Saturday, July 16, 2016

Seminary PL15: Managing the Church

Today I begin a stretch of posts on church management.

Since my theology in bullet points series is now done, I may shift my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series to Sundays, a series I've been working on now for about seven months (thinking about it). In the seminary series, first I did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the fifteenth post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).
1. In our initial post in this leadership series, we distinguished management as that form of leadership that had to do with "orchestrating the structure, relationships, and high level operations of an organization or church." "Management involves subjects like organizational structure, conflict management, financial management, marketing, staff management, and managerial ethics."

Although Warren Bennis had an unnecessarily negative view of "managers" over "leaders," we can perhaps gain something from his famous distinction between the two:
  • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
  • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
  • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
  • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
  • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
  • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
  • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
  • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader's eye is on the horizon.
  • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
  • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
  • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
  • The manager does things right; the leader does the right things. [1]  
This list certainly makes the "leader" sound more glamorous than the manager. Some of the contrasts make the "manager" sound small-minded or like an obstacle. But hopefully we can put a better face on the distinction.

2. Successful organizations, including churches, need good management. Bennis almost makes it sound like management is a hindrance, but it is essential. One of the things that Jim Collins' classics Built to Last and Good to Great have made clear is that successful businesses require good organization and discipline. Charismatic leadership, without good management, goes no where.

The opposite can also be true. Good management that doesn't respond to a changing environment will eventually have nothing left to manage.

What Bennis does capture, though, is that management is concerned with systems and structure. The job of managing is "doing things right," where the decision of what the right thing is has already been made. Management is about the "how" and "when," after the "what" and "why" have already been decided.

3. So what are the systems and structure of a church? In a couple posts, we'll consider the different historical structures that various denominations have had throughout history. For now, let's stick with fairly common local church structures.

So in a small American church, the church structure often consists of the congregation, the pastor, and a governing board of some kind. On that governing board is often a lay leader of some sort ("chair") and a treasurer who handles the finances. One person may serve as a secretary to keep records for meetings and such. There may be a smaller subset of the board that are the official "trustees" of the church, who are legally responsible for the property and such.

We can scale-up these basic roles to fit any size of church. There is the ministry team, including senior leadership. There is the management and operations team, such as those who handle finances, facilities, personnel and human resources. Then there is usually a governing board of some kind, with representatives from the congregation at large, often with individuals designated as trustees to handle legal matters.

4. These structures can be captured in what is called an "organizational chart." Before we look at a sample org chart for a medium sized church, we might draw the overall structure of a typical church something like the following:
This is almost a "systems" diagram, which sees the church as a system that includes 1) the input from the world and any denomination, 2) the output into the world, 3) the most central part, the "transforming system" that is the internal aspect to the church, 4) the context or environment, which includes the boundaries between the church and the world, and 5) an evaluative component or feedback loop. [2]

But a more typical organizational chart for a church would spell out the specific roles within the church leadership and administration. For example, here is one that might depict a larger size church:
Here the governing board may have several subcommittees, such as trustees, a finance committee, and a personnel committee. A recent fad is to divide a church board into two subcommittees known as an "elder" board and a "deacon" board, where the former gives more spiritual direction and the latter more material direction. Then the two can meet as a whole for bigger decisions.

Ministry staff of course can multiply exponentially. If we think of the six main domains of ministry practice (worship, mission, proclamation, discipleship, relationships, and leadership), there are often staff pastors for each of these domains in a large church. Large churches usually have an executive pastor to address the more managerial and administrative aspects of a church (leadership). There can be worship pastors, missions or outreach pastors, teaching pastors, preaching pastors, Christian education directors, youth pastors, children's pastors, young adult pastors, college and career pastors, senior adult pastors, small group pastors, spiritual formation pastors, pastoral care pastors, connections pastors, visitation pastors, and no doubt more.

Under the executive pastor is often an operations team. There can be a finance manager or a more generic business manager. There can be a facilities coordinator or a personnel manager (human resources). There may be an office manager and almost certainly a secretarial staff for any church of this size.

5. So there is a management aspect to any church, and it scales up to the size of the church. A church of about 150 has to address its structure or it will not be able to grow any further. The basic components to be managed are people, money, and resources. Good management ensures that these are managed with dependable systems operated with clear decision making procedures and policies.

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 16: Leadership in the Early Church

[1] On Becoming a Leader 4th ed. (Basic Books, 2009 [1989]), 41-42.

[2] An old introduction to a systems perspective on a church is Alvin Lindgren and Norman Shawchuck's, Management for Your Church (1977). In secular management, the systems approach traces back to Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning

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