As a pastor, there are many elements to ministry that Bible College or seminary do not fully prepare you to handle.
Taxes, government compliance, legal issues, child safety, accounting, budgets, computer systems, security, copyright, property management, building programs, insurance, human resources, health benefits, communication, marketing, stewardship and much more are all part of leading a modern church in America. No wonder pastors are overwhelmed!
I teach the Church Business class at BBC and in my introduction I ask the students questions, like: Do you want to stay out of jail, keep your job and maintain a good reputation in your church?
Of course, everyone agrees these are all good ideas, but how do you handle these issues in your church? Some pastors must handle it all themselves, others delegate the work to volunteers and in larger churches, it's often possible to hire a person for this responsibility. Whatever you do, don't ignore these areas! Whether your church is small or large, these topics are a concern.
Some might argue that this work keeps a pastor from focusing on the primary task of preaching the gospel. While I would agree the work of ministry is first and foremost about the gospel, it's important that the church be able to operate as the vehicle for delivering the message to people. If money is mismanaged, laws are violated, child safety is ignored, people are managed and treated poorly, maintenance is haphazard and communication is poor then you will definitely lose people. This loss will come because you have offended the people through your poor stewardship. Stewards are to be found faithful, and this extends to the practical areas of church ministry. If no one pays the electric bill, eventually the utility company will turn off your power and you will have a bad reputation.
The hardest part of being a good steward of church business is the constant change. Laws change, insurance rates increase, equipment fails, technology advances and reaching people is like shooting a moving target while moving yourself. How can anyone hope to cope and sustain a good management system?
A few keys to manage well:
Learn the Basics
Howard Hendricks talked about 4 types of competence. For some, church business is an area of unconscious incompetence - you don't know what you don't know. If this is you, the best way to overcome this condition is read some basic materials about church leadership and management. I recommend "Leadership Handbook of Management and Administration" edited by James D. Berkley. For less than $20 you will have primer on the practical issues facing church leaders today.
Listen to Experts
Find books on the topics listed above, subscribe to periodicals like Church Law and Tax Today, follow church business leaders on Twitter or Facebook, sign up for emails from experts.
Recruit people in your church who are CEOs, business owners, CPAs, human resource managers, tax experts, contractors, insurance representatives, and technology workers. They won't know everything, but in their area, they have a better foundation to help with one or more elements of ministry. They will see what you cannot and when they help, "each part is working properly, making the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:16)
Learning and managing this part of ministry is like eating an elephant. And like an elephant, you'll have to take it one bite at a time. Start with what is most pressing for your ministry today and grow from there.
- Tom Demers
Tom Demers is Executive Pastor at High Street Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri. As an adjunct professor, he also teaches Church Business at Baptist Bible College. When not overseeing operations at High Street or teaching, you can find him with his family, at Starbucks or running outside. He has a B.S. from Boston Baptist College and M.A. from Liberty University.