Church and business can be very different but a lot of the leadership principles and dynamics are the same.

One of my favorite shows right now is The Profit on CNBC.  The show looks at a failing business every episode as CEO and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis works with the business to turn it around.  He is not just a consultant but an investor in every business on the show.

After watching the first and second season I began to see a pattern in the failing businesses and how Marcus took the businesses from sinking to thriving.

Because I am a pastor, I often view business lessons through a church lens.  As I watched the show I made some observations on what new pastors can do going into a declining or failing church.  Most would argue churches and businesses are very different but the more I work in church and my own businesses the more I realize they are quite similar.

Your church tax status may be not-for-profit but you still have people, processes and a product like a business.  It just so happens our product is the hope of the world.

Here are some observations for pastors:

1.  Evaluate the People

Marcus does what any great leader does in going to a new place, he looks for the leaders/producers of the group and invests into them.  Often times the people at the top are not the ones holding the business together, its the shop manager or faithful employee of 10 years.  He quickly will validate the people who are working hard to keep everything together and bring accountability to those who are not.

2.  Evaluate the Process

According to Marcus, this is where most businesses fail.  He has said many times that most businesses have great people and a great product but because their process is broken the business can’t survive.  The same is true for churches.  Getting people to show up on a weekend service or a big day like Easter should be one step in a process designed to help people grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

3.  Evaluate the Product

This one is tough for business and churches alike.  If a business is built around a product and that product is not good then you have a problem.  For churches, your product can be your style, the way you preach and the overall experience people have with your church.  This is what I see pastors change the most when coming into a new situation.  Moving the church from hymns to Hillsong, an hour long sermon to 30 minutes with application or changing the name of the church entirely can all be steps toward changing the product.

4.  Don’t be afraid to change quickly

The popular notion for pastors going into a struggling church is to change as little as possible.  Build trust, cast vision and then in a few years change slowly.  This is the common wisdom in church circles.

There are a multitude of reasons why businesses and churches fail.  Ultimately though, they are failing.  To reverse course, you must address the reasons they are failing.  Marcus Lemonis sets a precedence of change immediately.  This isn’t without tension.  All of these businesses contacted him for help just like a board contacts a new pastor.  They all agreed they needed change (like a board would when interviewing a new pastor) but when it came down to changing they are all very uneasy with it.  There is always push back when changes are made but he does a very nice job of leading through it.

When there is tension over change he reminds them of a few things:

First, he is there for a reason. The business is failing and he is there to turn it around.

Secondly, he reminds them that he is in charge.  This may sound like a low level leadership tactic but it is not.  He has an outsiders perspective and has tremendous insight on why they haven’t been able to right the ship yet.  Reminds me of the saying, “It’s a lot easier to read the label if you aren’t inside the bottle.”  Thats one of the stipulations he puts in place when investing even if he is still the minority shareholder, he is 100% in charge.

Ultimately, change is the catalyst he uses to build momentum, hope and passion in the people.

While businesses and church can be drastically different, the core dynamics are the same, people, process and product.

Do you agree? Do you have any experience or stories you would like to share?  I would love to hear them.


Justin Trapp

Founder at Ministry Pass
Husband to Tisha, Father to Shiloh and founder of Ministry Pass.
Justin Trapp