An interesting Mind Experiment

I’m thinking this week about a mind experiment that relates to church, but first some background in education. A few decades ago higher education was pretty much the exclusive domain of not-for-profit institutions with sprawling campuses and a large faculty who “shared the governance” of the institution. Then along came John Sperling who thought he might be able to run an educational institution more efficiently like a business than an educational institution—and make some money doing it to boot. Sure there were problems: a college run for profit would have to pay taxes and people couldn’t give tax-deductible donations to it, but this man thought his efficiency program would make up for these things. His plan was four-fold:

1. Target a group missed by traditionalists (in his case it was working adults who were stuck if they couldn’t go in the daytime to traditional classes).

2. Invent a new delivery system to reach this group (in his case hold classes in the evenings after they got off work, and later Internet classes).

3. Save bezillions of dollars on staff (in his case using mostly part-time adjuncts to teach instead of expensive full time professors).

4. Advertise so aggressively they can’t ignore you (in his case with multi-million dollar media blitzes).

The result is the University of Phoenix with a half-million students that is a for-profit company that competes briskly with the non-profit cartel of educational institutions and in the process makes hundreds of millions of dollars for its founder and its shareholders. When the University of Phoenix started, traditional educators scoffed and predicted collapse in a few years. It did not collapse but became the pioneer and model for other business-run educational institutions like the Christian Grand Canyon University that makes money for their owners.

OK, that’s the background in education, now to the church and the intriguing mind experiment: If you were to invent a private company to plant and grow a church, and named yourself President, what sort of changes would you make in the way you’d do church? Don’t freak out—this is only a mind experiment, but play along and you’ll have fun and maybe we’ll gain some great insights. If your church was a business and you were the owner, what would you do differently regarding staff, delivery systems, finances, and operations? Now, don’t skip to the “what we can learn” part too fast—do the experiment first… if you were the church’s owner instead of the people what would you do differently?

So, what do you think?

The discussion of this column is on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/profile.php?id=161502633

Keith Drury February 1, 2011


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