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Tim McDermott “Ministry and Business”

Balancing Ministry and Business

I think one of the hardest things to do as a leader of a ministry is to balance ministry and business.  On the one hand, the organization is in existence because it is a ministry.  It was created for a purpose and it runs on faith and trust in God. On the other hand, if the bills are not paid and the revenue doesn’t come in then it no longer exists – so goodbye ministry. 


How do you balance the two?  Which one are you more like right now – a business or a ministry?  I have been a ministry leader and am also a CPA so I know the struggle is real.  Here are some things I have learned. 

-Ministry is always first. Business is always second, but it can’t be last.  People are more important than projects and numbers.   I hate it when people have to be let go because it’s a ‘business decision.’  As leaders, I really believe we have to be careful as we grow.  In football, they say you can “out punt your coverage.”  The same can be true for running a radio station.  Sometimes we grow too fast and don’t have the financial basis to add “five people this year.”  We make decisions that aren’t wise because we feel pressure from staff or someone on the board to grow or we see everyone else growing that way so we copy them and think we will grow too.  After all, we are people of faith. Sometimes faith is one step at a time.  God gave us brains, too.

-Watch out for short-term business wins at the cost of personal ministry impact. There are so many sound business decisions that will immediately increase the bottom line and yet impact personal ministry.  During my career I can think of several business wins that are now commonplace – replacing receptionists with auto attendant phones, replacing prayer staff with prayer websites, and replacing local air personalities with voice trackers.  I am not against any of those things (I still voice track a worship program), but I will say it’s not the same level of personal connection. There is a tangible difference and a level of engagement difference.  It’s just not the same experience ‘clicking to pray” for someone versus a personal encounter when two real people connect together in prayer.  Both are good, but one is a higher level of connection.  One of the toughest challenges for a ministry leader is making sure the business side doesn’t trump the ministry side.  Radio is the personal medium.  Ministry is Personal.  The Holy Spirit is a Person.  There is nothing like the combination of all three working together – radio, ministry and the Holy Spirit.  The three of them create a connection that can’t duplicated or even be replicated by our competitors in mainstream media. Mainstream radio has gone the business route adopting many of the above changes and more – and the ratings are showing.  People aren’t engaging.  We have to think about ministry impact when we make business decisions.

-Know your scorecard. I recently took a New York Stock Market Investment class.  The scorecard is pretty simple in the financial world.  Profits. Earnings.  As a business, breaking even or making a profit matter.  But what is your ministry scorecard?  What really matters?  Stories of lives changed? Number of Salvations?  Faithfulness to your mission? Attendance at your events?  How about this one – how is your station impacting the community?  Are the churches growing?  Are other ministries thriving? Is crime going down?  Homelessness?  Poverty?  Sex-trafficking in decline?  Generosity going up in your city?  Whatever it is, let your scorecard be a lens to look through as you make ministry versus business decisions. 

With over 40 years experience in Christian radio, Tim McDermott consults radio stations and nonprofits who want to grow.  He can be reached at tim@tmcdermottcpa.com

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