I thought one of the most thought-provoking presentations at Annual Conference was Rev. Valerie Stultz’ analogy of the church as a family business. I thought about retelling the story, but thought it would be better coming from her. Here is the much boiled-down version she provided.
I was raised in a family business – truly. Our family talked, ate and slept the business of my grandfather, father, uncles, siblings and children. Plumbing supplies and building materials were our 24/7 diet.
Edwin Freidman predicts that family businesses don’t survive beyond three generations because the tensions, alliances and unresolved feelings that characterize the family bleed into the decision-making processes that effect advancement of the business. This became the reality of our family business as the business was so caught up in the dynamics of family that it failed. The business became the preservation of the family rather than the sale of the products.
Sometimes churches go out of business because of shifting demographics, but for the most part churches close their doors because people have been confused for too long about just who the business owner is and just what the business owner expects of us. We know that we are to be in the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, but too often, we take our eyes off of Jesus and slip into the family business mode. Our church family loyalties blur our vision. Our church family modes of operation impede out mission. Our church family grudges ruin our reputation in the community.
My sincere thanks for Rev. Stultz for her insights.