Saturday, June 25, 2005

Contrarian View From the Pew: Church Stakeholders

In a previous post, I wrote about the stakeholders in business. Then I described the conflicting desires of business stakeholders and how each stakeholder can't possibly get everyting they want. Today, I'm going to apply this concept to the Church.

Stakeholders in a Church are not as easy to delineate as stakeholders in a business. Churches always have leaders and usually have some sort of formal leadership structure, but the leaders of a Church are not the same as the owners of a business and the leaders of a Church should not have the same objectives as the owners of a business.

Churches also have employees, committed members, involved members, attendees, participants, visitors, uncommitted members, potential members, and potential visitors. Each set, sub-set, and individual person, usually have their own unique beliefs, needs, and desires, but each is still a stakeholder in the welfare and success of the Church.

Even without a formal business plan, it’s fairly easy to know the objective of most businesses. There are many different strategies, but every business tries to grow by increasing profits and reducing costs. Even with a formal ministry plan, it is almost impossible to know the goals of most Churches and there is almost never an agreement on the methods. The Churches that measure results measure what is easy to count; mainly heads.

A Church is definitely not a business. However, the root problem with most Churches nowadays is the same as the root problem with most businesses nowadays. Everyone in Church is looking out and advocating their own interests from their own perspective without much concern for the interests and needs of the other stakeholders. The place where the Golden Rule is taught is missing the practice of the Golden Rule.

Purpose Driven Pastors are demanding more commitment from sleep deprived members, attendees are expecting the Pastor to preach like Swindoll, leaders are expecting the Pastor to promote like Warren, everyone in Church is wanting more services, better music, and more social programs to meet their individual needs, and visitors are expecting to be catered to and pampered.

Just as a healthy business can’t possibly have the lowest prices, the highest salaries, and the greatest return on investment all at the same time, a Church can’t possibly have the commitment the Purpose Driven Pastor demands, the programs the members’ desire, and the care and concern visitors expect all at the same time.

When I observe Churches nowadays, I observe a lot of selfishness, similar to the “all about me” attitude in business. Quite frankly, even organizations as small as the family are suffering from this same problem. Possibly, the smaller family sizes nowadays is one of the reasons people are so selfish. With four brothers and four sisters growing up together, it never occurred to me that my family should ever do anything just for me. My brothers and sisters all seemed to feel the same way. We did most of what we did as a family.

Churches need to get back to being a family where the interests of all of the stakeholders are understood and balanced without having a goal of being the best at anything. A little more grace, a little more patience, a little more understanding, a little more humility, and a lot more walking in the footsteps of others will go a long way towards practicing the Golden Rule.


Derek Simmons said...


Practice what we preach (or have preached at us)? What a novel concept. I think your series has been insightful if not so very contrarian. I was hoping to see something about the "tragedy of the commons" worked in too. I can't believe how thoughtlessly Christians "mine" the common when they should be "yours-ing" it. Too much thought goes into figuring out how to finance the new Lexus and too little into thinking about how to finance the work of the Lord, or what the $$cost is just for me to show up and sing on Sundays "..All to Him I owe.." What we each want out of church in the way of programs taxes "the common" and will eventually destroy it unless--as you say--we all become practitioners of the Golden Rule and not merely passive "believers" in it.

Your Brother in Christ,
Derek Simmons

Mark Walter said...

I think churches in general are selfish and in denial. If they weren't selfish they would be much more into teaching people how to make a genuine inner connection and how to develop deeper understanding. If they weren't so selfish (and into justifying their approach and/or doctrine, etc.)people would be learning how to effectively deal with denial, and would be encouraged to be free thinkers. I realize there are some exceptions to this, and I don't single churches out for this since they are simply a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a collective. The problem is: they don't understand; they have lost their ability to find, maintain and lead others to the point.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Mark,

Your comment makes no sense to me. Would you mind rewording it?

David M. Smith said...

I should probably reword one of my points as well. I don’t think the people in Church are selfish about everything. Actually, most of the conflict in Church is a result of Church goers wanting to do good for others. The selfishness surfaces in the form of one Church member or one Pastor thinking the programs and methods they are advocating are more important, or better, than the methods and programs others are advocating.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Derek,

I’ve never thought of the Tragedy of the Commons in terms of Church before. Did you come up with that application or did you get it somewhere else? For quite some time, I have believed Churches are too socialistic. I would prefer a tithing structure where members were encouraged to give directly to individual ministries instead of giving to the Church as a whole. I believe hearts and giving go together. Therefore, if members were allowed to support a ministry directly, more money would be given as a whole, and more labor would be put in to the specific ministries. Members would be more committed because they would have more ownership of the ministry.

The Tragedy of the Commons is certainly applicable to the ONE Campaign. Africans live in poverty as a result of sharing resources. The poverty in Africa will end when Africans become owners of property and owners of the results of their efforts.