Why Churches SHOULD Compete


If your church wants to be better, maybe it should start competing with other churches.

If your church wants to be better, maybe it should start competing with other churches.

Judging from the reactions I get from some church people after I say that, you’d think I’d suggested adding Justin Bieber to the Holy Trinity.

Some of us have become afraid of the word competition. We think the concept is worldly, even evil. But competition doesn’t need to be a bad thing. At its best, competition can make everyone stronger.

In the church world, fear of competition comes largely from a misconception commonly heard in economics discussions. Some of us think that the number of potential church members in a community make up a pie, and that the size of that pie is fixed. Each church gets a piece of that pie, and the only way to get a bigger piece is to take pie from the other churches.

This simply isn’t so. Here’s why.

In the business world, if a product has reached market saturation, then the pie analogy starts to have some validity. Theoretically, once there are no new customers for a particular type of product, competing vendors are forced to go after each other’s customers to increase their market share.

But Christianity is nowhere near market saturation, so churches don’t need to compete for the same people.

The reality, of course, is that a congregation that is effective at attracting the unchurched is also going to occasionally steal a few sheep from the church down the street. This is normal, and it need not be taken personally. There’s a big difference between directly targeting another church’s members and attracting them while trying to reach a different group.

Remember, people in the pews often have the same hang-ups about church as the ones who aren’t already part of a congregation—they just haven’t figured out how to escape yet. There’s no way to attract one group without appealing to the other. 

So what’s the point of competing if it isn’t to destroy the competition?

Well, for one, to raise the bar and improve everyone’s game. Competition can be friendly.

Consider one-on-one basketball. Although you want to win every time you play, if you have half a brain you also want your friend’s game to improve as well. Why? Because that pushes you to continue to raise the level of your game.

Playing against scrubs is good for your ego, but it won’t make you a better basketball player.

Shane Raynor Shane Raynor is an editor and columnist for MinistryMatters.com. He lives in Nashville, TN.

More from Shane Raynor or visit Shane at http://ministrymatters.com

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  • http://www.tylorstandley.com Tylor Standley

    I find nothing edifying or biblical about this article. I reject the premise that churches should be attracting the unchurched in the first place. Church ought to be a training hub for missionaries. Our goal isn’t to get lost people to church, but to Jesus. “Iron sharpens iron” is hardly a call to some spiritualized-capitalism in which we get things (much less people) for ourselves. This view undercuts the core teaching of Christ, which is that we should be servants of all (yes, even other churches [yes, even in other denominations]). Competition is not humility; it is not service. It is a way to display one’s own dominance. Moreover, the article doesn’t even present anything new. Churches already act this way in order to gain numbers–and it is utterly failing. Why must we corporatize the Kingdom of God?

    • Tim

      Well said Tylor

    • http://www.shaneraynor.com/ Shane Raynor

      Tylor, I’m afraid the article you’re criticizing isn’t the article I wrote. You don’t seem to have grasped my distinction between friendly competition and unfriendly competition. And your assertion that churches already act this way…if only! The vision of competition I’ve put forth isn’t one where each church tries to put the other out of business, but one where each church pushes the other toward excellence. Your comment seems to come from the notion that all capitalism is bad—it’s not. And there are plenty of lessons Christians can learn from the world of business.


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