Peter Kerridge, If Entrepreneurs Ran the Church: New Visions for Old Church, (London: SPCK, 2017). 180 pages.
Entrepreneurship is a word that is beginning to move beyond the 1980s stereotypes of money, profit, and capitalism to be applied to a variety of different contexts, not least to the church. There has been some writing on the value of entrepreneurial principles for social good and in church leaders (such as Michael Volland’s The Minister As Entrepreneur), rather than for material gain. In If Entrepreneurs Ran the Church, Peter Kerridge returns to the more traditional bastion of entrepreneurship — business — to gain wisdom for the church from the practices and advice of successful entrepreneurs who are also Christian. The book is structured in eight chapters, each one an interview with an entrepreneur, bookended by an introduction and overview from Kerridge himself.
Being practicing Christians, almost all of those interviewed specified a desire for a church leader who is prayerful, steeped in scripture, and who is spiritually trained. Their advice that teams should be built reflecting a range of strengths is obvious, but speaks against a still pervading assumption that the lead minister can run a one-man or one-woman show. Similarly, many spoke of using digital technologies well to increase the profile of the church, with the recognition that this will only be effective if the ‘core product’ is attractive. Another point of agreement is the problem of the increasing number of multi-parish amalgamations and fewer clergy. Ray George of DMS Stationary sums it up:
‘I don’t agree with clergy having five churches to look after; how on earth can they do that? It’s impossible. And those churches won’t grow… So if you’ve got five churches, perhaps you should pick the strongest one, shut the other four and minister to that one.’
This point is in broad agreement with the outcomes of the 2014 research-based Church of England report, From Anecdote to Evidence, which stated that churches are more likely to grow when there is one minister to one community (p. 25).
The most helpful advice comes in the area of resourcing. Oliver Pawle, chairman of a executive consultancy organisation, notes that currently only a tiny minority of church members supply around 80% of the income and volunteer hours in the Church. Upping this minority from 7% to a fairly modest 10% might dramatically affect the impact of a church. Grant Masom, IT entrepreneur, agrees that,
‘in God’s economy we have the resources that we need in order to fulfil God’s purposes’ (p. 98).
But where Pawle focuses on upping the numbers, Masom suggests starting by working with the level of resources you have and setting manageable goals from there — goals that are large enough to stretch out in faith, but that do not seem unachievable. If goals are not stretching enough all we will end up doing is managing decline.
I am of the opinion that the Church can always learn from those who have excelled in other fields. This book is a contribution to the debate on church leadership and management from successful entrepreneurs, and is to be welcomed. It is an interesting and helpful but ultimately not groundbreaking book for those in church leadership and on PCCs. What they are right about is that change is necessary.