Churches conduct business. This obviously means that every church needs a business plan.
In order for any corporation (churches included) to pursue their mission they must have cash flow. Most churches do this by monetizing attendance. Greater attendance means more revenue. The expectation is that people will show up for worship and give a donation.
Increasingly, it seems, people seem to value faith but not church attendance. So, if we unbundle faith from attendance what do we get? A church with no cash flow.
As I write this, I am reminded of something Simon Sinek said in a recent TED talk. “People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” This, it seems to me, is the value of the 21st century. Churches will live and die on their capacity to demonstrate WHY they are in the religion business at all.
What this means is that the day of pretense is over. The mark of authentic faith isn't found in attendance. It isn't found in doctrine. It isn't found in being on the right side of a social issue or found in your checkbook or your devotional schedule. It isn't found in the clothes you don or the bonnet you wear.
From Attendance to Authenticity
Authentic or unpretentious faith becomes valuable when this WHY becomes evident. This is what the 21st century is looking for. It is this WHY that will be valued. It is this WHY that will prove sustainable. It is this WHY that will become the business plan of the 21st century church.
Yes, we could suggest that churches have simply gone from monetizing attendance to monetizing appearances. But that would simply be our post modern cynicism. No, I think a better comparison is like the tree in my backyard.
This large tree with its gnarled trunk and thick limbs converts energy - light, water, nutrients - into health and growth. This conversion gives the tree the capacity to sustain itself; to keep growing wider, taller, deeper. It allows the tree to express it core being - its purpose.
Business models are like that; they give churches - indeed all profit and nonprofit organizations - the capacity to remain healthy and keep growing.
Authentic faith - the WHY of our existence - is the energy that fosters health and growth. It is the WHY that people will buy. But perhaps more importantly, it is health and growth that will energize the agency. It is health and growth that will become the enduring value for a New Generation of Faith.
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