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Seeing the local church as a business

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Rick Gregg, Northern Skies Co-District Lay Leader, uses the metaphor of the church as a business and explains why he’s proud to be a shareholder in the greatest business going.

Northern Skies Co-District Lay Leader

As I begin this New Year, my thoughts turn to resolutions and what to accomplish in the coming months. It’s also a good time for local churches to do the same thing. In my 70-plus years of being a Methodist, I have found that one topic is not talked about enough: stewardship. It is often a topic only discussed during a three-week campaign in the fall but is relied upon for the entire year. Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.” Biblically, we define it as giving of effort, time, talents, and resources.

Perhaps it is my background in business, but I find that the local church should be viewed as what it is. The church is a business, whether it has an $80,000 or $1 million budget. The church has a product, income, and expenses, all key business elements.

Businesses have a corporate structure. The local church has a unique and wonderful structure: the chief executive officer (CEO) is God, the president is Jesus, the vice president/managers are clergy, from bishops to local clergy, and the shareholders are the laity.

The CEO’s role is to lead the company’s operations, emphasizing long-term results. It may be an oversimplification, but we believe that all things are possible through God. The Bible serves as the “operating manual” for our business.

The president’s role is to facilitate and guide the company to ensure goals are met. As Christians, we seek to follow Jesus always and through all circumstances.

Our immediate centering on theological matters, led by the bishop, comes through our clergy, the managers. This helps us define Methodism in our context, guides us in local mission, and educates us in Methodism throughout the world beyond our community.

The last part of our business structure is the most extensive grouping, the shareholders or laity. Merriam-Webster defines laity as “the mass of the people as distinguished from those of a particular profession or those specially skilled.” We’re talking about all those who sit in the pews and worship together, all of us. We are the ultimate entity that ensures the business thrives.

What is the role of laity in promoting our product? First, let’s discuss our product briefly. It is commonly believed that our ultimate product is making disciples of Jesus Christ. In fact, the mission of The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” It’s a daunting task on the surface but made easy when broken down to the individual. We can be disciples if we believe in our Lord and Savior and strive to lead our lives in his image. How you choose to promote this product is up to you, whether by example, witness, participation, leadership roles, committee work, or involvement in the community. The most important way is through prayer, listening to God, and acting.

Shareholders, or laity, are also responsible for the stewardship of the business. Giving ourselves and our resources is up to each lay member and how God (our CEO) directs them. Being involved in the budgeting process is an important step. Does your church have a budget that reflects your mission? Too many church budgets reflect income and expenses based on historical data, which may not reflect what is needed to fulfill the church’s mission. It is widely believed in business that you cannot save yourself into a profit. What is required in your local church to expand your product? Do you need programming? Do you need personnel? Do you need facilities or other capital items? Do you need outreach? Do you need visibility?

While the needs may seem overwhelming and your role as a shareholder daunting, remember that God will not give you more than you can handle. Our business model is unique. Because of our structure, our business cannot fail, and it is ready to expand and grow throughout our community and the world. I am proud to be a shareholder in the greatest business revealed to humankind.

Last Updated on January 29, 2024

The Michigan Conference