Leading and pastoring the church is a complex task. On the one hand, it requires a sense of family—a loving, caring atmosphere that reflects the love of God for His people. On the other hand, it also necessitates an understanding of business principles to ensure its growth and sustainability. It's easy to understand why many pastors struggle with how to lead their churches; do we prioritize being a family or running a business? The truth is that to have a healthy church, we cannot lead it as "either or" but rather "both and". We are a family, God's family, and we have a business that we must ensure is in order. Like any family, someone has to make sure the bills are paid, taxes are taken care of, food is provided, repairs are made, etc...
Jesus, Himself, tells us that He was about His Father’s business.
"And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49, NKJV)
And that business is a part of God's family,
"So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family." (Ephesians 2:19, NLT)
As Pastors and church leaders, we are not only called to shepherd God's family but to lead, oversee, and ensure the business is in order.
In this blog post, we will explore how leading the church as a family and business can bring out its full potential as God's beloved community on Earth. Many church issues that make the news and cause splits result from not taking care of one or the other, the family or the family business.
1. Understanding the Tension of Leading and Pastoring a Church
A big part of the tension we experience as pastors and church leaders is between best practices and faith. God is a God of miracles, the One who parted the Red Sea and closed the mouths of the Lions, and raised the dead. Unfortunately, we often lead with a dependence on the Red Sea, closing the mouths of Lions, and raising the dead miracle in mind. All the while, God calls us to lead His Church, His business, and His family with best practices. Best practices that He has given us in His Word. Please don't misunderstand, God is a God of miracles, but far too often, we are looking for those miracles to cover our lack of leadership or laziness.
As in all families, there is tension that must be managed. As a young dad, I wanted to take my kids to Disney for a vacation, and the kids (the family) all wanted to go. The tension I had to manage was between our desire to have a vacation at Disney as a family and the budget. It can be done; it was done, but only done successfully because I was willing to work with and manage the tension. This is done best by understanding and living by priorities.
2. Lead by priorities
To successfully manage the tension between family and business as a Pastor or church leader, you must lead by priorities. God gives us some clear priorities in His Word for the Church, and He gives us priorities as Churches based on the vision He has for us. It is essential for any church leader to have and lead in the priorities of God to effectively manage the tension between family and business. This requires intentionality, self-discipline, and the courage to make tough decisions.
Many times as church leaders, we end up managing dysfunction rather than dealing with it simply because we lean into the excuse of "we are God's family," all the while allowing God's family to suffer. For instance, no one wants to fire a family member from the family business. I get that, but would you be willing to let the family business go under because of a family member working in the business but not doing their job? That's a picture of the church often. A staff member or pastor (could be a volunteer) who is not doing their job gets by because we are a place of grace and mercy. Yet God does not love, encourage, or want laziness in His kingdom. If a staff member can't fulfill the priorities of the ministry job, we are going to have to make some tough decisions. And the church is watching our leadership to see how we handle the Kingdom's priorities in these circumstances to see if we can be trusted to lead in His family and His business.
3. Guard the family culture (DNA)
A healthy family culture is a place where the atmosphere is love, care, and acceptance. A place where we are living out The Fruit of The Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). That means being patient, understanding, and forgiving of one another. It means learning how to express and receive emotions in healthy ways properly. And it means learning how to approach issues and conflict from a Biblical perspective that honors God's teachings and commands (Matthew 18).
A healthy church family, like any healthy family, requires a clear understanding and the ability to live in healthy disciplines. This includes setting clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences for behavior. With love, patience, and understanding, these should be administered in a way that honors God’s teachings and His commands. It requires knowing how to motivate and encourage people to live up to their potential without relying on guilt, manipulation, or other negative tactics. All the while leading clearly into the future that God has for the church to live out His mission.
Great businesses are run on Biblical principles. If you read and keep up with current business books, you will easily see the roots of the principles they teach in God's principles. They may not know or understand the history and roots of all they are writing about, but it takes little Biblical understanding or research to see them.
Leading the church is a delicate balance between managing it like a family and running it like a business. As pastors, we must remember that both are important to ensure the health of God's kingdom here on earth. We have to be willing to make tough decisions while still protecting and nurturing our culture as Jesus would do in His own family. It takes intentionality, self-discipline, courage, and faithfulness - all qualities that should come naturally when leading with love for God’s people. With these principles, we can lead confidently, knowing that by doing so, we will honor Him, who has called us into this ministry!
Next week in this blog, I will continue with part 2 and give some practical day-to-day leadership applications for living and leading the family/business of God - both/and.