little bit of church history in North America.
When Canada and US were settled, the church was the center of town. The steeple was often the tallest peak in the town and the “compass” so to speak if you were traveling from one town to another to be sure you’re heading in the right direction. A 50-foot pointed tower from across fields and dirt roads was a great way to know you’re heading the right direction.
Not only in a literal sense, but also in a figurative sense, churches were the compass of the community.
Businesses were closed on Sundays, everyone went to the church in their community and brought food to share for lunch in the basement or on the church lawn, and the best clothing was reserved for Sundays, and in short-hand, referred to as their “Sunday Best.”
The church was often the largest building in town for square footage, so in many cases, town hall meetings, birthday celebrations, weddings, judicial court and community theatre all took place in the church building. For many years, simply turning on the lights in the church was enough to draw a crowd.
Fast forward to today, and the only thing turning on your church lights will draw by default is electricity.
The mindset shift:
This mindset of the church is the center of the community, like many other mindsets, has been passed down through churches from generations, and these generations, while refusing to change their paradigm of “church” have changed their paradigm of nearly everything else.
Businesses are often open Sundays and evenings. Radio, then TV, then Internet became attention seekers in the home on evenings and weekends. The popularity of post-secondary education took more young adults away from small towns for a one-way trip into big cities, and ‘small-town America’ is a different cultural landscape.
Business has gone through a similar shift. Most towns used to have a family bakery, general store, gas station, tailor or seamstress. Now franchises, nation-wide brands, and department stores have made many individual industries obsolete. With online retailers, business has been required to adapt again.
Music (a keystone in culture from the beginning of history) has undergone shifts in the last 100 years from live music only to vinyl recordings on demand, to radio, through various physical mediums, Napster and illegal downloads to singles outselling albums on iTunes.
While it’s true that some businesses didn’t make it through these shifts, it’s also true that some businesses have thrived. What can we learn from both sides?
We have to come to terms with the reality that, for many people, since businesses adapted to the shift, while churches didn’t, the church is no longer the center of community and culture. In many ways, business has taken that place, so we need to take a look at the shifts that successful businesses has made in our community and culture and apply those principles to our church.
What Drives Business?
For years, businesses have been generating brand loyalty (to keep people connected to the brand), brand advocates (empower people who love the brand to encourage others to connect with the brand) and a sustainable economic structure to get their message to more people who then can become participants with the brand.
Or is it less dirty if I switch out “Businesses” with “churches”, ‘brand’ with ‘Jesus’ and remove the ‘marketing jargon.’
Churches work to keep people connected to Jesus, empower people to encourage others to connect with Jesus and use finances to get their message to more people who can connect with Jesus.
At the end of the day, while our end goal may be different (for businesses, it’s serving customers, employees, and investors, while churches it’s the great commission) the principles that are used in business can be helpful for our churches to connect people to Jesus, help them get others connected and spread our message.
I wrote this post on One Thing Jesus Knew About Marketing That Churches Resist. It’s a great starting point if your church is ready to connect people with Jesus, empower people to get others connected and spread your message.