Borrowing Brains: Church Administration

file by pileI’m often reminded of Bruce McAllister’s advice to would-be pastors back in the day: “Minister from your strengths, and shore up your weaknesses.” Well, administration is not a strength of mine, to say the least. I may very well be allergic to it, in fact.

Nevertheless, in the interest of such “shoring up,” what are some particularly helpful resources on church administration or management in general that you would recommend? Why?

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.


13 Responses

  1. I would highly recommend looking into personal management. would be a good place to start. When I manage myself better I find that the rest of the things I manage fall into place easier and better. Second, enlist help! God gifted the church with the members HE wanted it to have so that they would serve! Just my two cents!

  2. You think you’re not organized? Sheesh, you should see me and my office! I hate administration. I hate it with a passion. It is an evil, and a barely necessary one. I do try to be sure we pay our bills on time, though. We do that by paying them as soon as they come in.

    But I look forward to hearing about resources others might mention…

    I just don’t think they will do me any good…

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. This blog has helped me: What’s Best Next

    This book has as well: The Effective Executive, by Peter F. Drucker

  4. Managing Management Time by William Onken. It’s a business text book, but it is easily applied to ministry.

    One Minute Manage Meets the Monkey by Kenneth Blanchard. This is a short volume on specific application of Onken.

    “The Manager in Ministry” is a good publication from camp Ironwood in California. They send it without cost (but do ask for a donation).

    Attn: Manager in Ministry
    49191 Cherokee Road
    Newberry Springs, CA 92365

  5. I don’t “manage” in a church setting, but do so in a business setting. I would imagine they are somewhat the same yet somewhat different. I don’t know if I can offer a magic elixir of any kind, but I’ve found that effective management, for me, has boiled down to 2 things:

    1. Processes that lead to predictable results
    2. Personal discipline around non-negotiable activity

    Without those two things, I find that “urgencies” tend to take over my day, and I often don’t do the things that are critically important to advancing the strategies for which I’m responsible.

    Practically, for a church, it could look something like this:

    Urgency: The Jones family was in a car accident. All are fine, but banged up and sore. They could really use a few day’s worth of meals and maybe some help with light cleaning.

    Response: Is it a process with a predictable result? For instance, your process could be that your wife calls a set list of individuals who have previously indicated that they would be willing to serve the Lord in this capacity and arranges meal delivery. Fairly predictable result each time you put the process into play. Or is the situation handled a different way each time? I would submit that if there isn’t a process to handle it, your time has the potential to be wasted.

    Now enters the non-negotiable aspect of the equation. Let’s say you have a great process to handle the urgency above which doesn’t really involve you doing much, but you’re having a tough week and need the good feelings of championing the meal effort for the Jones family so you decide to make the phone calls yourself. You certainly have that choice because you’re the pastor of the church, but recognize that you aren’t being disciplined in the non-negotiables (you are also going outside of process which leads to less predictability in the results) Non-negotiables can be a variety of things – what you do, what you don’t do, when you do certain things, how you do them, etc. Definitiion and discipline around those things will pay huge dividends in the overall management of your day.

    I would encourage you to start with those energy draining things that you dread doing. The faster that you have a process in place and the non-negotiables set to deal with those things, the less you’ll dread them. You still may not enjoy them and they may not bring great joy, but they also won’t steal your day.

    Sorry for the long ramble – I’m not even sure it’s the type of response you hoped for, but I can never chime in on the deep theological stuff so I’m taking my cuts on this one.

  6. This a link to a CJ Mahaney series on productivity that has been quite helpful to me over the last few months

  7. Depending on your ecclesiology, an assistant pastor or an associate elder with the gift of administration is a great help! Or, if neither of you are so gifted, there’s probably a church member who is, and if they are dependable, should be put to work.

  8. Many people at my company use David Allen’s (no relation to me) “Getting Things Done” approach, and it made a huge difference for me. The book is just a few dollars, and will help change your mental framework around administrative tasks. Understanding the mental framework is the most important part, and then he has a few different techniques you can apply.

    There is a plugin for Outlook that makes it second-nature to apply the techniques (if you treat Outlook as your to-do list, as many in my business do). In fact, the latest version of Outlook; Outlook 2007, incorporated some of the ideas from David’s system into the product so that you can easily do part of the system without needing to install an extra plugin.

  9. Plus one to Matthew’s recommendation on the Oncken book…you’ll probably have to get it online, but it is well worth the effort. And in addition to being filled with practicial advice, it’s a lot of fun to read.

    Favorite quote: A roadmap does you no good if you only know where you want to go. It becomes valuable when you discover where you are.

  10. Some resources related to church administration from Christianity Today International, the not-for-profit ministry that publishes Christianity Today and Leadership Journal:

    * Your Church magazine,
    * Your Church Resources,
    * Church Law & Tax Report,
    * Church Finance Today,

  11. Echoing Paul . . .

    Look for a strong administrative elder to complement you, bro. Some elders are simply more gifted in the administration area than others.

  12. Hi Chris. I’ve been reading your blog ever since your two cents on Driscoll, which I really appreciated, and for some strange reason decided to comment on this. No personal reason to factor this in, but here’s another perspective from the peanut gallery that is the blogosphere. I could be out to lunch on this one, but as the more adminny of two elders I think my admin work comes down to two things: know what to do and do it.

    My to do list is extremely important, in its structure, priority system, and ease of use. I’m on a Mac, and I use an app oh-so creatively called “What to do.” I think the more foundational point though, is not what I use but that I like it and use it best for me. I’m no prophet, but would guess you’re going to get a great variety of personal testimonials of “this worked for me.” Of the writing of productivity books and marketing of productivity software there is no end.

    Which leads to my second thought, which is that if I know what to do, I need to just do it. Again, I could be totally wrong, but seems to me that my poor admin work, plus the normal “I’m not gifted at that,” are thinly veiled revelations of personal laziness. I don’t like to do admin, so I don’t. Then it piles up, and it’s even worse. I’d rather visit someone in the hospital or read another commentary, so I put off the ruling that is part of the biblical elder’s job too. Then I write off laziness and acting in my own selfish interests as “ungifted,” “incapable,” or “overwhelmed.”

    One can spend an incredible amount of time pursuing the next productivity guide, learning and incorporating the latest Getting Things Done ideas, and lamenting admin incapability. With a similar time investment, a pastor could apply himself to prioritizing the to do’s, ask for grace to work diligently, and keep his hinder parts in the chair.

    Having made that personal confession with the hopes it added up to at least 2 cents, I also realize there is merit in careful thought about all aspects of ministry and in getting help from others since my perspective is so shot through with me. So have at whatever books and helps appeal to you, in the hopes that they will all be part of God’s gracious work of pastoral improvement. Just don’t get too frustrated if the answer is way simpler than David Allen says it is.

  13. Chris, I should mention that I think David Allan’s principles have some value. I have read some of his book but (ahem) not gotten the entire thing done. But…. It does have helpful material. I also subscribe to his occasional e-mails and there are always interesting ideas to help with productivity.

    Someone mentioned GTD plug-ins for Outlook, which might be good, although I am not an Outlook fan. I use a PIM called Ecco. It is no longer in development, hasn’t been for about 10 years, but is really still far and above better than all other similar software out there. (My opinion, of course.) You can find it by searching for and joining a couple of e-mail lists on Yahoo: ecco_pro and eccopro. I am a moderator on both lists. (Long unpleasant story why there are two lists…) Ecco does have a bit of a learning curve, but it is still quite exceptional.

    Ok, enough of that. I still hate administration, but I have attempted to get a little better at it over the years.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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