10 Tips on Managing Church
Advice on how to approach the many details of ministry

Recently I had a chance to teach a class of Bible college students about church administration. As I was preparing, I spoke to a close friend of mine who had been an executive pastor at a huge church–and who now is the lead pastor at a large church–about the subject. He dryly said, "The #1 job of a church administrator is to keep the Sr. Pastor out of jail."

That was, of course, a joke (I hope). The following ten points are what I shared about administration with this class of up and coming church leaders. In 500 words or less:

1. Systems are not life, but systems are necessary to support life. Just like a skeleton does not live on its own but a living body must have a skeleton to exist, administrative systems don't live on their own, but they are necessary to support the life and vision of the church.

2. Know your personal administrative weaknesses and admit them...then get help. Too many pastors get in trouble for trying to be superman or superwoman, and forget that God has not given any one of us everything we need for effective ministry so that we will learn to rely on one another. This is why healthy, effective, gift-diverse teams are non-negotiable.

3. If you are the lead pastor, make sure you understand the finances of the church well, and then separate yourself as much as possible from being the one who handles the money. It's scary to me when the pastor is the only one handling finances or their spouse is keeping the books. Create redundant systems for accountability.

4. Err on the side of transparency (with your council, your congregation, etc.). A lot of leaders go down because they don't do this. In our church, our books are open to any member; that has only ever produced good will in our congregation, and it requires us to be ready with solid reasons for why we do what we do.

5. Learn to think through every detail and contingency before an event happens. Have plan A, B, and C ready. For example, before an event know things like how many trash cans you need, where you are placing the trash-cans, and where and how often you will dump the trash.

6. Keep notes and files for each recurring event and/or service. Review (debrief) after the event is done, and preview the notes before planning the event again the next year.

7. "Spend church money as if Leti Parker were with you, " said Mrs. Parker, who got saved late in life, was an old retired widow who lived on a small fixed income, but tithed faithfully.

8. Trustworthiness in finances and administration will release greater spiritual ministry and leadership through you (Luke 19:11ff).

9. Excellence in administration that supports the vision will make people in your organization happy and will bring glory to God (1 Kings 10:1-10).

10. Learn to clearly communicate where you are going, and as much as possible, release people to figure out how to get there. Others will come up with systems better than anything you could have ever figured out. Control freaks won't be able to lead this generation anywhere!

Randy Remington, the lead pastor at Beaverton Foursquare Church, told me to tell the students, "You won't go to hell for bad Church management, but you will go through it." Let's be leaders who don't put people–or ourselves–through unnecessary pain because we have not thought well through administrative systems and structures.

This post first appeared on Tim Clark's blog PastorTimClark.com.

Tim Clark serves as the Supervisor of the Greater Los Angeles District of Foursquare Churches and has pastored three churches.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."


Displaying 1–6 of 6 comments

Rev. Tillman

April 13, 2014  6:58pm

Food for thought!

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Richard Dean

February 03, 2014  12:07pm

I want to urge all clergy to be aware of the special needs of elderly hearing impaired, particularly hearing aid users. My estimate is that less than 3% really do a good job at this much of the problem is with failed communication in church auditoriums, large high ceilinged rooms that enhance music but severely limit speech understandability. P-A systems as often as not contribute to the problem. The culprit fueling the difficulty is reverberations - embellishing music but limiting speech. While these acoustical problems can be successfully coped with with money and SKILLED advisors, there things clergy can do in their manner of speech, physical location and use of marginal PA systems. Few are aware of the nature of the problem and therefore cannot address it. The hearing impaired parishioner regards the problem as one s/he has as a result of aging and must regretfully just accept.

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Apostle Geoffrey David Ssebandeke

October 04, 2013  2:11pm

Thank you very much for these management-tips! They are very essential for us especially here in Africa! God bless you!! Ap. Geoffrey David Ssebandeke, President, Heaven Ministries International, Lead-Pastor,Heaven Centre Cathedral, +256774970209

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August 02, 2013  8:56am

You know there's a wonderful textbook by Dag Heward-Mills titled "Church Administration" that encompasses the above points and expounds them in detailed, down-to-earth language. It'll transform the state of your church in no time! Be blessed! :)

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Bob Chauncey, CPP (ret), CISM, CIT

July 24, 2013  4:09pm

#'s 5 & 6 above on think through every event & detail before an event and to keep notes & details and debrief after the event, are both very important, for general purposes but especially for safety & security. Too many churches make a lot of plans & do a lot of review but they do not include safety & security needs in their planning for the event. This can be a big liability&d a real problem if & when something happens & there was no plan on how to detect, deter, defend & respond to it, before it occurred & when might have been prevented. And, after the event, consider anything that occurred or any need for the use of planning, training, practice and equipment to handle the safety and security of the staff, members, visitors and others there. Every church, ministry and private school should have a Plan in place that has been reviewed, approved, practiced and have the Teams to carry out and implement the Plan in order to be truly a Good Shepherd who is prepared to provide for and protect the flock.

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July 22, 2013  11:41am

Proper handling of finances in church Administration makes all the difference for a healthy church. Those were some great points. I've noticed showing the congregation where the money goes (building fund, outreaches, charities) really brings a greater trust from the people as well as the staff.

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