Business or Ministry?


Years ago, I found myself serving a three-year term on the Executive Committee at the Church my family was attending at the time. The Committee Chairman had called and asked if I’d consider volunteering, and in a moment of weakness, I agreed.

When I hung up the phone my wife asked me what I had just signed up for? “I have no idea,” was my reply.

Pastor Ken, our Senior Pastor, made my role abundantly clear in our first meeting when he said, “you take care of the business, and I take care of the ministry.”

Over the next three years, our committee focused on business issues like fundraising campaigns, budgets, building maintenance, and staff hiring/firing. This allowed Pastor Ken to concentrate on caring for the congregation, outreach, and delivering a great message every Sunday.

Our church found a healthy balance between business and ministry. I believe many funeral home owners struggle with this issue. They see funeral service as a ministry, but they also have to make payroll, pay taxes, and keep the business profitable.

The key to success for many of you is maintaining the balance between business and ministry. In this newsletter, I‘ll give you three balancing tips.

Tip #1 – Don’t hire yourself

As your business grows, you are going to need to hire more staff. Many owners will look for a candidate they are comfortable with when hiring, and that often means hiring someone just like themself. That’s a mistake.

Owners often underestimate how hard it is to find someone who can comfortably switch roles between business and ministry. If you happen to find one, they probably won’t stay long because that person is destined to run their own funeral home.

You should always hire someone who complements your skills instead of duplicating them. If you are stronger on the business side, you should hire the ministry person or vice versa.

To get better at hiring people, take the skills test at Kolbe.com. Once you understand your strengths and weaknesses, it’s a lot easier to hire someone who complements you.

By the way, if you don’t know the difference between compliment and complement, look it up. Otherwise, you’ll completely miss the point of this tip.

Tip #2 – Make charity a line item in your budget

Pastor Ken could be described as a very giving man. We often joked that as soon as the offering plate would fill up, Ken would look for ways to give it away.

Funeral homes that operate more as a ministry than a business often struggle to survive because they give away more than they can afford. As one owner told me, “if I had a penny for every dollar of bad debt I’ve written off over the years, I’d be a rich man.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being charitable. You should just plan for how much you can afford to give, put it in your budget, and then stop giving when you’ve reached the limit.

Tip #3 –  Fix your marketing message

Always keep in mind that people expect to pay a business, but they expect a ministry to help them for free. If you are getting too many families asking for charity, there’s a good chance that your marketing message makes you sound like a ministry.

You may have heard of the concept of the “Law of Attraction,” which means that whatever you put out into the world is what you will get back. When it comes to marketing, this “Law” works every time.

If your marketing message is focused on trust, you will attract people with trust issues.

If your marketing message is focused on compassion, you will attract people looking for a ministry instead of a business. 

Your marketing message should build the case for why a family should choose you. The case should never be based on character attributes or fiction. Instead, it should be based on facts.

Your character is important, but you can’t lead with it because your competitors could claim the same thing.

Fiction never works in the long term. Sure, I could craft a great message that will make your phone ring, but as soon as someone realizes that the message isn’t valid, you have just earned yourself a one-star Google review.

The best marketing messages are always based on facts that your competitors cannot also claim. 

For example, if you have the only combo in town, use that fact. If you have the only single-story, ADA-compliant funeral home, use that point. 

Stick to the facts, and your marketing message will be much more effective.

Pastor Ken once told me that he never really appreciated business people until the church’s roof collapsed. Fortunately, the Executive Committee had a rainy day fund to pay for the repairs and his ministry continued without missing a beat.

Balancing business and ministry is tricky, but it is an essential thing to master if you want your funeral home (or church) to survive to serve future generations.

Until next time

John

 

PS: Fixing your marketing message is what I do best. If you need help on this issue, contact me

John Callaghan

Fractional Chief Marketing Officer for Funeral Business Builders

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