Should the Church Take Lessons from Corporate America?

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The title subject is one that I’ve pondered for many years, but never really studied beyond the surface. But a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of listening to Brien’s Place, a daily radio show hosted by musician Brien Andrews. (Major plug for my buddy who is doing great things in an excellent way. He definitely gets my personal stamp of excellence! And as a bonus, music lovers will LOVE the show’s background music and BGVs!).

From Pastor to CEO

On the show, Brien mentioned how the use of corporate titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CAO, and CMO is becoming increasingly common in today’s churches; and that, overall we are adapting more of Corporate America’s policies.

In the many leadership workshops I’ve taught over the years, I’ve said that church leaders could learn a lot from Corporate America. Certainly, we can learn more about structure and order, communication, punctuality, networking, excellence, productivity, efficiency, attention to detail, teamwork, responsibility, conflict resolution, marketing, budgeting and the value of having a good reputation. I’ve even heard some suggest that the church needs to learn the principles of good customer service, considering its members as “customers.” At my own church last summer, I taught a session on branding, and frequently teach leaders at other churches on many of the subjects I mentioned above.

But when I heard Brien say that we are “adapting more [of] Corporate America’s policies,” I felt the unspoken implications resonate in my spirit, and I felt the wheels of my mind begin to turn.  So about a week ago, I asked a few friends what they thought about this subject, and while many of them raised really good points, two in particular addressed the points I had considered myself. Thanks to Vanessa Miller, Bennett Yancey, Philip Brown, Robert Jones, and William Spruill for your input.

Corporate America Needs to Take Lessons from the Bible

In her book, Jesus, CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership, Laurie Beth Jones uses the ministry of Jesus Christ as the model for a perfect CEO as she shares leadership techniques and lessons inspired by Him. One of the things I learned from reading Jesus, CEO is that we really can get all the tools and lessons we need to be good leaders from the Word of God.

The Bible is full of strong examples of leaders, Jesus being the best example, and each one’s story provides lessons for leaders, lists of what to do, what not to do, and demonstrates the characteristics of excellent leaders. We can learn about excellence and having a good name from Daniel; the importance of detailed planning, networking, and resource planning from Nehemiah; building under duress and overcoming obstacles from Ezra; conflict resolution from Paul; attention to detail from Noah (or Solomon); succession planning from Jesus; budgeting from Solomon, and so much more from those powerful Biblical leaders, and the many others I didn’t name. I would go as far as to say that there is NOTHING a Christian leader needs to learn that s/he cannot learn from studying Biblical principles and Biblical leaders. I cannot think of any concepts, principles or values in Corporate America that are not covered to some degree in the Bible.

So if we desire to pattern ourselves after the strongest Biblical leaders, in an effort to be more like Christ, what reason do we have to seek out secular sources to achieve success as ministry leaders?

Conflicting Goals

Another HUGE reason I can’t support churches taking lessons from Corporate America is that we have some insurmountable differences in our values, missions, goals, and overall purpose. As one friend put it, “Many principles that dominate Corporate America conflict with Christian values.” Another friend pointed out, “the corporate world is cut-throat,” and I have to agree with her.

The overall corporate focus is on producing revenue. Furthermore, the “moral decay facing companies today,” including its self-serving values, make it a fairly dangerous model for churches to follow.

The Church’s overall mission is to declare the gospel of Jesus Christ to all mankind, compel those who are lost, edify its members, and minister the love of Christ to all so that God is glorified. When fulfilled, our mission and purpose, as a friend said, will profit the entire body of Christ. On the other hand, in Corporate America, only the corporation itself benefits.

Taking lessons from an entity with such a conflicting mission puts the Church in a position to receive lessons possibly contaminated by greed, self-centeredness, malice, lies, ruthlessness and immorality. I can easily see us slowly trending into an institution that has unknowingly disregarded its purpose for the pursuit of worldly success and material things.

As Brien said in his radio show, the church simply “can’t forget what your real purpose and your real mission is, and that’s about souls. It’s about people. ‘People’ is the church’s ‘product.'”

So… what’s my final answer? No, churches should not take lessons from Corporate America. Churches should position ourselves to be the organism Christ built us to be so that Corporate America can take lessons from us. We are made to be the head, not the tail; the leaders, not the followers.

So what do you think? Should the church take lessons from Corporate America? Okay, I can’t read your mind, silly! Use the comment box below to tell me what you think. 🙂

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Not in MY Church!! 5 Things You Can Do to Protect Your Church…

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It’s the conversation no one wants to have. A child says he was touched inappropriately, and that child is a member of your church. Whether you’re the child’s parent, Sunday School teacher, godparent, youth leader, pastor, or his accused molester, you can expect that things are about to get really ugly in your world. How did this happen? Was it my fault? Will the church be sued? What if the child is mistaken? What if the accused denies it and there’s no evidence of molestation? Who do you believe?

With statistics as they are, I would guess that everyone (and I do mean everyone) in the United States has either been affected by molestation, rape, or other sexual abuse, or knows someone who has. Recently, an acquaintance was recapping that day’s Oprah show and told me that he heard that 1 out of every 6 men experiences some sort of sexual abuse in his lifetime. For women, the number is even greater: 1 of every 4. Of course, I had to double check, and unfortunately, his numbers were correct. It’s disturbing.

I know you’ve heard countless stories of the Catholic sex abuse scandals, the COGIC sex abuse scandals, LDS scandals, and all the other independent churches who have gained notoriety for mishandling sex abuse allegations.  Our children are our most vulnerable church members; the Lord said the kingdom of God is theirs. As such, we must protect them at any cost. Children who are abused typically grow into damaged adults who struggle for years to overcome the negative effects of abuse on their spirits, their psyches, their hearts, their sexuality, self-esteem, relationships, attitudes, and emotions.

I know we don’t like to talk about it, or even imagine that anything like this could ever happen at our church. We often hear the horrific stories of children abused at church and how we can prevent it, but rarely do you hear people talking about those who are falsely accused and how to prevent that. Here are 5 things you can do to decrease the likelihood that any sort of unlawful sexual misconduct occurs and protect against false accusations.

1. Know them that Labor Among You – You’d be surprised how many churches don’t perform criminal or sex offender background checks on the people they entrust their children to. Sis. Sally may be saved now, but you don’t know what she was saved from. And if she is a registered sex offender somewhere, you need to know that before you trust her with children. Don’t dismiss the importance of knowing those that labor among you. Check the backgrounds of ALL ADULTS who work with children. A $30 background check can protect your children and your church from potential abuse and resulting law suits or criminal charges.

2. The Two-Adult RuleNever allow anyone under the age of 18 to be alone with any adult while on church grounds or during a church-sponsored outing, meeting, gathering, or fellowship. Youth workers should always be paired up. It doesn’t just protect the children, it protects the adults from false accusations, misunderstood gestures, and suspicion.

3. Teach Them ( the adults, I mean) The church isn’t the place to teach children what’s appropriate touching and what’s not. That should take place at home. But the church IS responsible for making sure its youth workers know what is acceptable and what isn’t. What is normal to one may make another feel uncomfortable… or it just may not look right. To avoid the appearance of wrongdoing, youth workers must be told (specifically) what is okay and what is not. Use the internet to find a sample youth worker policy and implement it immediately.

4. Have an Open-Door Policy and Maintain Confidentiality – Children, parents, and even adults who may struggle with sexually perverted desires must have someone in the church they can come to without fear of betrayal. It’s a pretty tough balancing act, but you have to do it. Children who have been abused or touched in a way that made them uncomfortable have to trust that they can go to their pastor, even if they’re not comfortable telling their parents. They will need to feel listened to and shielded from further abuse or retaliation. Parents who have noticed odd interactions between youth and youth workers will want to know that they can share their concern with the pastor without fear of having their names associated with such a very sensitive suspicion. Adults who struggle with perversion need to know that they can confide in the pastor without being exposed irresponsibly.

5. Study to Show Yourself Approved – Churches must know the laws that govern their states. In many states, churches and clergy members have a mandatory obligation to report abuse and/or suspected abuse to law enforcement authorities. Failure to do so may result in charges, law suits, and of course, further abuse. Not only must you know the law, church leaders must also utilize resources like books, workshops, websites, seminars, and articles to learn all they can about preventing abuse. You may also want to discuss getting an insurance policy to protect against related lawsuits.

Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. — Luke 18:16 KJV

If you need help implementing a written policy or procedures to keep the children of your church safe, contact me; I’d be happy to help you.  For more information on how to prevent abuse or false allegations in your church, visit these safe links:

Legal Considerations for Your Church
Guide One: Children and Youth Safety Resources
Protecting God’s Children

Before You Dig…

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One Church in Two Locations: For Ministry or Ego?

By now, you’ve probably seen a few. Perhaps you’ve even attended one or are the member of one. It’s the new fad in churches, especially Black, independent, charismatic churches. You know, the one church/two locations (or as one church in Alabama does it: one church/five locations).

I will just be upfront and tell you that I’m not a huge fan of the one church/two locations thing. I’ve seen one or two pastors do it well, like Bishop Jonathan Alvarado of Total Grace Christian Center in Decatur, Georgia and Chris Hodges of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama. But other than a few exceptions, I’m really not impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the purpose and benefit when it’s done well, but more often than not, I think it’s done hastily and for the wrong reason(s).

I know of a pastor who started a second location. This was after he had already tried having an 8:00 a.m. service in addition to the sparsely attended 11:00 a.m. service. This was also after he tried having a Sabbath service… in addition to the regular Sunday services. The second location didn’t work and neither did the other efforts. He never asked me for my two cents, but if he had, this is what I would have told him:

Before You Break Ground, Ask Yourself:

  1. Have we outgrown our current location, or are we growing at a pace that dictates a second location will be needed soon? With all due respect, if you barely have 25 members at your current location, what is the point of opening another location elsewhere, sir or ma’am?? You can’t just go opening churches all willy nilly like that!! Are you sure there are people out there who need what your church has to offer? And if so, why aren’t they coming to the first location? Why divide the few people you have? Consider this: if you have empty seats every week, and you pay to occupy another facility which will inevitably have empty seats, are you being a good steward of your resources?
  2. Do we have a stable membership, leadership, and income at our current location? If you haven’t yet achieved stability among your leadership and members, a consistent routine, an established set of procedures, and a steady and unwavering stream of income from tithes and offerings, this is not a good time for you to start a second location. Invest in training, equipping and building up your members before you open another location. Perfect the first work before starting another work. Can you afford to invest time into a new work or does your current church need your time?
  3. Is there a need (not a want, but a need) for another location? If so, am I able to articulate that need? Specifically answer this question: who will benefit from this second location? How will they benefit? What will happen if we don’t open this second location? Why do we NEED this location? Are we sure we’re not just trying to boost that ego, increase that income, quit that day job, or keep up with Pastor Jones who’s opening his third location?
  4. Have we completed any part of our assignment in our first location? I mean, really. I heard someone say recently that some pastors are “calling themselves international and they haven’t even made a difference on their own street!” It’s true. Why branch out to another neighborhood, community, town, or state when you haven’t even made progress in your first assignment? wHo DoEs ThAt???
  5. Do we have a solid plan? I know that’s such a dumb question, but you’d be surprised by how many pastors and churches don’t work from a plan. Many just get a bright idea (or mimic someone else’s vision) and run with it, without ever seeking the Lord for direction (Proverbs 3:6), without seeking accomplished peers for counsel (Proverbs 11:14), or without counting the cost (Luke 14:28). There’s a reason God told Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain so that he who reads it can run with it. You need a timeline (Ecclesiastes 3:1). You need a budget (Luke 14:28 again). You need a plan.
  6. Do we have the buy-in of the people? It happens every Sunday in pulpits across America. The pastor announces to the people he’s opening a church in another location. He tells them that until that location gets “up and running on its own” he’s going to need everyone to help out. That means the ushers will pull double-duty, serving in both locations… so will the praise team and choir, ministers, offering counters, etc. Everyone obliges, willing to sacrifice for a few months until the new location is “up and running.”  Before they know it, everyone is burned out (including the pastor if he wasn’t really assigned to this in the first place), disgruntled, resentful, and just plain mad.

When you’re really ready, you’ll have enough staff to send one praise team to the new location and keep one at home. You won’t have to beg all your members to do double-duty at the new location because there will be a need. The people in the new neighborhood will be knocking the doors down waiting to get in and fill the pews. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. In fact, that’s an admirable trait, in my opinion. But when you act on self-driven ambition in the name of the Lord, your work will probably come to nought (Acts 5:39).

What’s your take?

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