I am always curious when well meaning pastors try to share a pearl of wisdom that sounds like this: “I think more pastors need to be business minded,” or “I think pastors should get a degree in business management or at least a minor,” or even “maybe seminary should teach a course in business administration since that’s what you need to do most of the time.” From what I can surmise from these and other like statements there seems to be a consensus out there that pastors can learn a thing or two from business leaders. Or maybe, some think the role of pastor is best served as business leader and chief operating officer of the church.
I think pastors should take the duties of administration very seriously. Too many seem to think the church can run itself and wonder why things go to hell-in-a-hand basket so quickly when they are such hands-off administrators. I think all of us should treat the church as God’s business and work to run a church office as such. Management and leadership are vital in being a pastor in such a complex world.
But (and this is a very large proverbial but) is this the MOST important element of the life as pastor? Does this even make the top three? Should we really look to business for tips on how to be a pastor? Should seminary invent courses with more of a business focus? Quite simply and soundly, No.
If the demise of the market over the last 18 months has taught us anything it has taught us that business is, at its core, self-serving and self- promoting. Business does not seek to serve the better will of humanity if a profit stands to be lost. One should then ask, should the church follow suit? Should we, as church leaders, really take so seriously the rules of the game of business that time and time again lead to people winning and people losing? Make no mistake, in business there are always losers. Some may not lose a lot but business is, in essence, a competitive sport. Should the church join the ranks of such as that?
While administration is very important we can not reduce the role of pastor to that of merely being a Chief Operating/Executive Officer. I wonder why it is so tempting for us to make this leap? Is it because the various rules of business are easier to understand and interpret and, therefore, if we can reduce it to such we will, in the end, be more successful at it? Or maybe we are more comfortable promoting work that distinguishes a clear winner and loser because, frankly, the God revealed in the Crucified and Raised Messiah is just too complex to explain or understand? We figure we are better off spending Sundays going no further than establishing moral rights and wrongs while then spending Monday-Friday making sure budgets are met, programs are running, and people are kept happy. And we tremble at the idea of meeting people in the hell they live in that no one around them even knows about. We quake at the notion of being put on the spot to speak for a God who allows bad things to happen to good people. We forget so quickly that just because God calls, doesn’t mean that God will make things easy.
Make no mistake-most who like to give me the sort of advice I mentioned above are United Methodist. And as United Methodists, we don’t think anything can run without being part of an institution. We create rules and committees because, frankly, we trust Robert’s Rules to guide meetings more than we trust the Holy Spirit. While I think administrative duties of the pastor are of great importance I do not think we should become so consumed in them that we risk forgetting what our PRIMARY duties are: serving a God who refuses to give up on a people intent on going our own way. Running a church primarily as a business is a good example of how we impose our creation (business) on God’s kingdom in an effort to make better sense out of it. If church is treated as a business then we should not be surprised when people find a better game elsewhere. The church has never been and will never be able to compete with the likes of the business world (or entertainment world but that’s for another post).
But if church were actually treated as church and pastors actually dared to be pastors…well I’m not sure Robert’s Rules has a motion to address what might happen next.