Who Should Manage Church Administration?

I wish I could remember who said it or where I read that a successful pastor’s week is about 25% sermon preparation and 75% administration, but I fully believe it is true. Most seminary students never imagine anyone could get excited about administration.

The public life of a congregation is only the tip of an iceberg of board meetings, filed reports, and record keeping. Every sermon preached, song sang, and food basket that is shared is the fruit of many hours of less glamorous tasks such as planning, rehearsals, coordinating, and negotiating.

The work of coordinating the tasks within a congregation can only be accomplished through the teamwork involving many ministry teams. The opening page of the first chapter of Wilfredo Calderon’s book on church administration explains that the Christian leader operates a true quadrangle in their functions with pastoring, administration, preaching, and education at its four sides.[ref]Calderón Wilfredo. (1989). La Administración en la Iglesia Cristiana: Orientación para pastores, líderes, maestros y consejeros. Editorial Vida. p. 15.[/ref]

Beyond practically impossible, it can be destructive for a single person to control all the functions of a thriving congregation (Exo. 18:13-27).

[bctt tweet=”Beyond practically impossible, it can be destructive for a single person to control all the functions of a thriving congregation. – Santiago Chavez” via=”no”]

Navigating a Diverse Terrain

As we “mature” over time, some of us are surprised, even shocked, to discover the many blind spots in our interactions. When ministry team members are free to be honest, they can help us see each other’s blind spots.

Among the strengths of having multicultural and multilingual people on the local church board and ministries is the combined ability to see situations from various perspectives. This is a reason that diverse teams greatly outperform homogeneous teams.

Our Lord managed groups with diverse personalities beautifully. An example is found the interactions of Jesus with Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Judas (John 12:1-8). Every congregation has Marys, Marthas, Lazaruses, and Judases.

Marys are that small fraction that seems to always be eager to help without questioning too much. Faith is their greatest strength. While their weakness is that they may not always plan projects all the way through.

Marthas can be a balancing opposite that frequently demand an explanation and a logistic plan. Their suspicious lack of trust may sometimes be viewed as a weakness.

Lazaruses are willing to support the project once it has the support of the “Marys” and “Marthas”. Lazarus’ strength is that he was resurrected from the dead by Jesus; “Lazaruses” have powerful life stories.

Finally, and unfortunately, every congregation has more Judases than we would like. Judas walked closely with Jesus, but never really got His Message. “Judases” tend to be used by the Enemy to create obstacles. “Judases” are the tares that must grow alongside of the good seed until the end (Mat. 13:30).

Jesus loves them all and they love Jesus (even Judas) in their way. Christian leadership teams are called to navigate such a terrain, but not alone – they do so with the help of God’s Spirit working through such a diverse team.

The Church Manual

Local bylaws and standing procedures are developed to help our local congregations repeat successful approaches to administration. Our Church Manual[ref]General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day). (2019). Church Manual for use by the Churches of God (Seventh Day) with General Offices in Denver, Colorado, USA.[/ref] is an indispensable resource that is available for study by every General Conference member working to develop local bylaws.

It has five informative sections that are subject to consideration, ratification, or change at each biennial convention. A long list of well-intentioned mistakes could be avoided by conference members and local church boards after it’s consideration.

Those five sections cover the following:

    1. the articles of incorporation and bylaws of the General Conference
    2. the bylaws, the standing rules, and the Ministerial Documentation Manual of the Ministerial Council
    3. the bylaws and the standing rules of the International Ministerial Congress
    4. the ministries of the General Conference
    5. and our Doctrinal Beliefs.

Many curious conversations that come to memory could have been untangled upon a re-visitation of the Church Manual. It is not unreasonable to ask the secretary of your local board for a copy of the local bylaws and the Church Manual for your study.

Making Communal Work Less Difficult

A painful lesson learned by many a new leader is the vital need for some form of shared predetermined approach to run meetings. Our local church boards usually have a few meetings – that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment because meetings are how local boards accomplish tasks.

Marathonic board meetings with well-meaning flexible agendas can consume many hours of time, and feel as if they are removing years off the life of our church board members, but they are critical to the management of every congregation.

Henry Martyn Robert, the Army engineering officer credited with writing Robert’s Rules for Parliamentary Procedure[ref]Our history. Official Robert’s Rules of Order Website. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://robertsrules.com/our-history/[/ref] went through his embarrassing initiation into public meeting procedure at a church in his community as a young West Point graduate.

He soon realized he was completely unprepared to chair the meeting and that meeting procedures varied greatly from place to place and organization to organization. Robert was able to publish the first edition of Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies in February 1876 and the twelfth revision of Robert’s Rules of Order published in 2020.

We owe him a great deal of gratitude. Congregations are encouraged to follow parliamentary at our local board meetings. A resource available to Spanish groups is Kerfoot’s Reglas Parlamentarias.[ref]Kerfoot, H. F. (2008). Reglas Parlimentarias. Editorial Mundo Hispano.[/ref]

Finances, Checks and Balances, and the Pastor

A pastor is expected to be aware of the finances of a congregation without handling the financial resources himself. In the manual he coauthored with Kukawka, and Witman, Otto Crumroy wrote, “The essence of a church financial control system is that it is a ‘feedback’ system. It alerts members about whether their goals are being attained; it ensures absolute integrity in the system; and it communicates credible information.”[ref]Crumroy, O. F., Kukawka, S., & Witman, F. M. (1998). Church administration and Finance Manual: Resources for leading the local church. Morehouse Publishing. p. 309.[/ref]

Their manual on church administration and finances offers many useful examples of forms, position descriptions, and material.

Other than ethics, most seminaries and ministerial training programs do not spend a great deal of time on financial management. For his protection, a smart pastor would delegate the daunting task of financial management to a team of committed and well-trained believers without family relationships to the pastoral team.

The financial section of a successful congregation or Christian ministry navigates a difficult obstacle course with many moving parts.

A Healthy Perspective of Church Administration

[bctt tweet=”Sound leadership and management principles must be cautiously applied to accomplish God’s Calling for each congregation. – Santiago Chavez” via=”no”]

The scope of this article cannot begin to describe all the moving parts of healthy congregations. Sound leadership and management principles must be cautiously applied to accomplish God’s Calling for each congregation. A healthy mindset about administration itself is key to success. I feel led to share the following excerpt from Anthony and Esteps’ book on church administration:

Many well-meaning Christians mistakenly believe that since businesses have incorporated and promoted popular methods of management in order to produce financial profit, then there must be something inherently wrong with integrating these same principles in the way we organize and administrate the affairs of the church. The problem with this faulty reasoning, however, is that many of the principles found in the secular organization and administration textbooks used in MBA programs across North America did not originate in corporate America. Most of these principles of management originated more than four thousand years ago and are recorded in the pages of Scripture.”[ref]Anthony, M. J., & Estep, J. R. (2010). Administración básica para Iglesias y ministerios cristianos. Editorial Mundo Hispano. p. 13 (trans. S. Chavez)[/ref]

We ought not be fearful of involving believers with business school degrees in our local boards – that is with the understanding that these skills can also be used to manage our local congregations for the glory of God.

Always remember that Artios Christian College is here to help you learn more about church administration!

    • Register for LEA 331 Church Administration here.
    • Check out the course schedule here.
    • Visit the Artios Christian College website here.
    • Visit the Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership here.
Hiding From God The Goodness of Judgment

Written By

Santiago has been married to his best friend, Lourdes, for 32 years. They live in Maryland and have three adult children. They worship and serve with our Lanham congregation. Santiago currently serves as Artios Christian College Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs in Spanish.

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