8 Fundamentals for Church Management

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8 Fundamentals for Church Management

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“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry”

2 Timothy 4:5

The job of being a pastor is not just theological and spiritual. While preaching and teaching the Word of God and ministering to people spiritually is their primary function, they are also called upon to lead people, oversee many ministries, manage church resources, develop plans & budgets, manage church finances, plan & conduct worship services, arrange weddings & funerals, plan ministry events, develop training materials, provide counseling, manage church properties, and the list goes on. One research study estimated that a pastor generally spends 54% of their time on activities other than preparing for preaching & worship or teaching (Pulpit & Pew, Research on Pastoral Leadership, “What Do Clergy Do All Week?” Becky McMillan, 2002).

Because churches are organizations with people and other resources, they must be led and managed well to be effective and to grow. So it is important that pastors have some level of knowledge about leadership and management in order to do so. John Maxwell, in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Thomas Nelson, 1998), says that “a person’s impact is only a fraction of what it could be with good leadership.” Sadly, a common reason people have for leaving a church is not theological or spiritual, but rather due to personal conflict, perceived poor leadership, or management disagreements. Consequently, the success of a church depends a great deal upon the leadership and management ability of its pastor.

The following 8 key fundamentals below come from our Management for Church Leaders™training and will provide pastors with some basic Biblical leadership and management principles. When combined with their theological training it can help them avoid many common problems and conflicts in a church that inhibit growth.

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Fundamental #1: Use Your Influence, Not Your Authority

The first thing a pastor should understand is that there is a difference between leadership and authority.  They are not the same.  Many pastors assume that just because they have the title of Senior Pastor or Pastor that their title alone makes them a leader. It does not. Their title simply gives them authority or responsibility to do certain things or make decisions within the guidelines for the pastor within their church. To be a leader a pastor must be able to motivate those within the church to follow their direction and support their decisions.

Leadership is about influence.  John Maxwell also said in his book, the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, that “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  Leadership is not a position and it is not a title.  Leadership is about the ability to influence others to follow you where you are taking them.  Just because your title as pastor infers that you are the leader of the church does not mean that you truly are.  Leadership is measured by influence.  Whoever has influence in the church is the true leader of the church. Pastors need to develop their influence by building up trust and respect among the church members.

Authority, on the other hand, is about power.  According to the dictionary, authority is “the power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior.”  Notice the words power and command.  Authority is the ability to enforce your decisions by use of your power or control.  A pastor gets their authority by virtue of their position, and hence their power is given to them by their denomination or the local church body (via a call or election).  It is usually earned from something they did in the past that qualified them for their position, such as graduating from a Bible College or Seminary, having been ordained, or having pastored other churches.

So, as a pastor, when you are making a decision or a change affecting your church, you have a choice of whether to use your influence or your authority. It is often quicker and easier for you to use your authority because you don’t have to take the time to convince your church members why you are making the change. But it is always better for you to lead with your influence because when you use your influence, people want to follow you.  They come along gladly because they trust you and respect you and know that you have their best interest at heart.

When you use your authority, however, people are forced to follow you, whether they agree with you or not.  This has two important implications for you with regard to those who disagree with you.  First, you could lose people from your church, leaving you with fewer members to carry out the ministry.  Second, and often worse, is that they stay in your church and create opposition.  When this happens church members will work at odds with you and try to thwart your efforts.  This is particularly dangerous as it can divide the church and cause conflict that paralyzes the ministry.

Consequently, using your influence instead of authority to lead people will always be better for you and your ministry.

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Fundamental #2: Follow Biblical Principles

Churches are not businesses and pastors are not CEOs. Trying to run a church based on secular business practices will not work because the goals of a business are primarily financial and their practices are designed to maximize profit. However, there are some business practices that are Biblical and would therefore have application for churches. So before making any decision regarding the administrative side of the church, pastors should always ask “is this Biblical?”, and then proceed accordingly. If pastors follow cultural norms, secular processes, or their own beliefs instead of Biblical principles, they will undoubtedly experience a less effective ministry because it is not in line with God’s Word.

Similarly, when Pastors teach they must be careful not to tell their members “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3) but rather to teach them what the Bible says whether or not it makes sense or is clearly understandable. When pastors rely on their own opinion, intuition, talent, or experience, they often end up in places that not only cause them problems but likely dishonor God as well. Pastors may possess tremendous leadership ability, but if it is not based on the Word of God, then they are likely leading the church in the wrong direction.

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness”.  That means pastors can rely on the truth of the Bible to lead and manage their church as well as to teach others what God wants them to know.  Jesus came and showed us how to apply that Word in our lives and in our relationships with others.  He then left us the Holy Spirit to guide us where God wants us to go.  Following God’s Word is how pastors are called to lead a church.

Fundamental #3: Be Discerning

There is a famous song recorded by Kenny Rodgers in 1978 entitled “The Gambler.” It was a song about the game of poker and for the gambler to know when to take a card, when to keep what they have, and when to give up when they have little chance of winning. In other words: discernment. The lyrics of the chorus say, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. ‘Cause you never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for counting, when the dealings done.”

When we think about spiritual discernment, there is a strong parallel to these lyrics. Pastors must know when to ask for help, know when not to abandon their principles, and know when to submit to the wisdom or ideas of others. Discernment also involves the big picture and focusing on the end result. Just as a gambler doesn’t count their money until the game is over, pastors must not quit prematurely. Jesus has already won the victory! It is important for pastors to look at a given situation or decision they have to make and discern its importance, its potential impact, and how their church members might react. This is called situational leadership. And it requires spiritual discernment.

Discernment is what often allows pastors to be effective and successful in their ministry. And discernment takes patience, prayer, wisdom and compassion. The wise pastor knows to turn to God for these things and that “apart from God he can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Fundamental #4: Develop People for Ministry

The most abundant resource a church has is its people. Therefore, the greatest resource that you have as a pastor is your church members. You cannot always do all the ministry work yourself and you will need others to come alongside you to share the burden of leadership and ministry.  Jesus knew this and is the reason he spent so much time with his disciples, teaching and training them for the work they would do in building the church after he ascended to Heaven. The same is true for the church today. It was not designed for you, the pastor, to do all the ministry of the church yourself. You were called to train and encourage others to engage in, and take responsibility for, some aspect of the ministry of the church, whether it’s teaching, praying, evangelizing, or serving the community at large.

So the Lord provides you with people to help you achieve the vision and goals that God has given to you and the church.  Here are 3 things for you to keep in mind when you develop people within your church:

  1. Make disciples first and foremost.

The primary role of every pastor is to focus on discipleship of their church members and attendees.  This is the sole purpose of the church and its #1 priority. The command Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28:19 before he ascended to heaven was that they should “go and make disciples of all nations.”  You should teach and preach the Word in all that you do.  It is not just about you assigning tasks or responsibilities to others, but it is also imparting the Word to them through that development.

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  1. Train and equip others for ministry.

A pastor’s job is not just to oversee the ministries of the church, but to involve everyone in its work. Therefore, you will need to encourage ministry participation by others and try to involve your church members in ministries that can best utilize their giftedness.  1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”  And 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Everyone in the church has gifts they were given to help do the work of the church.  Only by utilizing all of the gifts that are present in the church can you be effective in achieving the mission and vision that the Lord has given to the church.  It is therefore important that you use some form of a spiritual gift assessment to determine the spiritual gifts of your church members. By giving this test to church members you can determine the gifts given to individual church members and direct them into areas of ministry that use those gifts.

  1. Recruit and develop other leaders.

It takes a leader to raise up other leaders.  Every great leader has been mentored by another leader, whether it’s a parent, boss, pastor or someone else. It is therefore important for pastors to develop the next generation of leaders in order to sustain and grow their church.  The more leaders there are, the greater the chance for success there will be!  So, you should always spend most of your time with other leaders of the church so that they can be equipped to take on more responsibility in the ministry of the church. This will enable the church to grow as the burden is shared among more leaders. If you are the only leader, then the church will only progress as far as your capabilities. John Maxwell refers to this as the “Law of the Lid,” meaning that you will become the limit on how far your church can grow when your abilities and time are exhausted.

For the next four fundamentals on leadership stay tuned for Part II from Barry Voss.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: FaithLife Ministries was founded by Barry Voss & Kim Star-Voss in 2001 as a ministry to train and equip Christian leaders in the mission field.

In 1996, Barry first heard the call to go to the mission field. On that mission trip to Kazakhstan, he sensed God’s call on his life to serve Him in a mission field ministry. He continued to respond to that call by going on several more mission trips to teach and minister in 1997. In 1998 he felt God’s call to organize and lead mission trips, and so he recruited and led teams to Peru in 1999 & 2000 through Missions International, a Nashville based mission agency. In 2001, God led Barry and Kim to decide to incorporate in order to lead mission teams on their own, and so FaithLife Ministries was born. They led their first mission trip to the Philippines in May of that year. On that trip Barry taught a workshop on Church Administration.  Our Philippines host invited Barry to come back the following year and teach on that topic for an entire week at their Bible School.  As a result, Barry developed the Management For Church Leaders™training course.  Since then this ministry has continued to grow as God has led us to more mission field contacts and opened up more opportunities for us to train and equip the leaders of His church.

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