The Threefold Task of the Pastor — Part 3 — Church Administration

Church administration — why bother?

You might be surprised by the numbers: A study conducted by Christianity Today International and Gallup, Inc. found that an average workweek for pastors was 65 hours. Of that time, twenty four hours were spent in church administrative activities, six in meetings, and seven in miscellaneous activities that didn’t relate directly to pastoral duties — in all, more than half of a pastor’s working time.

Only ten hours a week were spent on preparations to preach or teach, six hours on pastoral care, five hours on counselling, six in personal devotions, and one hour on evangelism.

It appears that the modern pastor’s task is top-heavy in administration. This is regrettable. First, the primary role of the pastor should be preaching and teaching. Second, pastors are often poorly-trained in the administrative side of church life.

To administer can mean: (1) to manage or superintend: (2) to assure that the body is linked together by common doctrinal commitments, an agreed upon form of government, and common goals; (3) that the various pastoral needs of its membership are cared for; (4) that the congregation is being led in evangelism that shares the gospel beyond church borders; (5) that the church ministers in some way to the physical needs of the poor; and (6) that the whole congregation is kept actively involved in missional outreach.

Pastors can cast a vision. They can keep a careful eye on the overall program of the church. But those who attempt to oversee these duties alone will either get bogged down in minutiae or the administrative aspects of a congregation will end up being neglected.

The smaller church may hire a part-time secretary who shoulders some of these administrative tasks. If not, then key members must be carefully conscripted, elected and taught to share the load. Many of the above functions can be cared for by lay members or part-time employees. Properly approached and trained, members often show surprising skills in caring for these congregational details.

A larger church with a paid staff will have the luxury of spreading the responsibilities around. A minister of administration may be considered in order to release the preaching pastor to do the critical work of preaching, teaching and pastoral care. Yet, the lead pastor will always have to show some measure of oversight regarding the details.

Here is the issue: preaching and teaching must be kept in their central place. If because of a poor distribution of labor the pulpit and classroom are neglected or served poorly, this is a denial of the biblical mandate spoken to Pastor Timothy: “… devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13). Note the word, “devote.”

It’s amazing how conflicted a congregation becomes and what bad relationships develop when it is poorly administered, and, all things being equal, how well it functions when it is ordered by reasonably effective administration.

During three years of seminary training I was a student pastor of a small church in Lexington, Kentucky. When I graduated, my wife and I and four little children went to our first full-time pastorate in New Westminster, British Columbia. We found there a new church shell fully framed and roofed but otherwise not ready for use, and a congregation eager to move forward in ministry. I had had a course in church administration in the last year of seminary which I quickly discovered was useful.

Things went well in monthly board meetings until the new sanctuary was completed and in use. Then at one meeting the subject of weddings arose. A family had scheduled the church and was asking how much decorating of the new sanctuary would be allowed. There was a difference of opinion and suddenly all decorum gave way as members began talking animatedly to one another without regard for the chair – me.

When I got their attention they fell quiet, perhaps a bit embarrassed. I was able to draw on something I had learned in that seminary course. I explained that the church had two major committees – stewards and trustees. The former had responsibilities for the spiritualities and the latter for the temporalities. That is, the stewards would be called on for such responsibilities as caring for the elements for the Lord’s Supper while the trustees looked after matters having to do with the care of the property.

Drawing on what I had learned in that course. I suggested that they simply refer the matter that divided them to the trustees and when their recommendations came back the board could be guided by their wisdom.

They were a very teachable congregation and the issue resolved with no more struggle. Without an administrative way through the conflict the issue could have become a chronic point of disagreement in the body – perhaps giving birth to other points of disagreement as well. Attending to the good administration of a church is well worth the bother.

In a nutshell: church administration is not an unpleasant secular aspect of a congregation’s spiritual life. It’s not a necessary nuisance, or a wasteful drain on church members’ energies. Administration is a spiritual gift (I Cor. 12:28). And when it is done well and in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, our Lord is pleased and his church is blessed.

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One thought on “The Threefold Task of the Pastor — Part 3 — Church Administration

  1. Pingback: The Threefold Task of the Pastor — Part 2 — Pastoral Care « Just Call Me Pastor

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