PRIVATE INVESTMENT OF CHURCHES: A STUDY OF SELECTED CASES IN THE NIGERIA
Poverty has been a major challenge in the world today, especially in developing countries. Past and previous governments have all put in various measures in order to address this global issue of poverty. In this regard, any effort at reducing poverty and creating wealth is very much appreciated. The Church, as a development partner to the state, has been contributing its quota to the development of the country through its social service activities. Church involvement in the provision of education, health care, water and other activities cannot be overemphasized.
In addition to providing social services, the church also has a mandate of evangelization, both of which require financial support. The primary source of finance for the Church is through contributions by Church members; however, this avenue is not sustainable as it cannot fund the continuously increasing budget of the church as well as result in a fatigue in the area of giving. In recent times, Churches are getting into private investments more and more. It is in the light of this that the research was undertaken.
The study therefore sought to identify the major investments of churches, examine how the investment activities of churches are managed and operated, to assess the viability and demand of their investments or businesses and to assess the utilization of gains of these investments.
Using the Nigeria as the study area and adopting a case study approach, six businesses operated by six different churches under the broad grouping of Catholic and Christian Council were sampled and studied. Purposively, three key informants being; church leadership, a management and board member, were chosen to furnish the researcher with information for all the churches.
The study has shown that churches get into a wide spectrum of business like any other organization however with ethical and social considerations. Church based investments are tilted toward business investment in contrast with portfolio investment which is much more common in the western world. Again, although all the businesses have board of directors in place, the lack of boards established specifically to oversee to the activities of some of the businesses resulted in delay in decision making affecting business activities.
Efficiency levels of all six businesses are low ranging from average to below average affecting profitability of investments. In totality, each of the investments yielded gains one way or the other and these gains according to leadership have been utilized to benefit the church, its members and society as a whole. In spite of these benefits, the businesses were beset with challenges in the area of records keeping, staff recruitment procedures and accounting mechanisms.
To conclude, church based businesses are contributing their quota to the development of the nation and should be encouraged. In the future, churches should consider one of three suggestions; operate businesses as separate entities, move into portfolio investment, or get into Private/Public Partnership where churches become major shareholders. These approaches will help curtail some of the challenges identified with business investments.