All posts by Terrance Merriman

Making Your Business a Ministry

Here’s another take on my previous posts.  I’m going to ask you to think about your business in a completely different way from the traditional (contemporary) capitalistic view of a business as a machine to produce profit.  This may at first seem to stretch your imagination, but think of your business as a ministry.  What is a ministry?  From a religious context, in this case, from the point of view of a follower of Christ, a ministry is an activity that puts Jesus’ teachings into action through his disciples.  It fills one or more of many needs that human beings have for food, clothing, shelter, healing, security, personal growth, service, love, and others.  It affirms and edifies people, both individuals and groups.

What does your business do?  Yes, it makes money (if organized and managed effectively).  But it does so by filling one or more of many needs that people have, both as individuals and as groups.  In the process it should affirm and edify people, not diminish or disrespect them.  It ministers to the needs of many different people; those of its owners, employees, customers, vendors and suppliers, and communities.  And, I hope, it does so in a way that exemplifies your highest values and principles in every decision you make and action you take.

You as the business owner are, or should be, a servant leader, a minister to those who you employ to carry out the purpose of your business.  You minister to their needs so that they may be free to perform up to their highest potential, enabling your organization to perform up to its highest potential.  By doing so in a way that exemplifies your highest values and principles, you capture not only the bodies and minds of your people, but their hearts and souls as well.  The result is a high performance organization filled with motivated people who can accomplish extraordinary things.

Your business ministers to your customers by satisfying their individual or collective need through effective application of your core competencies and resources.  By clarifying the need your business will address, you are defining the purpose and mission of the business.  By expanding on those ideas you are establishing the vision for your business.  By focusing on specific needs you are defining your target market, the subset of people to whom you are best equipped and resourced to minister.

Your business ministers to your vendors and suppliers by accepting the products and services they offer to fulfill your business’ needs and giving them a fair price.  By negotiating with them and treating them in a manner that once again is consistent with your highest values and principles you build a productive and sustainable relationship enabling them to fulfill their purpose and you to fulfill yours.

Your business ministers to the community by giving of its time and resources to improve the community that supports your business through the services it provides.  By clarifying the community needs to which your business will minister based on available resources and core competencies, you will be giving back, and building productive relationships that will further benefit your business.  The result is that your business will have assumed some measurable social responsibility.

Your business ministers to humanity as a whole by being a good steward of the natural resources it consumes, by never taking our natural resources and habitat for granted, and by ensuring the sustainability of the surrounding environment, to keep it fit for human habitation.  Essentially, you establish goals for effective use of resources, and define processes that minimize waste, limit consumption of nonrenewable resources, provide for the sustainability of renewable resources, and limit or prevent contamination of the habitat surrounding your business.  Again, the result is that you benefit your business and assume additional measureable social responsibility.

That is what I mean by thinking of your organization as a ministry.  You build your ministry on a firm foundation, one of principles, values and morals, and you focus it on people and their needs, not things.  Material things become the tools and resources through which needs are satisfied.  This is what your organization does, and if it is an effective ministry in these areas, profit will be the reward.  Profit is put in its proper place as the measure of the success of your ministry, not the sole goal.  Kind of sheds a whole new light on the concept of capitalism, doesn’t it?

Peace my friends…

Bridging the Gap from Business to Ministry

Before the Industrial Revolution, before the founding of these United States, before the Renaissance, from the middle ages back through history people focused on using their gifts, talents, and skills to fill needs, and expected payment often in trade or barter, to fulfill their own needs for survival.  People had vocations, a “calling” to a certain trade or activity they were best equipped (we Christians like to say, by God) to perform. 

Hundreds of years ago, in most cultures there was little organized “business” activity other than through guilds, or through groups of servants or staff gathered to serve the needs of a ruling individual or class.  Businesses were sole proprietorships and family members operating out of homes and small shops.  The point is that most human endeavor was directed toward filling one or more of many individual or collective needs.  Successfully fulfilling a need meant survival first, satisfying a higher calling second, and only rarely amassing wealth, or making a profit.  People were rewarded for their skill and the quality of their work; the gifts they brought to their trade.

In our capitalistic society we have managed to reverse the equation, put profit before all else, substitute the concept of career for vocation or calling, and place the priority on how effectively we can market to the perceived needs of consumers by redefining their needs for them rather than ascertaining what are their true needs.  In business today we’ve lost sight of individual and collective needs and focused instead on how much profit we can make, no matter what it takes.  In the need versus greed battle, it appears that greed has won.  But that is the subject of another post.

We need to get back to this idea of defining the purpose of our organizations, whether for profit or not, in terms of satisfying an individual or collective need.  From a Christian perspective, we believe God has a plan for each of us, and that plan can be discerned by looking at how He has gifted each of us, with what talents He has infused us, with what passions He has ignited our spiritual fire.  Going back in human history, those gifts, talents and passions drove God’s purpose for each of us and gave us that calling to a particular vocation for which we were best suited. 

Following that logic, it stands to reason that if God’s plan for you is to be an entrepreneur, a business owner, then wouldn’t God also have a plan for your business?  In fact, wouldn’t it be an extension of His plan for you?

If we employ that same discernment process to define the purpose of our organizations, we begin to think of our organizations as ministries designed to satisfy an individual or collective need.  Having defined our purpose, we can hire people called to a particular vocation instrumental in fulfilling that purpose; people who have certain core competencies (gifts, talents, and passions amplified by education and experience) essential to the success of our organizations.

We bridge the gap from business to ministry by defining purpose in terms of need and finding people called to satisfy that purpose.  We formulate our plans, strategies, processes, and structure around our purpose and our people.  We collectively oversee our organization’s processes to ensure we stay on task.  We ensure our people are relieved from burdens which keep them from achieving their full potential.  And we take those actions with faith and confidence that our organizations will be appropriately rewarded for fulfilling our purpose.  Our organizations become people centered, servant led, values focused, purpose driven, community friendly, and environmentally responsible.

And so we begin to bridge the gap from business to ministry.

Peace my friends…