Entrepreneurs who need help boosting their business could learn a thing or two in church.
Pastors get creative to ensure they can expand easily as their congregation grows. Justin Haigler rents movie theaters for his Simple Church.
New houses of worship face many of the same challenges as start-up companies–and the strategies pastors use can hold valuable lessons for entrepreneurs of any stripe.
Consider the worldly concerns pastors have to sort out to get a church on its feet. They must assess a market to see if locals want a new alternative, figure out whether to buy or rent space–and then find ways to keep worshippers coming through the door. Not to mention landing enough donations to keep in the black.
And if pastors can’t keep revenue flowing, they face the same realities that all small businesses do. About one-third of new churches fail by the end of their fourth year, according to an estimate by Lifeway Research, a nonprofit church-advisory group in Nashville, Tenn.
So, pastors often try a range of creative strategies to launch their church and stay afloat. These methods cover all sorts of situations but have one common theme: tapping into a church’s unique spiritual mission. Pastors try to build their business by tightening their ties to their community and treating worshippers like friends and neighbors instead of customers.
Here’s a look at some of those tactics–and what entrepreneurs can learn from them.
Meet Your Customers
Like any other enterprise, pastors need to test the waters before they set up shop. But when they do their market research, pastors often bypass the traditional, formal methods of assessment–such as surveys and focus groups–and try a much more personal approach.
Clay Reed, pastor of the Southlake Baptist Church in a Dallas suburb, says it helps to develop a profile of “the kind of person you think would probably want to come in the door.” Then approach a few such individuals personally and get to know them. “If they are the kind of people who do business over lunch or go to diners, take them to lunch or hang out in a diner getting to know them,” he says.
In Mr. Reed’s case, his experience as a churchgoer taught him that young families are the most vital growth factor for start-up congregations, so he sought out parents attending youth sports events and struck up conversations on the sidelines. He found them receptive and forthcoming.
For instance, several parents told him that programs for kids were essential in any church that sought them as regular members. But they warned him that those programs shouldn’t duplicate offerings already in abundance in the community–and they shouldn’t be scheduled at times that competed with established activities.