My wife and I owned a restaurant for nearly 10 years. She had grown up in that industry and knew it inside and out. I had worked retail a bit and managed a bike shop and knew just about zero – other than I liked pizza and I wanted to be a pastor someday. During that near-decade of restaurant ownership we learned a lot. Though our story is NOT one of the horror stories, we actually had a ton of fun and will likely do it again someday.
It’s been several years since we sold that restaurant to give ourselves fully to the call of church planting. In the time since we sold it, I am amazed at how much I learned there that, if not ignored in church, would make me a far more effective pastor and leader for my church.
So of all the transferable principles I learned owning a restaurant, here’s my top six that might just help you as you lead and pastor your church…
NUMBER ONE: Location, location, location.
This certainly goes for WHERE you meet as a church. I get so sad when I hear a gifted and earnest new church planter who has decided to meet in a warehouse nobody can find or an elementary school buried in a neighborhood. However, this principle also speaks to where you hang out as a pastor. Are you IN the places lost people are spending time? Unfortunately, most of the time I find myself in my office, or out in public with “church folks”.
NUMBER TWO: Greet every person in the building every time you can.
There was nothing more special to our customers at the restaurant than when my wife walked each table to say a simple, “hello, how’s your meal?” She had grown up in that very restaurant and some of those people had been eating in there 20 years. This is key at your church too! Don’t leave this simply to your system of greeters. Be the best greeter of the bunch, work the room, remember names and care genuinely.
NUMBER THREE: Don’t envy winners, mimic them.
We really, truly, honestly did not hate the other competing restaurants in our town. We ate in them, learned from them, networked with them. So, as a pastor find out what other churches are doing in your area that is reaching people and instead of resenting them, mimic their victories. Find a way to use a similar principle to reach your own target group through their hard-earned lessons.
NUMBER FOUR: Give equal energy to reducing costs & increasing sales.
I see about 5 email a week in my inbox from various leaders, organizations and businesses all telling me “Five ways to increase giving.” Don’t get me wrong, increasing giving is wonderful, I am all for teaching my people to be generous and steward finances well. That being said, while we challenge our people to GIVE MORE, we should challenge our staff to SPEND LESS. Some of the best fundraising I see is done through budget cuts and spending freezes.
NUMBER FIVE: A happy staff generally shows up early and stays late.
Ok, I get it, we are not making widgets when it comes to church work. I could not agree more that our work is Kingdom-advancing and is changing lives — a far bigger mission that good pizza or a fast smoothie. However, the principle remains the same and I bet you have oversold the motivational effectiveness of statements like, “…this is Kingdom work” and “…just a few more hours might change a life…”
I don’t know what the carrot and what the stick will be for your church, but motivation through the ideal of transformation is not enough for most staff members long term. The bottom line is, you are just not as great to be around as you think. Furthermore, motivating simply with a stick at everyone’s behind is one of the main reasons there is so much burnout in most churches. So how are you incentivizing your team? What perks are you giving? How often are you honoring them privately and publicly?
NUMBER SIX: Scalability is key.
When we trained a new employee at the restaurant we had pictures of what that menu item should look like upon completion. We weighed every protein portion and measured everything. This way, the trainee could become the trainer. It also meant, that in most cases, if our business had a particularly busy night or went through a sudden growth spurt we could adjust quickly and easily. Scalability was key, because profitability was king.
Are the ministries that support your bottom line of transformed lives built in a way that they could scale in size, scope and volunteer base easily? Would your morning worship gathering function properly and effectively if suddenly 30 new outsiders showed up this Sunday? Is your language such that anyone can understand and everyone can learn?
There’s my top six, but now I am dying to hear from all my business friends…what’s number 7,8,9 & 10 that you can teach ME as a pastor to lead and shepherd you better? Comment below, maybe your pastor will read and implement…
Stu and Jen Streeter, together with a few dear friends, planted Disciples Church in 2009 to reach people far from God or church in Folsom, Ca. Stu serves there as Lead Pastor as well as the founder of Church Courage, a consulting group dedicated to giving church leaders the courage they need through coaching, assessments, giving campaigns and more.
To read more of Stu’s Leading Thoughts click here.