Over the last several years the business world has begun to leverage shared services in dynamic ways. It has allowed businesses to cut costs, and allowed new players to emerge enabled by the scalability of shared services platforms. The private and public sector are constantly looking for ways to move core services to “the cloud” and free up valuable employee time. However, for churches and nonprofits these moves have been slow and sometimes arduous.
There is a great deal of contradiction in this slow embrace of shared services on the part of the church. Protestant denominations in America were early masters of building ministries or “services” to be consumed by the faithful. Mid Councils (dioceses, presbyteries, associations) facilitated work that churches could not do on their own. Even Southern Baptists, with their highly congregational model developed the Cooperative Program has a channel for giving similar to per capita in other mainline bodies. Though in recent years churches and individuals have been less inclined to support greater per capita giving. Stan Ott suggests that congregations encourage members to pay their per capita directly as part of the annual stewardship pledge drive. Ott correctly suggests that if members are more familiar with what their presbytery or the General Assembly does they might be more inclined to support it.
While Ott’s assumption is generally correct, there is an equally good chance that members may be frustrated by how our mid councils spend their money. If dioceses and mid councils want to maintain relevance they have to identify the areas where can offer services that churches struggle to do on their own. Many mid council leaders may fire back and say they have been in “conversation” about shared services–which is of course true, but unfortunately it’s just not enough.
Moving Towards Services…
Churches were the early pioneers in shared services (they just didn’t call it that). If denominational structures have any hope of survival in the 21st century they must identify the new services (or ministries) that need to rise up in their place. The future is exciting for mid-councils that are willing to take risks and grow a new array of shared services.
Stay tuned for more on the potential for shared services in churches.