LAST year, Peter Kerridge of Premier Christian Radio hit on a wizard plan: a series of Monday-night radio programmes during which nine seasoned entrepreneurs from different Christian traditions would be asked how they would set about running the Church. The Church could get free consultancy from some extraordinary leaders, and Premier Radio’s listeners would learn more about nine role-model Christian leaders in business.
SPCK has now brought out the transcripts as this book, and Peter Kerridge has added an overview chapter, and a list of study-group questions.
Everyone can point to things that the Church should change to become more effective, the book says. But it exhorts us to listen with particular care to these nine entrepreneurs, because they are used to making “real-life decisions about how to improve large organisations”.
Kerridge’s interviewees include a co-founder of Mumsnet, Carrie Longton; the chairman of Korn Ferry, Oliver Pawle; and the founder of Christian Vision, Lord Edmiston.
The format makes this an extremely readable book, full of sensible thinking from across the denominations about what might improve the Churches’ fortunes. The study-group questions are a particularly useful starting-point.
Generally, the entrepreneurs are relaxed about the mixed economy of church provision in the UK. The patchwork of denominations and styles means that there is something for everyone, and the Churches should work harder to see past their divisions to the huge opportunity for collaboration. Leadership within the Churches should be shared, and the clergy at the heart of the leadership team should be better trained in modern communication channels, since communication is at the heart of their task.
The interviewees remind us all of the importance of prayer, and of listening to both God and the communities that we serve; and the entrepreneurs share a clear sense that the wider mission of the Churches is to those beyond the pews. They believe that those within the church family could give more to finance this effort, which would also make better use of under-utilised buildings during the week. In their view, this outreach would lead naturally to evangelism; so it would be the best way to drive church growth. If the Churches are more actively loving rather than caught up in arguments about doctrine, they will appear more relevant and attractive to the unchurched.
Of course, much of what is suggested in this book is already happening within the Churches, just
not consistently so. The labyrinthine decision-making processes of most central Churches’ structures would make the national roll-out of any
of the initiatives outlined here extremely challenging. But that is perhaps good news, because most local churches, therefore, have the freedom to make their own way, and the advice that this book contains is food for thought for anyone involved in local church leadership.
I also liked the challenge to current thinking on growth: it has been assumed that raising up more clergy is the best way to drive growth, whereas these entrepreneurs argue that growth is more likely to arise from lay-led community engagement that demonstrates God’s love to those outside existing church structures.
Dr Eve Poole is an associate research fellow of the William Temple Foundation, and an associate of the St Paul’s Institute. Her book Leadersmithing: Revealing the trade secrets of leadership is published by Bloomsbury.
If Entrepreneurs Ran the Church: New visions for an old Church
SPCK £9.99 (978-0-281-07800-4)
Church Times Bookshop £9