Chapter OneChurch Management
IN THIS CHAPTER:
> The Pastor's Call to Administer / 003
> Overcoming Overload / 004
> Time-Management Strategies / 005
> How to Tame the To-Do List / 007
> Tools for Personal Organization / 008
> Filing for Quick Retrieval / 009
> Tips for Maintaining Files / 010
> Reading Essentials for the Unorganized / 011
> How to Know When It's Time to
Delegate / 011
> Do You Need a Church Administrator? / 012
> Distributing the Load / 013
> The Ministry of Interruptions / 014
THE PASTOR'S CALL
TO ADMINISTERby Robert H. Welch, dean of the School of Educational
Ministries and professor of Church Administration
at Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas
"Lord, we've got a problem. I thought you called
me into ministry to reach the hurting and to care
for the spiritual and physical needs of the people
you would lead my way. You never mentioned budgets,
committees, carpets, or banquets. I spend
more time making decisions about who gets the
van, who should repair the boiler, and where we
should buy Sunday-school literature than I do preparing
If you have ever shared these sentiments, you
may find it helpful to take a fresh look at the role
of administration in your ministry. The few times
the word administration appears in the New Testament,
it is translated from a Greek word that means
"helmsman." The helmsman was indispensable to
a ship, for without his direction, the vessel was virtually
helpless. The ship could have great ballast,
a keel for stability, and a strong sail for power, but
without the helmsman's hand on the tiller, the boat
would be tossed about by wind and wave.
Within the word administration is the wordminister. We know who ministers are, whether
we call them pastors, priests, elders, or clergy, but
what ministers do is another matter. A minister's
role is less clearly defined than we might wish, and
this can frustrate or anger pastors. Anger can lead
to low morale and job dissatisfaction, which in turn
may result in burnout or forced termination.
The roles of a pastor can be divided into two
groups: traditional and contemporary.
1. Traditional roles
Preparing and delivering sermons
Officiating in church rites (weddings,
Visiting the sick, counseling, and caring
for the hurting
Biblical teaching and new-convert training
2. Contemporary roles
Managing and overseeing a church or
Strategizing, planning, and leading church
programs and activities
Developing a budget and managing finances
Overseeing maintenance of the church
Networking with outside church
Recruiting, motivating, and training staff
and church leaders
Ask ministers to name factors that contribute the
most toward an effective church, and they will typically
respond with items from the first list. Less
often they will mention administrative and organizational
responsibilities. Yet when asked to name
the roles that take up most of their time, pastors
usually mention administration and organization.
Most ministers estimate that 50 to 60 percent of
their week is taken up in administrative matters.
What Others Expect
In addition to their personal expectations for their
roles in ministry, pastors encounter the expectations
of other clergy (denominational officers, for
instance) and of people in their congregations.
Unrealistic and unclear expectations from others
are the greatest sources of role conflict for most
pastors. That is why I tell students or colleagues
about to take a ministry position to make sure that a
clearly understood job description is in place. Such
a job description should identify the ministry tasks
to be accomplished, including the administrative
chores that go with the job. It should also clarify
the top priorities of the position, define who will
help a leader make decisions, and explain what will
happen if the job proves to be too complex.
The expectations of church members are often
the greatest challenges for a pastor. Conflict is
almost certain when any of the following circumstances
A pastor's tasks are not clearly stated, though
parishioners have expectations
Pastors and/or parishioners fail to accept the
pastor as an executive leader
A pastor must focus energy on pleasing a centralized,
denominational hierarchy at the expense
of meeting congregational expectations
What It Takes to Survive
Several years ago, Christianity Today discussed the
sudden rise in forced terminations of pastors in a
major denomination. The article attributed many
of these cases to burnout or to conflicts between
ministers and their congregations about administrative
expectations. The article noted that the better
a minister's administrative and organizational
skills, the less likely it was that he or she would
be terminated. Ministerial survival depends upon
the ability to develop leaders, build support, and
achieve a consensus of church goals, norms, and
values. All of these are administrative functions.
In this chapter, you will find many helpful ideas
for making the administration of your ministry
more effective and enjoyable.
OVERCOMING OVERLOADby Dale Burke, pastor of First Evangelical Free
Church of Fullerton, California
Every leader must learn the art of juggling. By
grouping all my activities into four major categories
and setting aside time for each one, I keep
my work balanced with my family time and my
spiritual life. Fewer things get dropped.
My four R's for overcoming overload are rest
time, results time, response time, and refocus time.
When a juggler gets into a rhythm, he stays
with it for a while, concentrating on his routine. He
would never think of taking a phone call or checking
his e-mail while flipping knives. Similarly, I
focus on one objective at a time, allowing enough
time to do it well. I plan my week in large chunks
of time-full-day or half-day units-each devoted
to one of the four R's. When I try to do more than
one R in a block of time, I get frustrated. My stress
level goes up, and my productivity goes down.
So when I rest, I truly rest. When I'm in results
time, I don't let distractions intrude. When I'm in
response time, I give myself away as a humble servant.
And when I refocus, I take time to listen to
God, reflect, and rethink plans for the future.
The key is to separate the four categories, then
keep them separate.
In rest time, I focus on my health, especially in
my spiritual life, marriage, and family. God built
into creation a universal need for rest, and he
commands us to set aside one day a week for it.
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but
the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work" (Exodus 20:8-10).
God designed all creation around the principle of
Sabbath rest. We are healthier and more productive
when we don't work 24-7.
During rest time, I do absolutely nothing related
to the job. No phone calls, no e-mail, no jobrelated
reading, no quick stops at the church "just
to check on one thing."
The congregations I have served have ranged
in size from a twenty-eight-member church plant
to my current church of more than five thousand.
In each setting, one of my best disciplines was taking
Mondays as a Sabbath rest for my wife and
me. That has kept me sane and happy under the
pressures of ministry. I dedicate one day a week
to refreshing my soul and my marriage, and I've
never regretted the investment.
Results time is dedicated to doing "main things."
Priorities may change as a church grows, job descriptions
change, or God begins new things, but
whatever the main things are at a given time, they
are defined by three characteristics:
1. They are mission critical. A main task is essential
to the health and growth of the ministry. It must
be done well if the mission is to move forward.
2. They have top priority. Though a church's focus
will change over time, its leaders must prayerfully
set priorities and have them approved.
3. They grow out of unique abilities. Over time, I
have reduced the scope of my responsibilities
to reflect my unique abilities. Where God-given
gifts, passions, and experiences converge, a
leader finds his or her unique ability zone.
When we structure our schedule around main
things and give them our best effort, we produce
our best work. Apart from an occasional crisis, we
have no excuse for pushing main things into our
least-productive times. For me, sermon preparation
is a main thing, so I take most of Wednesday,
Thursday morning, and Friday morning for prayer,
study, and preparation time. Sermon preparation
is blocked out on my schedule every week for now
and forevermore, amen.
Dedicating large chunks of time to this main
thing allows me to be more productive during
other times of the week. I don't stress out about
my sermon on Tuesday when I'm busy with meetings
and administrative details because I know
that Wednesday is coming.
Response time is for cleanup and follow-up.
These things are important, but not critical to the
church's mission. As a servant leader, I realize that
the people I serve have their own agendas and
their own needs. I want to be responsive to them,
but I must also protect my rest and results times.
In ministry, unexpected things happen. We may
be tempted to pick up little bits of debris here and
there, but if we sweep everything together into
larger piles and deal with them in good-size blocks
of response time, we'll knock out the work more
efficiently. I set aside three afternoons per week
for responding to e-mail, voice mail, staff issues,
counseling, and other work that flows from the
well of ministry.
Serving the needs of others is important. Meeting
those needs, however, is not a leader's main
thing. It is important that we not allow the needs
of others to control our times of rest, results, and
refocusing. If we first set aside blocks of uninterrupted
time for rest and results, we can respond
joyfully to other people's needs.
In refocusing, we take time to assess, adjust, and
plan for the future. Life and leadership are constantly
changing. Even if our organizations appear
stable, the world around us is in flux. When our
priorities shift, we learn to refine our unique abilities.
If we experience a tough month, we must refocus
our plans for rest, results, and response.
Refocusing does not mean completely changing
direction. It means taking the opportunity to
make the fine adjustments needed to keep life in
balance. It asks, "Am I getting the rest and results
time I need for personal health and the advance
of the mission? If not, what changes should I
When I break from my routine to reflection
my ministry, I get fresh insight for maintaining
the elusive equilibrium of servant leadership. To
provide adequate time and prayer for the small
and the sweeping changes that God wants me to
make, I find it necessary to refocus on different
segments of my life at different times. I use three
types of refocus time:
1. Weekly refocus time. Refocusing should be done
at the beginning or end of each week. Even a
few hours of refocus time per week vastly improve
the future. We need to ask ourselves honestly,
"So, how is it going, really?" We must also
review the other R's, asking, "Am I resting as I
should? Am I maintaining my marriage and family
to the glory of God? Am I providing prime
time for my main thing? Am I responding with
a servant's heart to those who need me?"
2. Monthly refocus time. Our staff members take a
half day every month to get away from the office.
They can go to the beach or the park with
a lawn chair, a yellow tablet, and their ministry
plan. "Reflect, dream, listen to God, and refocus,"
I tell them. "Come back with some fresh
goals and adjustments to your priorities." It really
3. Yearly refocus time. Some pastors schedule an annual
retreat for sermon planning or spiritual refreshment.
I recommend dividing such retreats
into three parts: (1) working on main things, (2)
personal growth and enrichment, and (3) refreshing
your relationship with your spouse.
HOW TO TAME
THE TO-DO LISTby Grant McDowell, pastor of Leduc Alliance
Church in Millet, Alberta
When our staff of two met for a long-term planning
and goals review, my colleague was visibly
stressed. "My whole life is church," she said. "I'm
drained by ministry. I want to be able to go home
without thinking about work all the time."
We talked about delegating some of her duties,
but she was already doing that. When I asked
about her schedule, she produced a to-do list with
sixty-four items on it. No wonder she felt pressured!
Her list included everything from meetings
and telephone calls to recruiting ministry leaders
and revising ministry positions. With a little help,
she realized that more of her duties could be delegated,
but that still left an intimidating list.
Eventually, we arrived at a simple two-step
process she could use for keeping her priorities
straight and her workload in perspective. She focused
on five priorities and sorted items into manageable
Focus on Five Priorities
The cluttered pages of my colleague's planner
were self-defeating. I suggested she choose no
more than five things from her big list of sixtyfour
and write them on a clean page in her daily
To determine which five to choose, she first
evaluated deadlines, beginning with the most urgent.
She asked what needed to be done by tomorrow,
then by Sunday. Next she asked, "What
steps can I take to make visible progress toward
long-range goals?" By narrowing her focus, she
discovered that many tasks were less urgent than
she had thought.
After she chose five items, we established a
rule: She had to finish all five tasks before she
could add a sixth one. Then she could choose up
to five more. We made two exceptions to this rule.
On Fridays, if she had time, she could choose one
more task for the day. And if something on the big
list unexpectedly needed immediate attention, it
could replace one of the five already chosen. The
replaced item then returned to the big list.
In this way, she controlled the pressure of
too many things to do and gained a sense of
Sort Items into Manageable Blocks
My colleague also needed to remove the clutter
from her monthly calendar. Too many little squares
were overflowing with writing. First, we decided
that she would only record evening appointments
in her planner. She would write other appointments
in a day calendar, where they were visible
alongside her daily list of five tasks.
Next, we developed a master copy of her
weekly calendar. We divided each day into three
segments: morning, afternoon, and evening. We
subdivided the afternoons into two task sessions.
Within these boxes, we reserved time for working
on the list of five to-do s, study and prayer, relationship
building, meetings, and developing new ministries.
As we assigned tasks to various spaces on
the calendar, we discovered there was more time
than we thought.
The plan works. It's flexible enough to meet
the demands of ministry, and it balances ministry,
administration, and personal life. It can tame the
big list and make it a servant of ministry rather
than a tyrant.
The master calendar at the top of the page
helped my colleague plan her activities.