Material taken from a podcast by John Lee and Steven Schenk for UNITE WNY
Advice for Working with Ministry-Folks
First, recognize that pastors aren’t businesspeople. While it seems unnecessary to say this, it actually isn’t. As a business leader you will be tempted to think of pastors as stupid businesspeople. Again, they aren’t stupid businesspeople, because they aren’t businesspeople. They have a whole different set of values, paradigms, networks, and even vocabulary. Many businesspeople have had experience working in other countries, it would be helpful to think of relationships with ministry leaders as a cross-cultural relationship. Be patient, and persistent.
Second, pastors are trained to teach and counsel, not lead and manage. Some pastors are great at this, others are horrible. But most pastors are placed in positions where leadership and management skills are necessary without any training or experience in leading and managing. Often it takes new pastors years to even recognize that managing an organization and leading a worship service are two fundamentally different tasks. Be patient, and persistent.
Third, recognize that pastors are leaders and that this means they have sizeable egos. Just like all leaders, they tend to think of themselves as the smartest people in the room, even on subjects about which they are clueless. Having a degree in Biblical Languages doesn’t automatically prepare you to make church budgeting decisions. Business leaders have made enormous and costly mistakes because they trusted their own egos and pastors do the same thing. This means business leaders should be especially sensitive to the power dynamics in the relationships, many pastors have been taught that they need to be the person with all of the answers to everything pertaining to the church. It may be hard for them to accept your expertise, until you have won their trust. Recognizing their expertise while offering yours, will go along way toward easing this reality. Be patient, and persistent.
Fourth, most pastors have a very different decision making process than most business leaders. Pastors usually start with theology, then work through philosophy, then relationships and emotions, before finally figuring out what tasks they should perform. Business leaders almost invariably work the other way around. Proposing tasks and arguing out the best way to engage in mission is the way in which philosophy of business questions get answered, and the way in which partnerships get built. Most business leaders prioritize mission and action, most church leaders prioritize theology and relationships. This difference in fundamental process can be frustrating, but be patient and persistent.
Fifth, recognize that the church operates in some “false dichotomies” or some faulty paradigms. There are ways that Christians and churches have come to think and live that are actually out of alignment with Scripture. The division between what is sacred and what is secular is not a biblical division. The very first person that the Bible records being “filled with the Holy Spirit” was not a pastor or a prophet, but a craftsman. God has given business leaders important skills that are equally valuable to the Kingdom. It is simply not the case that strategic planning, or budgets, or any other business tool is inherently “un-spiritual.” Persistently bring your skills to the table.
Finally, recognize that ministry leaders have skills, wisdom, and resources that you lack and we need each other to be the church of Christ. Offer your gifts, and receive theirs. Work together to advance God’s Kingdom.