Selling Hamburgers

I have never served as the pastor of a megachurch, and I don’t figure that I ever will. My pastoral ministry has always involved small, rural churches. Still, I’ll admit that, like megachurch pastors, I feel the internal pressure to “grow” my church. How many people came for Sunday School last Sunday? How many attended the worship service? Is anybody mad and about to quit the church? How can we soothe their feelings? What do we have to do to get those visitors who attended last Sunday to settle down with us and join our church? What about the church’s finances? Are we taking in more than we are paying out? Believe me, these are questions that most pastors deal with constantly.

Sadly, churches today are oftentimes run more like businesses than bodies of Christ. Sometimes I feel like we are selling hamburgers rather than serving as local congregations for our Savior. And how do you sell the most hamburgers? That’s simple: You have to have a solid business plan.

First, you start with a good location for your restaurant. Location. Location. Location. That’s the old saying, right? You have to be where the people are, and you have to make it as easy as possible for them to find your church. This means that if your church building happens to be located on a site that is no longer the place to be, you really should think about buying some land out by the local interstate or the most used highway and building a new building. Good luck selling your old-timers on that idea.

Second, your restaurant needs excellent facilities. These days that means:

  • big-screen t.v. screens mounted on the walls
  • cutting edge audio equipment
  • wireless mics
  • internet access
  • an impressive sign (an electronic one with a huge screen works well)
  • adequate classroom space for your classes (and the rooms better be nice)
  • a beautiful fellowship hall with all the latest 21st-century kitchen gadgets as well as top-of-the-line tables and chairs
  • some type of family-life center where the young folks can run around and have a big time
  • an outdoor playground where the young folks can run around and have a big time
  • comfortable pews or chairs in the sanctuary
  • fresh carpet and fresh paint everywhere
  • adequate lighting everywhere
  • last but certainly not least, plenty of parking

Third, now that you have your sweet building on your sweet site, you need to hire a good staff to handle your customers. In current church circles, such a staff looks like this:

  • a worship leader (If all you have is a music director, you really are behind the times. Even better than a singular worship leader is a praise-and-worship team and band that can get the church house rocking and the people whipped into a frenzy.)
  • an impressive choir that operates hand-in-hand with the worship leader or the praise-and-worship team and band
  • a tech expert who is responsible for operating and maintaining the church’s audio and video equipment (This person might also oversee the church’s website, Twitter site, Instagram site, and You Tube site.)
  • a creative team that works with the worship leader or the praise-and-worship team to plan out the worship service (What should the topical theme be this Sunday morning? What pictures should we show on the video screens to go along with the theme? What videos should we show to go along with the theme? What skit or drama should we do? Should we use an object lesson? If so, which one?)
  • a pastoral staff who does all the counseling, hospital visitation, and in-home visitation
  • an outreach director (preferably a team) who is responsible for getting new folks into the building each week
  • some type of team (call them deacons, elders, overseers, church leadership team, or whatever) that handles the business decisions for the church
  • gifted, knowledgeable teachers to teach the church’s various classes (Your pastoral staff might serve as some of these teachers.)
  • groundskeepers, custodians, and maintenance workers to keep everything looking good and operating correctly

Fourth, now that you have your location, facilities, and staff, you need the cook that will prepare the main courses your restaurant/church will be serving. Ideally, this cook will be a certified Master Chef who graduated with an advanced degree from a prestigious school. In church circles, the cook is known as the Senior Pastor. He’s the guy who is responsible for writing the menu and preparing the meals that keeps the church fed. In the beginning stages of a big-time restaurant/church, it’s the cook’s meals that create the buzz, stir the interest, and get the momentum rolling. However, once the restaurant/church has established itself as the place to be, the cooks become interchangeable as long as they are each on the same high level in terms of food preparation.

Unfortunately for me and every other pastor of a small church, this business plan is as far from reality as the sun is from the earth. Just last week I heard the nationally known pastor of a megachurch say that in the early days of his church he received a $200,000 gift from a man he’d just recently met to purchase a certain building the church needed to take the next big step in its growth. I can assure you that I’ve never had anyone hand me $200,000 and say, “Use this to take your church to the next level.” My family and I went on vacation last week, and I was thrilled to death to get a card with a $100 bill in it from an anonymous church member. You see, that’s the lane in which my ministry rolls, and no matter how tasty I make my hamburgers, I doubt that my place will ever be the leading restaurant/church in town.

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