If you subscribe to several children’s ministry e-mail lists, Facebook groups, newsletters, etc, then I am sure that you find your e-mail inbox full of solicitations from ministries. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. I will always remember standing in the funeral home around Christmas Eve as my phone rang a little before visitors would be arriving to comfort the family and say goodbye to my mother. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but due to the circumstances, I answered it. It was a ministry seeking support trying to gain some of the year end charitable giving. I admit that they did not know where I was or what I was going through and they were accepting when I simply said that this was not a good time, but it still left a “bad taste in my mouth”. In contrast, shortly after arriving at my parents’ home after hearing the news of my mother’s passing, the head of another ministry called me to pray and see if there was anything they could do to help (obviously they knew basics of my mother’s passing). So while not “apples to apples” in comparison, there was still a stark contrast left in my mind for these ministries.
If you are reading this and you are a ministry that solicits funds, offer Black Friday deals, organizes conferences, etc; then please know that I am not making “blanket statements”. A ministry is also a business, even if it is non-profit. It must generate the funds to develop curriculum, resources, hold training/conferences, support staff, etc. Without funds, a ministry goes “out of business” and is no longer in ministry.
The issue is when a ministry becomes more focused on marketing, generating income and market share, than on ministry. It can be a fine balance. Without ministry, you have no income, and without income, you have no ministry. There needs to be a fine balance between faith (trusting God) and good business practice. Often the ones benefiting from, or using the ministry, forget that it takes money to keep a ministry running and see ministries as simply out to make a buck. They don’t see the large cost to develop curriculum/resources, put on a conference, hold events, etc. but always seek quality events/products at a low cost. Though even a low cost could signal that it is not a quality. How does one find that fine balance?
The only way to know if it is more marketing focused than ministry is to see the heart and know the motives of those leading. Sometimes it can be apparent by their fruit. Some people/organizations may have began with pure motives and then left their mission as they saw the potential profits, or saw the ministry failing and needed to focus on raising revenue to continue to minister.
(Note that there are also those ministries who are fully focused on ministry and God has provided for them financially to met their needs to continue to provide ministry, so profitability does not always indicate an improper focus.)
How can you tell if an individual, conference, or organization is focused more on marketing than ministry? You test the spirits. You seek what is in their heart, their motives, though you may not ultimately know because you can never truly know their heart.
As for “Commander Bill”, I don’t see it as a business, especially not one that will support my family. Why? Because I do not have the business focus that I need to build it into a self-sustaining ministry/business. My hope at this point is that it meets the needs of many, “pays for itself” and maybe enough to allow me to attend conferences, teach at conferences, and build the ministry some. Yes I sometimes struggle with an inappropriate balance, sometimes wondering how to get a greater audience, greater influence, greater income, etc., but most often, my problem is an inappropriate balance the other way, focused too much on the ministry side, sometimes hurting the potential longevity of CommanderBill.net and family finances. I say that to be transparent and share that I understand the struggle and the pitfalls.
One song that sticks in my mind is by Terry Talbot. An old song from the late 70’s entitled “Bibleland” where he shares that we shouldn’t buy and sell the spirit of God, like it’s some amusement park. Take a few minutes and listen to the song (the graphics and images are by a third party, not Terry Talbot).…
If you are in ministry, try to keep the proper balance between ministry and marketing (business).
If you use the resources from a ministry, then try to remember that there is also a business component. They are not just out to make money (at least most are not). They truly want to help you in your ministry, but must maintain a cash flow to be able to continue in ministry.
If you have lost the ministry focus and have shifted to a heavier focus on marketing, then I encourage you re-focus and get back to the proper balance.
If you are in ministry and seek to remain in ministry but have too great a focus on ministry, and little or no business focus, then again, seek the proper balance or that ministry will cease to exist, or belong to another.
It is a fine balance, one I struggle with like many, maybe just on a different scale. Like myself, others may teeter between the two, seeking to find that balance, leaning more one way or the other at times.
We need to ask ourselves, are we buying and selling the Spirit of God, like He’s some amusement park?