By Loren Gjesdal
We have all heard complaints about bureaucratic red tape (and maybe voiced those complaints ourselves!). Usually these complaints relate to our interactions with local government, but what about the church? Is church administration just a brake on ministry innovation? Do policies and procedures sap energy and resources better used elsewhere? There are at least 5 reasons why we need proper church administration. When done right, church administration is essential for accomplishing the heart of any effective church ministry—equipping discipleship.
CHURCH ADMINISTRATION AND MISSIONAL VISION
Effective ministry innovation requires well thought out and communicated missional vision. Why do we do what we do? Why would we want to make a change or adjustment to what we do? The mission and vision of our church needs to be biblically sound, clearly articulated, and accepted by those asked to implement it. Ministry innovation is really about seeing a place “you want to be at some future point in time (goal)…[and laying] a course of action (strategy) in measurable steps (objectives)…so you can arrive at your destination using the resources available.” 1
It is a process that requires intentional time and effort in formulation and communication. Rather than a brake on innovation, proper planning is the steering wheel that makes sure we aren’t careening about aimlessly. “It is a generally accepted truism that the most prevalent single reason for the failure of a project, enterprise, or organization is the lack of, or the inadequacy of a plan.” 2
CHURCH ADMINISTRATION MEANS COUNTING THE COST
Effective ministry requires resources. Whether these resources are for hiring staff, acquiring facilities, or outreach into the community, church leaders ask their members to contribute time, talent and treasure. We owe God and those giving sacrificially to the ministry vision a duty of financial planning and integrity. Jesus taught the importance of counting the cost before beginning a work (Luke 14:28-30) and so a financial plan (budget) is needful.
We must also remember that God entrusts these resources to us for care and use. Their use should be in keeping with the intent of those giving, with transparency, and accountability. These objectives require record keeping and reporting. This is why we have church treasurers, financial reports, and business meetings at which these reports are communicated. So many ministries have been derailed by financial mismanagement, money scandals, and the resulting loss of trust and respect.
When leaders lose trust and respect, they lose the ability to lead. Financial planning, accounting and reporting don’t sap energy from ministry, rather they preserve and protect ministry effectiveness.
DISCIPLESHIP AND CHURCH ADMINISTRATION
The heart of any effective biblical ministry is discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20). Furthermore, Paul told the Ephesian church that God gives the church leadership gifts to equip the members for effective ministry work (Ephesians 4:11-13). Thus, ministry effectiveness may begin by members with equipping gifts and bringing them into leadership positions.
One such position is that of pastor. When the church hires staff, such as a pastor, it must comply with a number of governmental laws and regulations related to hiring and taxation, but it must also think about roles, responsibilities, accountability and finances. To staff effectively, the church needs administrative policies and procedures. Church mission, financial planning, and leadership staffing all require oversight and administration to succeed.
CHURCH ADMINISTRATION AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS
A church leader, whether pastor or any ministry leader, who wishes to be effective in equipping the saints for service needs to identify the spiritual giftedness of congregational members, match them to ministry needs and opportunities, and guide them into effective ministry. “Vocational leaders must take on the task of developing the members whom God has provided them for the fulfillment of the Great Commission…. Multiplying leadership is another expression often referred to as discipleship.” 3
Helpful to all involved in the process of equipping discipleship are position descriptions and evaluation. Clearly outlining a ministry position’s purpose, responsibilities, resources and authority helps everyone involved to have clarity about what is expected. It also helps to evaluate the fit of the person, their giftedness and their temperament to the ministry position.
POSITION DESCRIPTIONS ARE PART OF ADMINISTRATION
As someone prepares to enter a ministry position, the position description should provide an opportunity for training. Going through the responsibilities and explaining the resources available to meet those responsibilities, describing how to use those resources effectively, and teaching the heart behind the ministry position, can all become a part of the equipping discipleship process. Once someone is in the ministry position, follow up is needed to evaluate their effectiveness.
We should see the follow up evaluation as an on-going opportunity for training and equipping. This involves comparing actual performance to the ministry position description’s expectations. It may seem like bureaucratic red tape sapping time and energy from ministry at first, but the creation of ministry position descriptions, pre-ministry training, and follow up evaluation are practical tools useful for achieving the heart of church and pastoral ministry—the discipleship of equipping saints for service.
CHURCH ADMINISTRATION LEADS TO EFFECTIVE MINISTRY
Church administration and all those that help facilitate it, from treasurers to secretaries, from Boards to pastors, are all part of the same team pursuing the same purpose—effective ministry. The heart of church ministry is equipping discipleship. Instead of seeing church administration as bureaucratic red tape, or even a necessary evil, may we come to appreciate the policies, procedures and offices of administration as partners in the missional purpose of the church. God knew what He was doing when He gave the spiritual gift of administration to the church (1 Cor 12:28)!
- Michael J. Anthony, and James Estep Jr., eds, Management Essentials for Christian Ministries. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2005, 13-14.
- Otto F. Crumroy, Jr., Stan Kukawka and Frank M. Witman, Church Administration and Finance Manual: Resources for Leading the Local Church. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Morehouse Publishing, 1998, 15.
- Michael J. Anthony and James Estep Jr., 246.