Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why Churches should not be run as businesses.

Attendent: Hello, welcome to McGnosis! May I take your order.

Seeker: Yes, just a moment, I want to look at the menu.

Attendent: Can I interest you in the value package? That's Gnosis, a side order of Enlightenment, and a Baptism, all for 10% of your income.

Seeker: Well, I'm not sure that works for me. Can I order a la Carte?

Attendent: Of course. We just ask for a lighting fund surcharge, to keep the Enlightentment bulbs going.

Seeker: That seems fair. Say, what makes you different from Gnosis King down the street?

Attendent: We use 100% Apostolically Ordained Clergy, Candles made from Beeswax, and our sacraments are specifically approved by the McPatriarch!

Seeker: I see.

Attendent: If you sign a 2 year contract, you get weekly Eucharist, a free Gnostic Tractate containing the McNagHammadi Codexes and an Archonic Measurement, to colorfully display your progress.

Seeker: Am I requried to get the St. Thomas shrine? I've never been into saints, really.

Attendent: Well, it's not recommended to be without one, but we can put you on a payment plan, and deliver it on Thursday.

Seeker: Well, OK. I think I'll get the Value Package, and order a thomas shrine for later.

Attendent (handing over bag): Here you go! May Gnosis be with you.

Seeker: Wait, where's my light saber?

Attendent: You get that from Jedi Shack, down the street.


Shawn™ said...


Joe Daher said...

The best post I've ever seen.


Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

This is really creative and a great parody, but such comic frames don't usually solve problems in organizations. But your warning is well taken--AJC would not be served well by adopting a corporate/consumer mentality, but the challenges of daily life still need to be addressed.

Cheerfully, RK

Jordan Stratford+ said...

Seeker: I'd like to learn about Gnosticism, can I talk to somebody at your church?

Clergy: Umm, that'd be me

Seeker: I'm really having a crisis, can I come over now?

Clergy: No, I have to go to work

Seeker: Umm, okay, is there a counsellor there I can talk to?

Clergy: Umm, no, she's at work

Seeker: Oh, you don't have anybody who just works for the church?

Clergy: Nope.

Seeker: That's a shame, can I make a charitable donation?

Clergy: We're not, um, registered

Seeker: Oh, well that's okay I guess, I'll just make it out to the Parish

Clergy: We don't have a bank account

Seeker: Well, um, okay, how about I pay you to speak at our conference?

Clergy: That'd be great but I can't get the time off work

Seeker: I know these guys who would hire you, you just need an MDiv

Clergy: Well I have some college, but couldn't afford tuition

Seeker: Oh, doesn't your church pay for school?

Clergy: Excuse me, just choking on my tongue.

Seeker: Well, is your church's seminary accredited?

Clergy: They were going to get around to that... but there's only so much time with everybody having day jobs. Well there was that one fellow who went priest full time...

Seeker: What happened to him?

Clergy: Starved to death. Was going to go to the funeral, but couldn't get the time off work. Speaking of which, would you like fries with that?

Scott Rassbach said...


Your point is well taken.

However, the above experience you depict happened to my family, when I tried to get comfort and counseling for my wife from the local ELCA church. Their day job was RUNNING THE CHURCH. They had little time to connect to their parishioners.

I'm not hostile to bank accounts and buildings and seminaries. I'm hostile to the idea that these things are IMPORTANT, rather than USEFUL. Often they get in the way.

"Material things are to be used, and people cherished. Immorality is made manifest when people are used, and material things cherished."

I have no problem with us becoming a church with worldly possessions. I'm simply the voice of caution in the wilderness. I don't want us to become a church OF worldly possessions, where we have more meetings of the building committee than people working to use the building to alleviate suffering, like a catholic parish here.

Perhaps it's early to make that point, but I'd rather have it be made early and often: We may do business-like things, but we ARE NOT A BUSINESS.

Jordan Stratford+ said...

"I'm simply the voice of caution in the wilderness."

No, you're not. Well, you're a voice of caution (certainly not "the"), but you're not in the wildnerness. Because we're all here with you.

Nobody is saying we should be a business, run a profit, "productize" or increase market share. We want to help the people in front of us and engage in meaningful work from pastoral care to publishing and events and conferences and research and art shows and film festivals (grin).

All I am advocating – all anyone is advocating – is professionalism while we conduct the above. Get registered, set up bank accounts, be accountable, pay staff and clergy and have space that's not in our homes: staffed space where seekers can drop in to light a candle, borrow a book, or just have a cup of coffee and have someone listen. That doesn't make us Starbucks. It doesn't make us "about" our bank balance. But to be responsible to the work at hand (and I know the work is at your hand! You're kicking ass down there I hear) then we need to get our poop in a group, organizationally and financially.

Why am I alone in saying the church shouldn't torture kittens? Oh, maybe because nobody is saying it should. Okay there's that one guy but we called security.

Non sequiter! 2 beer penalty, my friend.

- Father Jordan

Scott Rassbach said...

Well, there's certainly room in the Church for a variety of models. Personally, I think if the parish gets much above 25 families per clergy member, it's getting unmanageable.

I wish you well in your efforts, and hope to someday be at that point. don't know about kicking ass, but we are taking names. :-)

And I know that noone is advocating becoming McGnosis outlet. I'm just leery of the day when that not only seems possible, but there's not even any debate on it. Any system is eventually co-opted. It's the nature of the systemic beast.

Hopefully, it won't happen in my lifetime.