There is a place and time for imagining and creating big goals. (Pixabay)

Through my career, I've invested 40 years as a business school faculty member, an executive in public and private companies and filled leadership roles at the few churches I've been a part of over the years. Through all of this, I've learned a few things that can translate over from business to assist you in the enhancement of your ministry.

1. A Church Is Not a Business

The church is for the winning and building of souls, while a business is formed to make a profit. A church can benefit from the principles of operating like a business and a business can use its profits for godly or social purposes, but they are inherently different organizations with different objectives. Work hard to educate that well-intentioned but spiritually adolescent MBA executive that has yet to understand fully why everything should begin with Biblical principles and Godly council rather than the bottom line and efficiency. Bring them along, and they may be your greatest blessing.

2. Realistically Identify What You and Your Church Can do Well

There is a place and time for imagining and creating big goals. But as Harvard Business Journal once identified as the No. 1 principle for business, you must, "exploit before you explore." See what skills, experiences and blessings God has placed in your church and build upon them before imagining or blindly stepping out in faith.

3. Identify What Ministry Opportunities Exist in Your Area

Particularly focus on those that might be under-served and/or where your church might provide differently. By using the business principle of opportunity analysis, go where there is an ample market to support your efforts—what areas of town you can give the most and reach the most people in. By working alongside other ministries or non-profits, you can possibly create a value-added situation in which you re-engineer things they already do and tailor them to the strengths in your congregation.

4. Manage Cash Flow Wisely

In business management, cash is king because without the ability to pay bills, businesses fail. Biblical mandates to avoid entrapment and slavery to fiscal irresponsibility are even more pronounced. Your church's cash flows may vary by season, problems or opportunities, but usually have a reasonably predictable pattern that can be used for planning purposes. Stay within your budgets using that pattern to manage your church's finances wisely. Faith in God's providence is not the same as foolish expectations.

5. Avoid Analysis Paralysis

Once you know who you are, what you do well, where there is opportunity to provide new or enhanced ministry, your finances are in order and you understand how and what other church's do, start doing it. For everything, there is a time and season. When you have prayed and prepared, execute without fear; and don't quit. This is the time to be a faith warrior.

6. Aggressively and Clearly Market who you are

Publicizing where your church provides ministry and how your church's application provides new or enhanced ministry value is both at the heart of good ministry and sound business practice. Focus on what your church provides in a positive uplifting way.

7. Maintain Your Integrity

While that admonition might seem obvious or even offensive, its application is at the heart of the long-term success of a ministry or a business. Hard work, long hours and dreams can be powerful human deterrents to the best of intentions. As young Bud in the movie Wall Street learned, ambition (sometimes confused with God's will) can devastate. Neither business leaders or pastors are immune, believe me.

8. Invest 10 Percent of Your Time Thinking of New Ways to Do Things

Regardless of how busy one might be, churches, ministries and businesses are best served by leaders that are disciplined and courageous enough to routinely separate from their daily responsibilities for brainstorming efforts. Personally, my best time for this is when I'm swimming laps or when I gather with key staff to think outside the box for rethinking solutions. It's a powerful tool and practice most successful leaders employ.

9. Leave Room for God

Speaking from personal experience, the best lessons I've learned in life have come from my failures and not my successes. And invariably those failures have resulted from over reliance on my own intellect or abilities, leaving God out of the decisions.

Dr. Tom McElheny serves as the director of Christian education for several Sarasota, Florida churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education and is CEO of his company ChurchPlaza.


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