by Gene Enns
The Biblical picture of the word translated “administration” or “leadership” in Romans 12:8 is that of steering a ship. So the term used does refer generally to those that are in more senior positions and make decisions that impact the direction of the ministry.
Nonetheless, in close partnership with those decisions are those that provide administrative support to make the steering of the ship actually take place. In keeping with the picture, you’ve got to have someone who can draw maps, pay the crew, draw up ship safety protocol, and organize the various departments (cooking crew, cleaning crew, maintenance crew, etc.).
Although someone can focus on wanting to steer a ship in a certain direction, it’s not going to happen well unless there are good administrative systems in place to make it happen effectively. In this article, I will present 15 reasons why good administration matters. In this, I will include aspects that would also fall under administrative support simply because there is so much related to this topic.
Although people are more important than papers, fellowship is more important than forms, and prayer is more important than policies, good administration actually results in a much more effective ministry.
So here are 15 reasons why good administration matters:
- It helps people understand where the ministry is going
This aspect applies more to the leader or leadership team than it does to the administrative support. With a clear direction and vision articulated, people don’t have to wonder what your ministry is all about. Although Jesus gave us a pretty clear mandate in Matthew 28 and other passages, how that plays out in various contexts can be vast and varied. To understand the heartbeat of a church takes someone (or a group of people) who can establish where they see themselves going and then work out the steps to get there.
Without this, you’ll find you have an increasing number of people who either have no passion to get involved in helping with your ministry, or you’ll have people who are initially excited but there is very little direction given, which brings a host of other issues with it.
- It helps bring understanding of the various ministries taking place
When your staff and your congregation as a whole understand the importance and need of the variety of ministries taking place within the church you know you’re doing something right.
If your church members are unaware of what the youth ministry does, or if they are unaware of why it’s important to have a janitor, that can cause some problems. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to know every detail of every ministry, but there should be communication to the congregation in general of the needs and work involved in various ministries in the church.
Although there’s no way to completely eliminate this, the senior pastor should not have to regularly try to defend to others why having a youth leader is important. The congregation should be able to identify the need if there is a youth leader. If not, the senior pastor should be able to easily articulate the reason(s) why that position is needed.
There’s nothing worse than someone like a senior pastor needing to defend the existence of an employee’s position (or even volunteer) while not being able to articulate it himself. A good administrator sees the bigger picture and can communicate that to other departments and the congregation.
- It helps ministries function more efficiently
Scheduling. Checklists. Procedures. These are all not-so-very-exciting terms for many people. On the other hand, when done well, these types of systems can dramatically increase the efficiency of a ministry. I know some people may cringe at the thought of focussing on efficiency when it comes to ministry, but it does have its place.
It is true that you don’t want to rush when it comes to discipling people, or praying through issues. However I would recommend that using a schedule will help avoid double booking yourself (or your building); using checklists with help avoid having to go back to the same store three times in one day for VBS supplies; and using procedural documents will help ensure your furnace doesn’t need to be replaced due to some simple maintenance item being missed.
- It’s necessary for effective collaboration
Any ministry that’s growing will likely encounter collaboration challenges. All of a sudden, the children’s department needs a bigger room in the church, so where do they go? Or someone wants to start a men’s evening Bible study on Wednesdays, but that’s when the youth meet at the church. The youth show up, only to find out that the men are using the church.
I heard someone say once that these types of problems are “the need to bring structure to life” which is much better than trying to “bring life to structure.” It’s a good problem to have. And yet, it still is a problem and needs resolution.
Good administration will be able to see how the various ministries can work together and complement one another without sacrificing the essential elements of the ministries.
- It results in good communication
One of the greatest frustrations in ministry is not being aware of things that impact you or your department. When communication is lacking, anyone impacted by that will not be pleased. Being informed is one of the key aspects of keeping a healthy congregation (there are other aspects as well). If you can communicate well with your staff and congregation, they will be much more ready to rally when things don’t go quite as planned.
Good administration identifies who needs to know what. It doesn’t mean everyone needs to know everything, but it asks, “Who is impacted by this decision?” and then communicates the necessary information to those parties.
- It’s not reactionary
Let’s say your youth ministry meets on Fridays in the main hall of your church. They come to find a bunch of tables set up, so they decide to help the janitor by cleaning them up. They hold a youth night, and youth are ministered to effectively. The next week, the youth leader gets an angry phone call from one of the church leaders who complains about how the youth messed everything up and made a lot of extra work for his daughter’s wedding reception on the Saturday. So the leader proposes a policy that the youth can’t use that room anymore. The policy passes by his aggressive support for it. The youth ministry has no acceptable place to meet, and shrinks.
Good administration isn’t reactionary. It identifies the problem that needs resolution and does respond, but not in a way that overreacts to real situations. It helps to “bring structure to life” by causing you to think through the implications of changes in the ministry.
- It establishes priorities
If a church claims that their priority is helping the homeless in the area, and yet they don’t free up staff to do so, or facilitate some sort of program to do so, or direct funds in the budget to do so, then it clearly isn’t a priority.
If a clear vision and direction is established, a good administrative ministry will work on guiding the staff and/or resources in that direction.
- It’s about good stewardship
Do you want to use your people, your resources, and your time as effectively for the Kingdom as possible? That can only be done when there is good administration. Good administration focuses on effectiveness and efficiency with a Kingdom mindset, resulting in proper stewardship of the things God has provided in your ministry.
Good administration will help to provide focus and steer all necessary efforts in the right direction making the most with what you have.
- It brings greater freedom in ministry
Most people like having job descriptions, but most people don’t like making them (unless they can make their own). The value of a job description is that is actually frees the employee (or volunteer) to do what is actually on that sheet of paper, and not feel obligated to have to do everything else. A proper job description is a very freeing document.
In addition, having a budget, although sometimes seen as restrictive, is actually a very freeing piece of paper when used properly. If a budget is approved, it gives you the freedom to spend up to a certain amount without having to constantly obtain approval for every little purchase.
There is a need for boundaries to be put in place in a way that allows freedom within those boundaries. Good administration can do that for your ministry.
- It looks after the details
Some people are very natural at seeing the details, and some people are not. Good administration helps to ensure that those little, but necessary, things are looked after. This would include things like ensuring there’s ink in the office printer, or the baptismal certificates are written up, or the phone messages are checked.
One of the weaknesses in the process of starting up new ministries is that things that are learned are rarely ever written down. If, having run a VBS for the first time, you realize that you should have had more craft supplies on hand, that needs to be noted for next time. There should be some sort of record somewhere regarding both the positive and negative things learned in the process.
There’s nothing like someone new taking on a ministry and making all of the same mistakes because they were unaware of all of the details.
- It brings balance
Good administration helps to avoid imbalances in many different areas. For example, healthy administrative systems will allow the pastor some time off so that he doesn’t end up burning himself out. In addition, good administrative systems will provide balance between various ministries vying for only so-many budget dollars.
We all need balance, and it’s really only when there are intentional systems put in place that balance can be reached. Otherwise, your attention is pulled in too many areas and nothing is done well.
- It keeps you legal
If you have ever had to fill out the annual charity return, or an annual provincial return, or various other applications (e.g. related to municipal zoning and tax exemptions, etc.) you know that you need the correct information presented in the correct way in order to fill these out correctly. I shudder at the thought of how many ministries do these things poorly. Not for lack of effort or lack of good intentions, but rather for lack of good administrative systems, particularly in the financial areas, to ensure the proper information is where it needs to be.
Without proper administrative support, you seriously risk losing your charitable status. That would not be a road you want to head down. Even though it may be accidental, you will have lost trust with some of your supporters.
- It builds trust from the congregation and the public
When you handle things well, particularly finances, people learn to trust you and your judgment. Although you may have good judgment in many areas, for any ministry of any size, there needs to be general policies and accountability in place in order to develop trust with your congregation and the public in general.
Without proper administrative systems in place, you could seriously risk making poorly thought out decisions. Even when your decisions are right decisions, without proper accountability systems in place, you won’t give people confidence that you will be guarded against making poor decisions in the future.
If you want to sacrifice your integrity, make sure that you don’t have good administrative systems or accountability in place when it comes to handling the finances.
- It prepares you for the future
Whether it be budgeting, envisioning, or emergency planning, a good administrative program will look to the future. Planning for growth? What about succession planning? Want to step out and plant a church? All of these things require good administration in order for you to move in the right direction.
Without administration, all vision will simply be that: vision. It will never turn into reality. Being prepared for what you see may happen or could happen is not only responsible, it’s also Biblical.
- It helps identify what works and what doesn’t
A good administrative program will have a system in place for evaluating the effectiveness of various programs, tools, and systems in your ministry. This is important if you truly want to be effective stewards of your people, time, and money, and also if you want to be as effective as you can as a ministry.
Without a system like this, you will likely end up overestimating the effectiveness of some ministries and underestimating the effectiveness of others.
So there you have 15 reasons why good administration matters. Can you think of any more that you’ve seen in your life or ministry?
Gene Enns has been involved in different ministry roles over the years and currently serves as the Vice President of Living Faith Bible College.