For pastor Eric Bahme, there’s no difference between serving God and serving customers. He teaches the employees of his hotels to treat each guest with as much respect as they would Jesus if he were to stop by the front desk.
“I tell my staff, ‘When Jesus is standing in front of you, how fast are you going to get him checked in?’” Bahme said during a visit to Juneau last week.
Bahme is a pastor in Portland, Ore., and the president of KingdomPoint International, a private non-profit that merges churches with businesses to keep them sustainable, he said.
“When you get business and ministry together, amazing things can happen,” Bahme said. “I would like to see the same thing happen in Juneau.”
After 26 years behind the pulpit as a senior pastor and with experience founding various businesses, Bahme said he “found his niche” and merged his two passions, creating the concept of “Kingdom Businesses,” businesses run primarily to serve God. He found hotels were the perfect fit for what he wanted to do — mixing the benefits of non-profit and for-profit operations.
So far, Bahme has opened two Kingdom Business hotels: one in Portland and one in Kalispell, Mont. The Portland property had been a Travelodge plagued with drug activity and prostitution, he said. Bahme said combining his ministry, nondenominational Eastside Church, with the hotel turned it around.
The Portland hotel burned down in 2010, but the Kalispell hotel — Best Western Flathead Lake Inn and Suites — has experienced growth of 60 percent in its first year of operation under the new church management, Bahme said. It’s currently listed as the No. 1 hotel in Kalispell on tripadvisor.com.
Bahme said faith-based customer service and room rates that go toward the church and its projects are what draw in customers. Some of the money made on the church’s business side has been spent renovating schools, starting homeless shelters and on other philanthropic efforts.
“There are people who are not people of faith, but everybody wants to make a difference,” he said. “We have a generation growing up that says, ‘That speaks our language.’”
Bahme said he’s identified a Juneau property he would like to develop, and is looking for local churches to partner with. He said he wants to collaborate with Christians of every stripe on the hotel.
“We’re better together than we are apart,” he said.
Bahme’s business model found an ally in Patrice Tsague, a business trainer who developed the concept of “Biblical Entrepreneurship.” His program combines teachings of the Bible with traditional business training to help entrepreneurs create Kingdom Businesses of their own. Together, Bahme and Tsague tour the country, coaching business owners through their program.
“The Bible has a lot to say about business,” Tsague said. His program works in a “myriad of industries,” he said
He said hotels are perfect fits for the Biblical Entrepreneurship program — hospitality is both a tenet of Christianity and a profitable industry.
“The idea of an inn dates back to Biblical times,” Tsague said, referencing the story of the Good Samaritan.
Bahme said his ministry-owned hotels aren’t noticeably Christian at first glance, but do have some differences.
“We’ll probably be playing Christian music in the lobby,” he said. “There might be several services going on, or prayer meetings.”
The Kalispell hotel often rents its meeting space out to congregations. Biblical Entrepreneurship training also takes place there, Bahme said. Guests can dial zero on their room phones and be connected to a prayer line. In Portland, church staff worked in the hotel.
“These are facilities that advance the Christian agenda without being in your face,” Bahme said.
Bahme is no stranger to the for-profit side of business, either. He owned a vending company and a clothing company, and is a part-owner of seven for-profit hotels in Oregon and Washington state.
He and Tsague will be leading Biblical Entrepreneurship workshops in Juneau on Feb. 12, 13 and 15 at the Juneau Christian Center. The cost of the workshop is $345 through Feb. 1; $395 after that. More information can be found online at www.kpisignup.com.
“Juneau has a lot of businessmen and women who are Christian,” Bahme said.
Powell Realty Inc. broker Honey Bee Anderson said she and her husband, Dale, will be attending the Biblical Entrepreneurship seminar. She said Bahme and Tsague’s class will be a good resource for Juneauites who have a business idea and “don’t know where to go with it.”
“We had met Eric (Bahme) and were helping to get his message out to the community,” she said. “We’re joining him and encouraging others to do it, too.”
The Andersons have run the Auke Lake Bed and Breakfast — where Bahme and Tsague stayed during their visit — since 1995. Anderson said her Christian faith helps guide her business decisions.
“I have certain views in my spiritual life that bleed over into my business,” Anderson said. “Being honest and operating with integrity and trying to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Anderson said her husband has read Bahme’s book, “The Mission-Based Entrepreneur Revolution,” and that she and Bahme “share similar views.”
“I’m encouraging others to attend the class and see what they have to say,” she said.
Bahme said the “16 hours of intense time” with business owners “changes businesses and marriages.” Bahme and Tsague have taught Biblical Entrepreneurship to about 6,000 business owners around the country, Bahme said.
Really, through Biblical Entrepreneurship, the only true business owner is God, he said.
“You are a steward,” Bahme said. “It takes on a whole new meaning when you realize you don’t really own the business.”
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.