Founder & CEO
Leadership Reality

This is the final installment in a series on what the Church and the business world can learn from one another about leadership. The first post dealt with action and reflection, the second post looked at the relationship between patience and urgency, and the third brought together marketing and mission.

“You get what you pay for.”

Whether we’re talking about guitars, Cadillacs, or 360-degree leadership assessments, that maxim pretty much always holds true. Except for when it doesn’t.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about cost and value. More specifically, we’re going to look at how churches and businesses approach cost and value from different angles.

In all—surprise, surprise—we’re going to see how each can help the other get a better handle on each for the sake of accomplishing their respective missions.

Two Ways to Navigate Cost and Value

The Cost of Value and the Value of Cost

In practical terms, that means churches really know how to stretch a dollar, especially when it comes to human resources. When I led Sojourn, on any given Sunday we’d have 100+ volunteers working to serve the 4,000+ people in attendance across our 4 campuses.

If we had to pay each of those volunteers, we’d have gone broke in a couple of weeks.

Counting the cost is important, of course, but if we left things there, we’d have a thin view of how the Church interacts with her resources. In the Church, value isn’t ultimately about money.

The gifts Christians bring are vital to life in the Church (Eph. 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12-14). They constitute her true wealth. The reason churches can stretch their dollar so far is, or at least it should be, more a function of that reality than of miserliness.

The business world isn’t always quite that resourceful—at least, not in the same way. Especially in thriving companies, the knee-jerk response to a problem is “who can we hire to fix this” rather than where we can find the internal resources to deal with it.

On the plus side, this means businesses know how to recognize and reward value. They won’t hesitate to pay $50,000 for a professionally designed website. Why? Because they know how much more a cheap, yet poorly designed site will cost them in the long run.

There’s plenty for both sides to learn here. Let’s take a closer look.

What Can Church say to Business?

In the Church, a maximal view of human value drives her best efforts at minimizing costs. Here are a few ways she can help business leaders do more with their non-monetary resources.

  • People are your greatest resource. There is a fund of potential in an organization that can never be expressed on a balance sheet. Each employee is created in the image of God and capable of far more than we often think. That’s not just true in a spiritual sense. As studies show, underutilized workers have a significant negative impact on the bottom line.
  • Look within before you look without. Churches, especially small ones, seldom have the luxury of hiring out their problems. Usually, the first question is, “who do we have who can handle this?” In the same way, businesses should challenge their people to step up and fill in the gaps before they start throwing money around.
  • Do more than pay more. Volunteers bring value to an organization that, quite literally, transcends quantification. In the same way, businesses need to recognize the value employees bring in more ways than mere compensation. Money matters, but it takes more than a paycheck to elicit a human being’s full potential.

Bonus: How Southwest Tapped Human Potential to Engage Employees

According to Gallup, employee disengagement is the most pernicious problem on the corporate landscape. More than two-thirds of all American workers don’t like their jobs.  

In 2016, Southwest came up with an ingenious way to engage its employees and steer clear of the disengagement phenomenon sweeping across corporate America.  

That year, the airline decided it was time to update its uniform design to match their overall rebrand. Rather than hire the project out to a designer, they put out a call to all their employees asking for feedback.

After receiving thousands of replies, the company recruited 43 employees to meet twice a month to collaborate on the new uniform design. 19 months later, what they ended up with was a brand new uniform design at a fraction of what it would’ve cost to hire a designer.

More importantly, for those 43 employees, they created an unparalleled opportunity to own their own share of Southwest’s brand image. Money can’t buy that kind of an engagement experience. Even better, that story reverberated well beyond those 43 employees and into the cultural fabric of Southwest as a whole.

Leadership Reality

What Can Business Say to Church?

Like the good and faithful servant in Jesus’ parable, business leaders know how to make a return on investment (Matt 25:14-30). Church leaders who’d rather not become “wicked and slothful” (v. 26) should pay attention to what these leaders have to say.  

  • Treat your members as shareholders. Publicly traded business leaders have to serve their shareholders’ financial interests. While we want to be careful about drawing too straight a line here, what would change if we saw our tithe dollars as kingdom investments and tried to leverage them for the highest return possible?
  • You still do get what you pay for. If you pay a teenager $2,000 to design your church’s website, don’t be surprised when you end up paying a professional $10,000 a few years down the road. Be wise, but spend the money; again, you’re using temporal resources to make an eternal investment.
  • Own your budget. Accountability is necessary for church leadership, just like it is in the corporate environment. Still, it can often be paralyzing. The charge of a church leader is to justify his or her financial decisions in deep conviction about what God has said in His word and where He’s leading the Church. Seek wisdom, trust the Lord, and be prepared to give an account, but don’t feel as though you need to grovel at the feet of the church members you’ve been called to lead.

Putting it Into Practice

Now that we’ve seen what each side can learn from the other, let’s move on to some practical steps that church and business leaders should take to implement these insights.

Business: Stretch Your Dollars

  • Identify your utility players. You’ve got people on your team who are ready and willing to tackle whatever you might throw at them. Do you know who they are? If not, take some time to identify and jot down their names. Next time you’re in a jam, tap someone on your list.
  • Develop an employee motivation strategy. What are you doing to motivate your people to do more than simply earn their paycheck? Using a diverse set of motivators—bonus-pay structure, intra-office competition, verbal praise, etc.—develop a plan for reminding your people of how much they’re valued.
  • Phase out a consultant or three. I’m arguing against self-interest here, but you have to be willing to take a close analytic look your expenditures. Who’ve you brought in to do a job your company can easily handle by itself?

Church: Spend Your Dollars

  • Pay someone to watch the kids once in a while. Volunteers are the backbone of a thriving church ministry, but they’re often overworked and underappreciated. Pay the money once in a while to get your people out of the nursery/foyer/parking lot so that they can all worship together.
  • Shell out for value. Pay a contractor to paint your foyer; hire a landscaper to take care of your grounds; buy good curricula for your members. Honor their faithful and generous giving by focusing on value rather than cost.
  • Trust the Lord. So often, bargain-shopping and penny-pinching say much more about a leader’s fear than it does about their faith. Have you been reluctant to spend just because you’ve stopped believing that the Lord will provide? If so, then the most practical thing you can do right now is repent.


In this post, we’ve seen just how much the Church has to say about value, as well as some of the ways in which that rich understanding fails to make contact with what she thinks about costs.

On the flip side, we’ve seen how businesses rightly see cost as a necessary precursor to value. That’s great, but it often leads businesses to define value in purely monetary terms and, worse, fail to see just how much value they already have in their employees.

With that, I’m bringing this series to a close. As I will continue to argue until I’m blue in the face, church and business leaders have a lot to teach one another about how to thrive in God’s world. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface here.

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