Should You Mix Religion and Business?

B & H Photo and Video
B & H Photo and Video even closes its website on the Jewish sabbath.

Religion today is very much a big business. Billions of dollars a year is spent on books, tapes, videos, seminars, etc. We’ve come to expect it as a society. But, there seems to be another form of “business and religion” growing in popularity. “Regular” businesses (for lack of a better word), infusing religion (or faith) into their operations or marketing. It this good for business? Or, like politics, is it too taboo a subject to bring up with your prospective clients.

I’ve always been fascinated by businesses that are brave enough to proclaim their faith boldly in their mission statement and/or marketing materials. As divisive as the topic is, one would think bringing it up with your prospects would be a bad move. Based on what I’ve seen so far, the opposite seems true. Here are just a handful of examples. (All of these examples are Judeo-Christian related. If you know of any businesses who express another faith in their business ops, please feel free to share in the comments):

  • The fast food chain Chick-fil-A is pretty open about it’s Christian foundation. So much so that they are closed on Sundays.
  • Hobby Lobby (one of the most successful arts & crafts and home decor businesses) has a mission statement that talks about “honoring the Lord” and giving credit to His provision. They are also closed on Sundays.
  • B&H Photo is owed by Orthodox Jews and not only are they closed on the Jewish sabbath, but you can’t even make a purchase from their website on the Jewish sabbath. (This post is being published on Saturday. If you’re reading it on Saturday, after you finish, hop on over to their site to test for yourself.)
  • Last week I talked about Christian Brothers Automotive, an extremely success auto services chain overt about it’s faith roots.

But it’s not just large corporations embracing this practice. Within the filmmaking and photography industries, I see it a lot. Jeremy Cowart, Jasmine Star, David Jay, Mike Colon, Kenny Mosher, and Mark & Trisha Von Lanken just to name a few. All are wildly successful and all either proclaim their faith on their websites, or have been publicly open about it. Even yours truly.

So, should you mix religion and business? That’s up to you. You obviously don’t have to to be a success. But, there are clearly enough examples of success stories that prove you needn’t be afraid to mix the two.

What’s your take on this topic?

15 thoughts on “Should You Mix Religion and Business?

  1. Good point Ron. I’m a christian too and I don’t have any problem letting my customers know who I’m or what I believe. Of course, it’s not the first thing I bring during a sales meeting as I’m there to sell my services and not my faith. My faith is to share freely. I consider myself a christian first and a videographer second so we never book jobs on Sunday.

    Like you said, I also admire the big corporations like BH that embrace their faith and make it part of their business practices. That’s one of the reason why I promote them as well.

  2. Ron,
    I don’t like companies that push their religious ideas on a customer or the ones that use their religion as a marketing tool.

    I do however, love it when a business isn’t afraid to show their beliefs. You, Mike Colon, and Dan Cathy of Chik-fil-A come to mind. I think that the Lord will bless the businesses of those people who aren’t scared to take a stance and proclaim their faith.

    I for one love Jesus and am not scared to admit it, but I will not use Him as a marketing tool.

    1. Hey Rusty,

      Thanks so much for your comment. That is a very interesting point you make: the difference between be open and freely sharing your faith (even in your company mission statement) and forcing your faith. I hope no one who reads my blog ever feels like I’m trying to FORCE them to do anything. I appreciate and honored to be grouped among the people you mentioned.

      I have a different take on your comment about using your faith as a marketing tool though. What of the Orthodox Jew photog who uses his faith to market to other Jews who want to know they can hire a photog that is fully aware of the rites and rules of a bar/bat mitzvah. Or the LDS videographer who markets his faith to LDS brides for similar reasons. I think there is room to use faith as a marketing tool, to a certain extent. Where I have a problem are the religious leaders of the world using their faith in a way that takes advantage of others.

  3. I personally don’t think you should or shouldn’t mix religion with business.. But I do think if you are, you should be mindful of how you do it. It’s rather obnoxious when people position it as a selling point rathen than a passing “this is how we feel”. God should not be a product offering.

    1. I agree John. But that’s true about everything. In every way you market your business it’s always in HOW you do it. Someone may objectively be the most award-winning photographer in their city. But if they position it in a way that’s arrogant and condescending, that would be a poor business judgment call. I think all the businesses I mentioned involve their faith/religion in a way that works.

  4. What a timely post for us. We have been working on various ideas on how to incorporate our Christian faith in our wedding photography business. We love to work with couples who live Christ-centered lives.

    So my questions revolve around whether positioning ourselves in the market as photographers who want to shoot weddings for that kind of client is inappropriate in the sense of using our religion as a marketing tool or if it is just stating our target market? Also, I wonder if there are other negative repercussions or unintended consequences to that kind of a business position.

    1. Hey Tim,

      If you proposition yourself though specifically looking for Christian clients, you will most definitely turn off non-Christians. I don’t think that’s a good thing. Whereas I know for a fact that Mike Colon has plenty of non-Christian clients (who pay him good money) despite his overt faith on his website that says he honors “his lord and savior Jesus Christ.” But he doesn’t self-select out of non-Christian clients, he’s just stating what’s important to him.

      I’m a Christian. But if someone referred a really excellent Buddhist CPA to me, I wouldn’t let that belief keep me from hiring him just because he has Buddhist saying on his card or website. Make sense.

      On a more personal note, one Christian to another, I think specifically targeting only Christians kind of goes against the great Commission. But that’s just my opinion. Your business and the way you conduct yourself can be a great testament and even ministry. Why only target believers? Hope that helps.

  5. My personal thoughts are that religion and business should be kept separate. For me, religion is private – my relationship with God. (Separation of church and state. 😉 But, this isn’t the rule for everyone. It depends on a few things…

    1) who is your target market?
    2) what are your business values and principles? (which feed into branding)

    For some business owners, religion and faith *are* an important part of how they do business. It is part of their core ideology… and impacts most of their business decisions. (Chick-fil-A is a great example.) In turn, they often target a market that associates with this.

    This is part of their promotional strategy. They are communicating their core ideology (their mission statement) and also a niche. These business owners feel that if someone doesn’t agree with this, is turned off by it, and doesn’t want to do business with them because of their religious leanings then it isn’t a match for their business. (Having a narrow niche will bring you the kinds of customers you want to work with. Not everyone is a customer match – and that is OK!)

  6. Obviously one of the advantages in this country, as well as many others, though not all, is the freedom to express ones faith and practice any religion. Therefore, anyone is welcome to do it. I personally have a deep faith, but my style is not to use it as a promotional tool.

    I don’t mind if B&H is closed for Jewish Holidays, or Chick-fil-A on Sundays. Every individual photographer is going to decide whether or not they want to accept weddings that are on their sabbath.

    I do get a tad bit embarrassed/irratated by those people of faith who trivialize their faith. Statements such as “God has lead me to buy this lens” or “I believe that God ordained this client to hire me.” And, yes I have heard these things said. As a person of faith myself, I hear that stuff and wonder, “Really, with all the stuff that’s going on in the world from cancer to earthquakes to homelessness – you honestly think God has nothing better to do than find you a sale.”

    I have great admiration for people with integrity about their faith, but I don’t have the same reaction when people seem to be using their faith as a justification for preconceived ideas, much less trivial matters.

  7. Great topic! I believe your business should reflect you. An environmentalist, for example, wouldn’t be a good fit for an oil company. As a marketing company, we have to put ourselves out there essentially PROMOTING whatever company we are working for. I would prefer to work with companies that have the same values that I have (and I have turned down some jobs that don’t meet those values). I am part of an amazing Christian business association – the Kingdom Chamber of Commerce – and through this organization, I can network with other Christian businesses. We get to hear inspirational messages, pray together, and network in a very positive environment. I don’t put myself out there as ONLY a Christian business, and I don’t close on Sundays. But I do let people know that if they choose us, they will get someone that cares about them, that will provide a positive experience and if they happen to be Christian as well, will understand THEIR needs and desires in promoting themselves. It is important to me when choosing a company to work with that they have high morals and are trustworthy. If they are walking the walk as a Christian, I know their intentions are good. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do business with a non-believer, just saying it’s an additional selling point in my book.

  8. I admire the businesses that you mentioned and I’m glad that they stand for their beliefs. I am a Jesus follower and I do not hide that fact on my website or blog. I am not ashamed of my faith nor do I give pause when writing a blog entry to be careful in what I say. I’ve had the opportunity to do international humanitarian work and I truly have a passion for that work and continue to do so and I illustrate and promote that work through my sites. Having said that though, I do not have a “Jesus fish” on my cards nor do I promote myself that way. I believe that you can be honest, trustworthy, and present yourself and your product professionally and not have to push your beliefs on someone and still be Christ-like. My wife and I love the story of St. Francis Assisi who taught that you should “preach always and if necessary, use words.” If you have to tell people overtly you are a faith person, then maybe we should step back and decide if we are truly living what we profess. Thanks for your thoughtful and deliberate answers on this site Ron. Good Job.

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