Ministering to Business People in Your Congregation

Ministering to Business People in Your Congregation

Five do's and don'ts to effectively engage and empower for the mission of God. 

I’ve been serving alongside business professionals in congregations for over 20 years. During that time, I have come to some conclusions, more accurately labeled “relevant insights,” regarding how to engage and empower business professionals in the congregations that I have led and served. 

Presently I serve the people of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, United States, as the minister of discipleship. Our sanctuary seats, ministry committees, and volunteer leadership positions are filled with business professionals. On any given day, I can speak with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a small business owner, a marketing professional, a venture capital investor, a financial advisor, an entrepreneur . . . and the list goes on.

It should be noted that many of the people I converse with may not be “business professionals” per se but professionals none the less, such as university presidents, professors, retired pastors, attorneys, and nurses.

Regardless of whether they are experienced executives or inexperienced interns right out of college, there is something they all want to talk and think about: Jesus.

Looking for Guidance

Most of the business professionals in my congregation are incredibly captivated by the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and how they can be Jesus to those they encounter daily where they work, live, and play. They are hungry to know how to best understand, love, and serve God and others the way Jesus did, and they are looking for the church to guide them. 

There is also something they seem to not want to talk about: business! Sure, there is the occasional person who desires to tell me what’s going on in his or her professional life when I ask, “How are you?” For the most part, however, people in my context want to talk with me about who Jesus is and how they can deepen their Christian commitment.

I admit that there is a bit of me that can be captivated by their world. The mergers and acquisitions, the latest invention or tech gadget they are working on, the corporate language they toss around conference rooms, the sales projections, the marketing tips and tricks: All of these, at times, fascinate me. But do you know what business people want me, as one of their pastors and leaders, to be fascinated by? The person and work of Jesus Christ.

Captivated by Jesus 

Business professionals and non-business professionals don’t want me to be fascinated with their world. They want me to be fascinated with what captivates them and what should captivate all of us— Jesus. Effectively engaging and empowering the professionals in our congregations can be distilled to one overarching theme: the person and work of Jesus.

With this in mind, I’d like to offer these five Do’s and five Don’ts for faithfully and fruitfully ministering to business people and other professionals in our congregations as we point them to Jesus:

Do’s

  1. Do seek out and leverage their assets and skill-sets to accomplish the church’s purpose.
    • Business people and other successful professionals have unique skills to offer, and it is up to the church to recognize how the talents and gifts that God has graced them with can be utilized, with the goal of furthering the purpose and mission of our churches.
  2. Do ask them to help evaluate you and make your leadership better and stronger. 
    • Most business people and professionals that I know have regular and formal processes for evaluation and goal setting. A long time ago, I learned to ask those who daily live in that world to evaluate me in my efforts. This practice engages business people and professionals in what really matters while strengthening our own ability to lead for the good of the whole community.
  3. Do help them pause and find a way to refuel.
    • As their pastor or another key leader in their lives, it is important for us to help business professionals know how to say “no” to being involved in too much. Model for the business people and professionals in your church what it looks like to be disciplined enough to say “no” and to rest and refuel for the sake of the mission of God.
  4. Do encourage them in their vocation.
    • Many of the business people and professionals in my context think that the daily work they are doing is not as “important” as the work of the pastor. This is a myth and must be addressed. God calls and equips all of us to be ministers of reconciliation in our own unique and particular vocations and occupations, and it all always matters.
  5. Do meet them on their turf.
    • I like to visit the business people and professionals in their setting and watch them carry out their daily work. It energizes me to see people in my congregation doing what God has uniquely gifted them to do. At the same time, it can be a great way to encourage and support the business people and professionals in your church, showing them you care and that you want to learn from them.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t communicate that you are busier than they are.
    • I think one of the worst things pastors or lay leaders can do for the culture and morale of their church is to walk around communicating about how busy they are. Busy people are often lazy people, meaning they may work hard but are not disciplined enough to keep their calendar from eating them up.
    • In addition, as pastors and leaders, it is important to make sure that we aren’t communicating with our words or actions that we are busier than the people we serve. Everyone is busy, but the real trick is being faithful and fruitful while not letting your calendar consume you.
  2. Don’t assume they are too busy to help.
    • Business people and other professionals want to be asked to help. Don’t assume that because they are busy or in demand that they are unwilling to give up some of their valuable time for a greater cause—the mission of God and purpose of the local church. 
  3. Don’t communicate that what you do is less important than what they do.
    • As I stated at the outset of this article, the congregation members want their pastor to be about Jesus. They believe that you are vital to their ongoing personal and corporate faith formation. As a minister, the words, “I am just the pastor,” should never leave your lips. 
  4. Don’t communicate that what you do is more important than what they do.
    • This principle works both ways. Business people often feel drawn to the daily work of the church. I often have conversations with people who are feeling a call towards ministry. Some people may indeed be called to leave their workplace and accept a call to church work. Others, however, may be best suited and can make the most impact in the world by seeing their current occupation as their vocation and mission field.
  5. Don’t assume they are good at the position they hold.
    • Not all business people and other professionals are highly skilled at what they do. Be careful not to invite a person to lead in a particular position in your church just because he or she holds a similar position in his or her occupation. Be careful and discerning in who you choose and for which role you choose them.

In the end, as pastors, lay leaders, and congregants, our global mission in life is to participate with God to restore the world to its intended wholeness. We must figure out the best practices and invent new ways of engaging and empowering the business people and professionals in our congregations to serve God’s great restoration project.

Most people, deep down in their very core, want to know, love, and serve God by living in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus is always what matters the most.

Chris Folmsbee is minister of discipleship at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, owner of Burlap (thinkburlap.com), and author of more than a dozen books.

Holiness Today, May/Jun 2018.