Tag Archive: supervising

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:

  1. How do you help reluctant minister-managers embrace their management roles?
  2. 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.

Continue Reading

Encourage Teams (without it being forced)

©Sunny studio/ Dollar Photo Club

Do those you lead have to scream, “Hey! Look at me!”? Do they have to vie for your attention?

Are you taking time to watch your staff? Your church’s volunteers? Are you visiting their spaces of influence to watch their work, teaching, and leadership?

For me, Summer time means trips to the neighborhood pool with my four kids. While I’m there, I hear this a lot: “Daddy! Watch me!” I could write about my failures as a parent and why my kids feel the need to shout my name for my attention, but in this particular blog I’m going to focus on team leadership and you.

If you’re doing the work required of a leader, you have a lot going on. You have your own work and are accountable to someone for that work. So how do you handle your own work and also create time to be around and watch the people you lead?

How can you intentionally create “Watch me!” moments for your team, without them having to shout at you?

If you want to be the kind of leader who gives attention to your staff without them having to scream and do cannon balls, consider these leadership truths:

Your team wants your attention.

You may feel like no one on your team cares if you show up and stand in the back of the room to watch them lead a meeting. Or you may feel like team members don’t care about whether or not you speak encouragement to them. But in most cases, that’s not true. In fact, you’re probably underselling what your presence and encouragement can do for them.

Spontaneity is your ally.

I’m not a spontaneous guy. I have to schedule space to be spontaneous. At times, without notice, I show up where my staff are leading, to watch them do their thing. When you do this, there’s a risk they may wonder if you’re there “checking something out”. But a follow-up email like, “It was fun to see you in action tonight. Well done.” will help them get over that.

If you’re naturally spontaneous, let that lead you to places you’ll see your team in action. But if you’re more like me, schedule your spontaneity.

One compliment doesn’t guarantee carte blanche (approval of all things).

I’ve often feared if I compliment an action or work team members have done, they may hear that as a compliment to all their work – and rarely is all of someone’s work “compliment worthy.” Do you struggle with this concept, too?

Despite feeling this tension, what I’ve learned from others leaders and books is to compliment anyway. If you’re concerned about your staff hearing more than you intend, be specific with your compliment. Instead of, “You’re an all-star!” try, “The hospitality team you led this week for VBS did a great job. Thanks for recruiting and training the greeters well.”

Specific compliments not only mitigate the possible tension you feel as a leader or supervisor, but may also be even better received than a general one. A specific encouragement tells them you’re paying attention and noticed the nuance of their work.

Eye contact, use of their name, and handwritten notes are critical.

After my daughter has accomplished the feat of holding her breath for three seconds under water, she raises her goggle-clad face out of the water to see if I’m watching. She wants eye contact. She wants me to look at her and say, “Blake, three seconds, that was awesome!”

Most everyone wants to be cared for – and use of eye contact and a person’s name are important ways to communicate you care. It’s hard to communicate care when your eyes are focused on a screen and you can’t remember their name.

Also – you likely write lots of emails in a given day. One or two of those may be encouragement emails to your team – but they’re typically only one of several emails your team might receive from you that day. However – if a handwritten note shows up on their desk, it feels different. Even if it says the same thing as an email, it communicates a different level of care.

Those you lead shouldn’t have to do cannon balls or hold their breath under water to get your attention. Great leaders seek out ways to be present, watchful, and encouraging to those they lead.


(Confession: As I write these truths from my own experience, I also realize how much work I have to do in these areas. I’m committed to becoming better. Will you join me?)


Continue Reading