This is Part I of two blog posts based on my interview via phone with Peter Kerridge on August 25, 2017.
If entrepreneurs ran the church, then what? Peter Kerridge, Chief Executive of Premier Media, London, UK has written a recently-released book by that title (IVP, 2017). With an audience of more than one million people every week across the different media platforms, Premier represents a strong Christian voice in the UK. Part of what we they do is to campaign on issues of concern to all Christians in the UK.
Peter Kerridge asks eight highly successful entrepreneurs from different Christian traditions how they would set about running the Church. One of the entrepreneurs featured is Lord Robert Edmiston, keynote speaker and recipient of the Entrepreneurial Leaders Award in Vancouver in 2015.
RG: What motivated you to write this book?
PK: The book is a compendium of a radio show that I drummed up. It seemed to be that there were a lot of fantastically gifted men and women who are very able in their own professions and have been very successful over the years and their skill sets were not being evidenced in churches that I have seen. I have been involved in church life all my life, so I know a bit about church, and a bit about business, and I’ve seen that there is a huge mismatch. And so what I was trying to do in the radio show was to get some really good people to come and just imagine what it would be like if they actually ran the church. The radio show happened, and from the radio show we made the book.
RG: And so if you’ve talked to church members, do you think church members would run for cover if entrepreneurs were running the church?
PK: No, I don’t, because generally people who run successful businesses have working for them very engaged employees. Those who run very successful charities have working for them, at all different kinds of levels, very engaged volunteers. So, it’s not necessarily the case that it’s hard-nosed business versus very caring church.
RG: Let’s say that entrepreneurs have innovation at the heart of what they do, so when you talk to these entrepreneurs, and when they look at the church, what do they see is missing from an entrepreneurial stand point? What’s the core thing they can bring to the church environment?
PK: Well, first of all, I did about 9 or 10 interviews with some very, very successful people and no one interview was the same. I asked the questions to each of them and each one of them gave a very different answer. So those entrepreneurs would run the church in very different ways. But each of the ones I interviewed would definitely make significant changes to the churches that they currently experience.
RG: What were the top 2 or 3 changes that came up consistently among that group?
PK: There are a number of common principles, and they centred around use of plants, use of buildings, use of people, use of finance, the digital experience, the way to reach out to communities and pastoral care. All of them had various things to say in each of those areas.
RG: What would be some specific examples that they gave in terms of things the church could do differently to be more effective in its mission?
PK: Let’s just use some common things that came through.
One was that generally they felt that their skill sets weren’t valued and appreciated within their local church context, and that the particular spirit which they epitomized was not only not appreciated, but it was positively downplayed. So the idea of vision casting, goal setting would be seen as not a spiritual discipline. The idea of mobilizing people around core priorities wouldn’t necessarily be something that church leadership teams would want to gravitate to.
The idea that he would take resources from one area and put them into another would be quite difficult and the ways decisions are made, in fact, decision making was a big one. How everything has to go through committee and the committee can deliberate for hours and yet business people who would have to sit on the finance committee (because they would generally have money and the church would be thinking maybe these guys could bail me out) they would think that they could get through the agenda in a fraction of the time but actually they have to go along with the train moving at the pace of the slowest member. And all of those things were definitely conversation pieces.
RG: What would be some changes that entrepreneurs would like to see? Were there some specific things that these entrepreneurs suggested?
PK: One entrepreneur was absolutely passionate about the waste of church building resources and the money that goes into all of that, and working out in real terms how many people could be served by one congregation in one area living and working out their faith. Just that one thought has huge, huge possibilities for how churches should inter-react and cooperate together. And there is so much wastage in the church across the world, with people having their own congregations and setting up churches, having church building programs and all of the energy and resources when there’s a church pretty similar just around the block.
RG: Did you find that these entrepreneurs were generally quite collaborative in terms of looking at how the church could work with other churches, other para-church organizations? Did you find they had certain traits or an orientation that was quite different than what would exist within most church leadership?
PK: There was all of that. There was definitely a much more focussed approach to outcomes and definitely a feeling that so much time and energy was wasted because it wasn’t focussed enough. And definitely a feeling that church leaders were generally trying to either keep a machine that wasn’t working very well running rather than trying to re-invent the machine or if a machine that they felt was working to their own satisfaction, very keen to see that continue even though it wasn’t really making an impact on the community around. So a church of 200 people in a population of 100,000, even it feels like a healthy church, probably isn’t as impactful as it could be.