Although operating in very different environments to the churches them-selves, these faith-based businesses have nonetheless attempted to create management structures based on precedents found in the Bible, in the organisation of the early church and in monastic endeavours. Among their management strategies are some notable examples of faith-inspired structures that might prove of interest to purely ecclesiastical bodies. As this study demonstrates, these include some innovative approaches such as:
- Flat management structures (e.g. Quaker ideals of consensus through meetings)
- Hierarchical management structures (such as the paternalistic model)
- Equal opportunity employment (pioneered in some Christian co-operative bodies long before the approach became mainstream)
- Business relationships built on trust (such as business-to-business collaboration among Quakers and among Methodists)
- Subsidiarity, or delegation of decision-making and implementation to the lowest level (a concept championed by the Roman Catholic Church)
- Holistic management: taking account of the needs of families and children
- Peer to peer recruitment and mentoring
- Triple bottom line accounting, or social accounting (which has been pioneered by social enterprises in recent years)
A simple glance at the above will indicate not just a plurality of management and strategic approaches taken by faith-based business, but some that are in direct opposition to one another. They also stand in opposition to some long-standing church policies: the policies of equal opportunity employment pioneered by Roman Catholic co-operatives, for example, make for instructive comparison with the employment practices of the church itself.
Furthermore, one other model commonly employed to describe managerial behaviour is the ‘servant-leader’, based on Biblical precedent. Often cited but used in such a diverse array of situations, the concept is too general and subjective to be considered as a definable management approach or technique, although it is mentioned in this research whenever the term is appropriated.
The various faith-based business sectors are not without their success stories, although over the long term history demonstrates another very clear reason why the church might be wary of dabbling too deep in the market: commercial success tends to draw such organisations away from their founding principles. One only needs to consider such diverse British businesses as Lloyds Bank, Barclays Bank and Cadbury plc (all Quaker foundations) and Hartley’s jam (an enterprise informed by its founder’s devout Methodism) to realise that faith has made a lasting mark on the consumer sector, but the businesses themselves have long abandoned any theological foundation. In recent months yet another major entity with a faith heritage has taken a step towards joining these secular ranks, following the sale of around 80 per cent of the Co-operative Bank to hedge funds.