Problems with church planting: Too many farmers

The move to focus on church planting strikes me as a massive welfare to work program for the newly minted pastors that SBC seminaries are churning out by the busload. All those pastors need to find jobs in order to pay off their student loans and make a living. The only market with a demand for their skills are the church businesses. And since there aren’t enough existing churches to meet the supply, in fact the demand is decreasing, the only other alternative to lessening the supply (which would mean discouraging people from pursuing theological degrees in the hopes of being employed in a clergy capacity) is to try and salt the market.

This means pastors are expected to become entrepreneurs and start new businesses in risky markets in hopes that demand will follow supply is strikingly similar to what Starbucks tried to do through their opening of hundreds of stores, many times in close proximity to one another, and having them basically fight for survival. I’m sure Starbucks considers the fraction of stores that managed to survive on razor thin profit margins a net gain. But at what cost in both capital as well as manpower? For each store that succeeds you have to factor in the numerous stores that failed in order to get a more accurate understanding of the costs incurred. This, of course, assumes that growth, indeed exponential growth in many cases, is required and not optional. It is. Other business models, specifically that of Chick-fil-A show us that real success comes through careful observation of the market, self-assessment, planning, and implementation. Chick-fil-A doesn’t plant very many stores compared to other businesses in their industry, but the ones they plant have a much higher chance of being successful and self-sufficient.

By contrast, it is a widely known and accepted fact that the vast majority of church plants fail in less than 5 years. And even though it is never a pleasant circumstance when a business fails, it is even more tragic when the business that fails is headed by someone fresh out of seminary, sporting large personal and business debts. What I find mildly amusing is that the SBC condemns gambling (and drinking) and yet it seems hell bent on putting the unfortunate pastoral entrepreneur on the fast track to doing both.

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