The Minister Who Can’t Manage (or is reluctant to)
A seminary degree is not an MBA.
There are no accounting classes in seminary. Most ministers don’t dream about the process of hiring people or look forward to the annual performance reviews. Policies and procedures elicit a gag reflex, and the budgeting process is loathsome. In fact, many ministers on church staffs view all these management duties as interferences to what they really want to do…make disciples through the local church.
Yet, in many churches, ministers end up becoming managers. They don’t view or describe themselves this way, and often won’t even admit to being one (if anything they prefer “leaders” but I’m talking about a different role than leader). But in churches with multiple ministers on staff, usually their managers are also card-carrying Ministers of the Gospel.
So how does a church effectively manage itself when the majority of its managers aren’t trained for or are even averse to managing?
Let’s deal with that issue from two perspectives:
- How do you help reluctant minister-managers embrace their management roles?
- How do reluctant minister-managers push through the management work so they can effectively do the ministry work?
To the church counting on ministers indisposed to management:
Remember: in many cases, these ministers never expected or desired a managerial role. It’s not what they went to school for, it’s not what fuels them, and they’re not using their spare time to think how they can be better managers. God doesn’t always lay out a career path when He calls people, so we need to cut them some slack. Church leadership should find ways to ease their transition into management by…
Incrementalizing their work. Don’t expect them to fully embrace all the managerial duties at once. Determine what their most important management tasks are, and work on those first.
Care about their development in both management and ministry. Don’t make all your development opportunities about improving their management skills. Make sure you’re improving them in their ministerial roles too. Yes, teach them about policies and procedures, but also teach them how to effectively minister to people in crisis.
Lead with their passion and then connect the dots. Talk to them in their love language. Ministering is their first priority, and management trails behind that. Talk first about what fuels them. They’re savvy, they know management is part of the gig, but make sure they know you understand their priorities. It’s up to you to find compelling ways to connect management work to ministry work.
To the management-averse minister:
Understand management is a means to end. Even more than that, understand the means are pretty important. If you manage people and resources well, you provide yourself and your church greater ministry influence. Solid management will allow you to effectively minister through others.
Missteps in management can cripple the church’s ministry. I understand – managing HR processes and protocols can be mind-numbing. But without them, you can undo years of meaningful ministry. You could have stewarded the church’s funds well for years, but one fiscal misstep could cripple current and future church ministry.
Be grateful they’re using your ministry experience, training, and expertise to also influence the management arm of the church. Even in management activity, you can heavily influence your church’s ministry mindset. What can you do as a minister to make sure your church sees management through the lens of biblical ministry? As a minister-manager, you can impact those decisions.
Have management boundaries. Make sure you keep enough ministry in your work that you don’t shrink under the demands of management. If you have a week full of administrative duties, schedule time that fuels your ministry mindedness. Schedule a lunch conversation that will allow you to operate as a minister. I’ve written previously about managing the admin and ministry tension.
Just as not everyone has all the spiritual gifts, not everyone will be equally capable in both ministry and management. But in many cases, ministers will be expected to do both. So, if you’re the one in charge of these individuals, give their underdeveloped strengths some grace and time to develop. And if you’re one of these reluctant minister-managers, understand that serving your church well might require you to develop your weaker areas. Effective ministry often requires effective management. It’s all part of the same important calling.