Prior to entering ministry, my wife and I owned a small business. It was small in the sense of how economists measure businesses, but it was a big business to us. Whenever you have to make payroll for almost 40 people (including yourself)…that seems big. This was my second venture as an entrepreneur. The first was extremely successful, but this one was not. An opportunity came to sell and we quickly accepted. We learned tons of principles from that negative experience that still help us today, but it was a very challenging time for us personally.
Looking back on that experience, I realize one of the major problems we had being successful. There were hundreds of issues, including some of our own mistakes, but one aspect of our company and where we were in the market worked against us most. I discovered that:
We were often too large to be responsive but too small to be competitive.
Have you ever been there?
We were too large to change quickly. Our processes were too set in stone. We couldn’t react to the changing markets fast enough. We didn’t have teams that could quickly adapt. Our pricing structure was more inflexible because of our fixed costs.
We were too small to be competitive. We couldn’t compete with the really big guys. They could eat our lunch at the bargaining table. We could never match their price. They could deliver on large projects so much quicker than we could.
My guess is that this scenario can happen at several growth points in the life of a business. Successful businesses learn to navigate through these times to protect the company and continue to grow. Had we continue as owners we would have had to figure out survival at this critical stage in the life of the business.
My question now, as a church planter/leader is: How does this principle translate to church growth? Are there certain times during the growth process of a church where this dynamic comes into play?
Are there times the church is too large to adapt quickly to the changing needs of the community and people it is attempting to reach? Could the church be too small to meet all it needs to do, because the church can’t afford the facilities and staff to meet the opportunities?
Could it be that church leadership needs to recognize when this dynamic is in play and figure out ways to navigate through it, so the church can continue to thrive?
For those that hate applying business principles to the church world, please forgive me, but I’m just asking questions to stir discussion. Sometimes understanding the nature of a problem is the hardest part in addressing it. What do you think? Have you experienced either of these scenarios?