by Doug Sanders, Community Life Minister at Otter Creek Church of Christ and CNM Consultant
We all know that our church, synagogue or mosque isn’t structured or envisioned to be run as a business. And while some groups try to run their organizations like a business, others take the opposite approach and shun any business appearance.
But maybe there’s a middle ground, where using principles from both the business and nonprofit worlds should be on the table.
For those of us that give some of our time to nonprofit groups, we also know that a nonprofit and a faith-based group are not necessarily the same. In 1990 Peter Drucker wrote a book titled Managing the Non-Profit Organization in which he gives principles and practices to help understand many of those differences. But little formal work has been done to actually work with faith-based groups to help them wrestle with their unique nature and how they are discharge their duties and obligations to their congregants.
There’s little doubt that trying to lead a faith-based group has grown more complicated in the last 20 years. Business principles have their place in the faith-based community but they are not the end-all.
The challenge is to understand the unique nature of the faith-based group and having the experience to know how to be wise in looking at both options as we seek to create new solutions using the best of both worlds.
But to do this takes people with a unique talent and experience pool. Ideally you need someone with real business experience who also knows the nonprofit world and realizes a faith-based environment is neither. In doing this, when issues about organizational structure come up within a church setting, there’s a desire to understand processes and responsibilities and a plan is developed using best practices from all available resources. Or when the question arises about the need for a new facility and the issues around a capital campaign, it’s recognized that there’s more to the decision than a balance sheet and financing negotiations.
Faith-based groups are not an island unto themselves. Decisions about partnerships and collaborations with nonprofits, schools, governments and business bring up questions that demand a creative approach but a solution that seeks to honor certain traditions that help define the faith-based group
Over the past few years, CNM has been getting calls from faith-based groups asking for help in making strategic and tactical decisions. CNM recognizes these groups need a different set of resources in order to address many of the questions that they’ve historically been able to answer for other nonprofits.
And now CNM is taking the step to assemble those resources and make them available to the faith-based community. On May 17 the first Faith & Community Panel discussion will take place to start the dialogue and introduce a few of CNM’s new faith-based consulting resources to the community.