Christian School - Ministry or Business?
What is the definition of a “ministry?”
There are many definitions of the word “ministry” and it is used in multiple contexts.
According to Bible.org it is defined as:
“The Greek word in the New Testament that is often translated as “ministry” is diakonia. The basic meaning of this word is “service.” It can refer to tasks as basic as waiting tables (see Acts 6:1), caring for the poor through monetary gifts (see 2 Corinthians 9:12), or proclaiming the gospel (see Acts 20:24).”
In the Bible it normally refers to an individual serving another person to meet their needs, advance the gospel, build the Kingdom and glorify God. In the Bible the word ministry does not refer to an organization.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia lists 5 meanings as follows:
(1) discipleship in general (John 12:26);
(2) service rendered to the church because of the "gifts" bestowed (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:5), and hence, all kinds of service (Acts 6:2; Matthew 20:26);
(3) specifically the "ministry of the Word" (Ephesians 4:12), and most frequently the "apostleship" (Acts 1:17; 20:24; 21:19; Romans 11:13, etc.);
(4) such services as feeding the poor (Acts 6:1; 11:29; 12:25), or organizing and providing the great collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25; 2 Corinthians 8:4,19, etc.);
(5) such services as those rendered by Stephanas (1 Corinthians 16:15), by Archippus (Colossians 4:17), by Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7), etc.
What do we mean when we say an organization is a “ministry?” We are actually referring to the term “para-church ministry.”
Funny thing, a para-church ministry was an unknown concept to the first century church and not defined in Scripture. It was defined by the Christian community.
Go Questions Ministries defines it as:
“A Christian faith-based organization which carries out its mission usually independent of church oversight. The prefix para- is Greek for “beside” or “alongside.” Therefore, the para-church ministry is one that seeks to come alongside the local church, providing in many cases that which the church is less able to provide on its own.”
“an administrative and functional structure (such as a business or a political party) “
A ministry is an organization that comes alongside the church to provide a service to meet people’s needs, advance the gospel, build the Kingdom and glorify God.
What’s the definition of a business?
The Miriam Webster Dictionary defines it as:
“usually commercial or mercantile activity engaged in as a means of livelihood”
Commercial and mercantile activities involve the production of goods for, or the provision of services to a customer. Goods are produced, and services rendered to meet people’s needs. There is an exchange of money or items of value in return for these products or services. The exchange provides a means of livelihood.
Livelihood means, “A means of support or subsistence.”
A business is an organization that provides a product or service that meets the needs of others in exchange for money or other valuable goods and services that fosters the subsistence of both the provider and the customer.
Many businesses are said to be in the “service” industry or are called “service” businesses. The concept of service comes from the Bible.
So, is a Christian school a ministry or a business? The answer to this question is:
It is both, depending on the vantage point.
A ministry is a business, but a business is not a ministry.
Everything that applies to a business, applies to a ministry, but not everything that applies to a ministry applies to a business.
There is one aspect of a ministry that does not apply to a business - its purpose.
A ministry exists to come alongside the church to provide a service to meet people’s needs, advance the gospel, build the Kingdom and glorify God.
A business exists to serve people and meet their needs, but it may not be doing it to advance the gospel, build the Kingdom and glorify God.
A business does not exist to make money. A business exists to achieve a vision or mission - its purpose. Making money is a necessary outcome of that effort.
Businesses that do not know why they exist do not survive. Sears is failing due to a lack of identity or purpose. It ventured into travel, insurance, tires and soon became a jack of all trades and master of none.
A ministry is a business on steroids and so is a Christian school.
Yes, but there are differences in the way a business and ministry operate, right?
True, but they should operate pretty much the same.
In some cases, ministries operate in a more Biblical manner than a business but oftentimes the opposite is true.
A business needs to generate a profit (surplus) to survive and so does a ministry.
A business needs to have clear goals and objectives and so does a ministry.
A business needs to measure results and hold people accountable and so does a ministry.
A business needs strong leadership and governance and so does a ministry.
A business needs a strategic plan and so does a ministry.
A business needs a strong financial plan and so does a ministry.
A business needs to meet the needs of its customers (the people it serves) and so does a ministry.
A business needs to compensate its employees at market rates and so does a ministry.
A business needs a clear organization structure and role definitions and so does a ministry.
A ministry needs to treat people with respect and love and so does a business (research in business has proven this to be true – businesses need to learn this and apply it to be successful).
A ministry needs to be a place where people can maintain a work-life balance and so does a business.
A ministry needs to operate with integrity and so does a business.
A ministry needs to hire the best people for the job and train them well and so does a business.
The truth is in many ways businesses fail to operate properly, but in many ways ministries and Christian schools fail the same test. The biblical organizational principles for operating both are the same, but both struggle to live up to those principles.
Christian schools are businesses on steroids that exist to serve parents and students for the purpose of advancing God’s Kingdom and glorifying Him through education. They should employ all of the biblical organizational principles that businesses should employ, while striving for a much greater purpose.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.