More and more these days, we are hearing that successful pastors, especially church planters, need to be entrepreneurial. But what does that mean exactly? What does it not mean?
In a previous post on this topic, I pointed to renowned business and management author, Peter Drucker, for a definition of entrepreneurship. He says an entrepreneur is simply a person who looks for changes, and then methodically exploits them. It’s about what you do – not your personality. This means any pastor can become more entrepreneurial.
In his book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Drucker lists seven ways entrepreneurs innovate based on changes they see around them. I have slightly rephrased them in order to apply them to the ministry context.
1. Capitalize on the unexpected success or failure
I faced one particular unexpected failure in my first year as a junior high pastor. My goal was to obliterate the dichotomy of “fun and games” youth ministries and “bible preaching” ones. I was going to do expository preaching and put on big, fun events.
My surprising failure, however, was that no matter how big the event I ran, only about half my students showed up. Bigger wasn’t better.
In response, I decided to “go small” through Bible studies, informal small group gatherings, and after school hangouts. It worked, and I have experienced two fantastic results: a closer-knit student community and less administrative pressures. Win, win.
2. Close the gap on an incongruity
An incongruity means that there is a void between a current reality and what ought to be true. In ministry terms, it often means that people who need to be reached aren’t being reached.
The textbook example is the 10/40 Window. That only 10% of missionaries were going to the area that contained 90% of unbelievers was a huge incongruity.
Who’s not being reached in your community? What communities are not being reached around you? These opportunities represent areas to expand your gospel reach.
3. Fulfill a process need
A “process need” is an opportunity to make a difficult process smoother or less complicated. Here is an example of how my church is creating gospel opportunities to fulfill a process need.
The exploding refugee population is one of the big changes in Wheaton over the past decade. My church has tried to reach this burgeoning community by helping them in the process of getting acclimated to Wheaton.
In order to accomplish this, we have set up teams that commit to helping a new family for their first six months in Wheaton. This team picks the newcomers up at the airport when they first arrive, shows them around town, and helps them learn simple, but new, tasks like mailing a bill or using a microwave.
The goal is to build relationships and share the gospel by helping refugees through the process of adapting to a new life.
4. Adapt to “out of the blue” changes in church structure
The New Calvinism, its conferences, and church planting networks are restructuring how churches affiliate themselves. Independent, non-denominational churches don’t have to be entirely independent anymore.
In a local church context, for example, if your church is growing at an unexpected rate, your leadership structure will need to adapt if you want to keep up.
Whenever you adapt your ministry structure, it is essential to keep your innovation simple. Complicated changes to the structure often cause the whole thing to collapse.
5. Recognize changes in demographics
Demographics changes are not high on Drucker’s list of innovative strategies, but for ministry purposes it might be one of the easiest to capitalize on. What could be simpler than aiming your gospel efforts at places where more people are going? (In case you’re wondering, here are the top ten fastest growing cities in the U.S.)
As I said above, the key demographic change my church has faced is the increased refugee population. In response to this change, we have launched several ministries to refugees, in addition to the acclimation teams.
We host and teach English classes in our building during the week. Also, several singles (and even a couple families) have moved into the low-income apartments where many of the refugees live, in order to build relationships and share the gospel.
6. Recognize changes in perception, mood, and meaning
Today there are “I hate religion” folks and “I love Jesus, but I don’t like the church” folks. The homosexual agenda is having an impact inside, as well as outside, the church. Moreover, the mood of the church is extremely influenced by politics right now.
The entrepreneurial pastor will not complain and moan about these trends. Instead, he’ll consider what new opportunities for the gospel have been opened by these trends. Is there a way to communicate the gospel message in a way that answers their objections? Is there a way to show how Jesus has already provided what these people are looking for?
7. Apply new knowledge
According to Drucker, this is the “super-star” source for entrepreneurial innovation. It’s the new, hot thing that gets the buzz, but it’s also the most capricious and volatile.
Social networking and social media is the “new knowledge” making its way into churches. Many pastors are tweeting, blogging, and friending, and lots are doing so in ways that are magnifying their word ministry. Many churches are using Facebook, or even installing their own social network.
But when the social media craze dies down, will these pastors be able to pull a Jack, and nimbly jump over the social media candlestick to next big thing? Or will they drag their feet and get burned? My advice is, if you happen upon a “new knowledge” opportunity, go after it. But don’t spend your time looking for it.
You don’t need an MBA or an extroverted personality
These strategies for innovation in ministry can be applied without smuggling a business model into your church. When the gospel is what you are spreading, you are acting more like a missiologist than a manager.
Furthermore, being an entrepreneurial pastor has more to do with making calculated ministry decisions for the sake of spreading the gospel, and less to do with having an extroverted, risk-taker personality.