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Misconceptions about Church Administration

Article by Adam Johannes
CEO, ChurchInsight

Can we just be real for a second? A church wouldn't survive without administrators tirelessly working away in the background. Casually implementing the practical and organisational aspects of running a ministry, like it's not a never-ending struggle.

Often the pastor of a church, no matter how great they are at teaching and inspiring others. Doesn't have the right skills (or the time) to fill this role. This is why unbeknown to the masses, church administrators are invaluable members of the ministry. They are also members that are often misunderstood.

In fact, when we refer back to the original text surrounding the gift administration found in Ephesians 4, Paul, the writer, is referring to an administrator that would have been found on a boat or a ship. The administrators role was to steer the ship. They would hold the rudder and ensure the ship stayed in calm waters. The ship's captain would set the destination but the administrator would guide the way. With that in mind, let’s look at the top misconceptions about church administration.

That the church administration duties are limited to the 4 walls of the church

The 21st-century church is about way more than sermons. These days, with going to a Sunday morning service less of a given, churches work hard to be a part of the community. They work alongside schools, old folks homes, hospitals, with the homeless, those with mental health issues and the bereft. Plus many more capacities besides.

That's a whole lot of church admin, and administrators need to be dedicated, well qualified, and hold strong business acumen to keep on top of it all.

That the church should avoid being too business oriented

A common misconception is that the church should steer clear of the ruthless world of business and remain spiritually enlightened. Sounds nice and everything. But, a church is still a business and not treating it as one will stunt its success.   

This means the administrator needs to be an excellent all-rounder with first-class business sense. Usually, they will be the ones dealing with the ins and outs of outreach programs, and communicating with the rest of the ministry staff. To do this effectively, they should know the church, and they should know business.

The job of a church administrator is easy

Oh, this is so so false. In fact, it couldn't be more wrong. The administrator is the right-hand man or woman of the pastor. Their role is to shoulder the practical stuff so that the pastor can lead the congregation uninterrupted. They deal with negotiations and employee issues at the same time as overseeing numerous departments. They need to be smart, organised and shrewd. And ideally, comfortable with using church admin tools to make their job slightly easier.

They will also be the first port of call for anyone looking to communicate with the church. They are, essentially, the gatekeeper to the pastor. The workload is huge and the role varied. The position of church administrator is anything but easy.

That the job is all about policies and procedures

OK, I'll admit, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. But it's not all about following rules and regulations. Behind it all is the underlying heart of an administrator's job. People. Yep, it's actually all about the people. Each seemingly pedantic procedure is put in place to try and keep the ministry running smoothly. And when the day to day running of the ministry goes without a hitch, then people are happy. What a wonderful thing.

Administrators do not lead

Another misconception. In fact, since church administrators are the main point of contact for employees, peers, and companies working alongside the church. They have great power to influence others and can definitely be seen as leaders.

In order for a church to work the administrator must use this power to inspire everyone involved with its running to aspire to the same thing. A church administrator, much like a charismatic corporate boss, can have everyone working together. Think about it, if the administrator can't get everyone on the same page, and people work towards different goals, there will be no end of problems as these conflicting goals inevitably clash.

It's all about the money

While some believe the role of a church administrator to be somehow more enlightened than that of an administrative professional in any other line of work. Some go the other way and consider the ministries admin to be the religious equivalent of Scrooge. Always thinking of ways to keep hold of those pound coins.

In truth, they do keep a tight leash on the churches spending. But not because they're miserable and tight-fisted. It has more to do with the fact that they have been trusted with the congregation's money and are keen to respect that trust. And also, that the whole business could collapse if they don't keep a watchful eye, and stop any excessive spending.

Church admin policies take the fun out of the church

Being the responsible one is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. And in the case of the church, that responsibility falls to the administrator. They're trying to keep the business afloat, and staff and congregation members alike happy and safe.

Think of the administrator as the parent, and the congregation as adventurous toddlers. You might think a sponsored fire-walking event is a fun way to raise cash for the church. But the administrator will see what any anxious parent would. A never ending nightmare of people setting themselves alight and winding up in the burns unit. Plus the stream of legal action being taken as a result. Don't forget that.

Church management can be done by the pastor

Maybe, in the distant past, the pastor would be able to handle the workload themselves. Maybe they'd get by with the help of a few hours of a volunteer's time. These days that is very much not the case.

As our communities grow more complex, so do our churches involvement with them. With churches of today having their fingers in so many pies it would be all but impossible for the pastor to manage outreach projects, oversee staff, hiring, firing, finances, fund-raising events, donations, health and safety, organisational tasks and the many other things involved in the running of a church. On top of their role as counsellor, educator, and inspirer to the congregation.

There. I hope that's cleared up any misunderstandings. Church administrators really are a gift from god when it comes to the seamless running of a church.

Adam Johannes, 26/04/2017