The Pastor, the Administrator?
A 2015 study conducted by LifeWay Research found that nearly 250 pastors of evangelical churches walk away from the ministry each month. This report was nothing new to many of us, as this type of study is repeated every few years, highlighting the pressures of those who serve as pastors. As I deliberated about what topic to research for my doctoral thesis, I wanted to see what factors might be contributing to these trends and how my denomination might combat such factors for our ministers.
As I dove into the related literature and studies, I repeatedly found those serving in ministry generally felt their preparation was inadequate for the realities confronting them (more about that to come in my follow-up blog). Below you can read a portion of Chapter One of my dissertation, which provides a general overview and foundation for my study.
Below are excerpts of Chapter One of my doctoral dissertation, “ASSESSING PASTORAL COMPETENCY, ROLE EXPECTATIONS, AND REALITIES OF LEADERS AND PASTORS SERVING IN THE CHURCH OF GOD OF PROPHECY.”
For the past several decades, there has been heightened interest in how educational programs serve and impact students. No matter the field of study, there is growing criticism and concern that institutions inadequately prepare professionals to serve and function effectively. Those who are preparing men and women for professional Christian services, such as universities, seminaries, and denominations, also face this concern (Boersma, 1988). As a result, attention has recently been given by those within the church for the need to balance relational and managerial skills when developing competencies and training those called to serve in the role of pastor.
The call to ministry is fundamentally spiritual by nature. Since the days of Adam, God’s mission has been accomplished through leaders who fulfilled His plan for their lives. The Bible is replete with examples of individuals used by God as judges, rulers, prophets, preachers, and teachers through which He accomplished His work. While Scripture often records that these leaders had flaws and shortcomings, God used them as spiritual leaders. While it is a vocation that can require credentials, the primary task for the person called to serve is the ability to hear and respond to God’s call.
Paul declared his calling often, stating that it was not of his choosing “but through Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:1). The pastor must have such an assurance of calling. However, the desire to serve in the pastoral calling is not enough. The individual must be fit for the ministry, meeting the qualifications outlined in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:5-9. “Once biblical requirements are met, he must consider the practical aspects of ministry, such as his ability to serve selflessly, minister publicly, be organized, stay motivated, and inspire others” (Anderson, 1985, pp. 20-21).
Recognizing the spiritual nature of the call to ministry, we must also acknowledge that the church is both a spiritual organism and an administrative organization. As such, there is a need for pastors to be competent in administrative abilities. As God’s coworkers (1 Corinthians 3:9), He has chosen and called pastors to join with Him in fulfilling His mission. For pastors, this calls for skillful design and management in ministry as they preach, lead, and serve.
1 Corinthians 12:28 reminds, “And God has placed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, next miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, managing, various kinds of languages” (HCSB). The term “managing” is found in this passage and, Romans 12 renders in the Greek as Kubernetes. This term refers to the helmsman who guides a ship (Welch, 2011). Welch (2011) explains this helmsman is the pastor of the church who “receives sailing orders from God through the Holy Spirit and Scripture” (p. 4). Pastors then guide their church leadership and congregants, empowered by the Holy Spirit, toward fulfilling their mission.
Throughout the New Testament, we find the necessity of administrative functions to the church’s work addressed. In 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, Paul encourages the church in Corinth that administrative responsibilities work cooperatively in both spiritual and practical matters. In Titus 1:5-9, Paul instructs the young minister that administration is a part of the minister’s task, providing the example of appointing elders. James reminds (James 2:14-18) that administration should be practiced in addition to our faith. Scripture teaches that the application of administration within the church should be focused on people, not processes (1 Corinthians 12:18-28). Other passages instruct that administration leads to the achievement of goals (Philippians 3:13-17); administration as orderly (1 Corinthians 14:40); administration produces peace (1 Corinthians 8:7-13); and even fellowship flows from administration (Acts 2:42) (Welch, 2011).
Pastors are unique in their calling. Therefore, their practice is different from that of the professional. At times, some have challenged the thought that pastors should become more professional in their service. John Piper, for example, in his book Brothers, we are not professionals: A plea to pastors for radical ministry (2013), states:
A ministry under the banner of Christ’s supremacy will be offensive to the impulses of professional clergy who like to be quoted respectably by the local newspaper. The title of this book is meant to shake us loose from the pressure to fit into the cultural expectations of professionalism. It is meant to sound an alarm against the pride of station and against the expectation of parity in pay and against the borrowing of paradigms from the professional world. Oh, for radically Bible-saturated, God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-sacrificing, mission-mobilizing, soul-saving, culture-confronting pastors! (p. 3)
Still, some such as Baxter (2018) have warned that severe dangers exist, including the church’s destruction, if pastors are unfit for service. He concluded that churches best thrive when led by fit pastors who are competent and called by God. With this understanding, competence and calling are not mutually exclusive. This study seeks to address the necessity and application of management principles to the pastor’s role once accepting a call to ministry.
Foundational management principles are not merely limited to business or industry. They can have application and relevance to Christian organizations, as well as the church. Leadership within the church requires not only spiritual wisdom but also organizational skill. By applying management principles, pastors and lay leaders guide the churchtoward fulfilling its mission by observing the present, estimating the preferred future, and developing strategies for attaining ministerial goals (Welch, 2011). The objectives of church congregations are achieved through people’s united efforts; therefore, leadership requires skills in directing and managing people (Anthony and Estep, 2005).
There are many reasons why it is essential for pastors to be competent in areas of management. First, management abilities provide pastors the opportunity to model and teach spiritual truths (Kim, 2018). Secondly, management skills allow pastors to lead their congregation more effectively through changes in the cultural landscape (Love, 2018). Finally, these skills also broaden the pastor’s decision-making abilities (Roxburgh, 2000).
Unfortunately, many pastors feel ill-equipped and unprepared to function as a manager (Groothuis, 2019). Due in part to their view of management skills as secular, pastors question using such tactics in a spiritual environment (Rainer, 2013). Most importantly, to this study, denominational training programs and seminaries have given little attention to the importance of managerial competencies for the pastor (Chatira and Mwenje, 2018).
Organizations and institutions charged with the development of ministers and church leaders are concerned with identifying competencies necessary for those engaged in Christian service. Such insights provide the framework for creating training materials and designing evaluative tools for ministry. Considerable research has found evidence of frustration for those serving in ministry, with many pastors leaving the ministry. Much of this conflict is linked to a disparity between the perceptions of the pastor’s role regarding their function and the expectations of the laity.
While numerous studies have considered the efficacy of the seminary experience, little has been done to assess how denominational training development programs impact pastors’ managerial skills development. It would seem reasonable to suggest that those creating curricula for ministerial training programs understand the skills expected of a pastor serving congregations in today’s environment. As primary training, ordaining, and credentialing entities, denominations serve a vital role in preparing and equipping ministers. Therefore, it would seem appropriate for denominational executive leaders’ input to be examined.
Looking at the Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP), this study examined what managerial competencies were deemed essential for the COGOP pastor by surveying pastors, congregants, area administrators, and denominational executives. An anticipated outcome of this research is that such knowledge can aid in developing training initiatives to support or bring unity to the expectations of the laity, ministers, and their supervisors.
In my next blog, I will begin sharing excerpts from Chapter Two of my dissertation which presents the literature relevant to my study, which includes a theological approach to management and administration, perspectives on preparing those serving in ministry, and presents managerial competency studies of ministry leaders.
Baxter, R. (2018). The ministry we need: The reformed pastor. Christian Heritage.
Chatira, F., & Mwenje, J. (2018). The development of management skills for effective church management in pastoral preparation programs in Zimbabwe. African Journal of Business Management, 12, 103-120.
Groothuis, D. (2019, September 13). Pastoral education and the challenges of ministry in the 21st century. Focus on the Family. Retrieved from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/church/pastoral-education-and-the-challenges-of-ministry-in-the-21st-century/
Kim, S. J. (2019). Development of pastoral administrative leadership scale based on the theories of educational leadership. Cogent Business & Management, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.1080/23311975.2019.1579963
Love, J. (2016, January). How today’s clergy are putting their faith in management training.
Kellogg Insight. Retrieved from https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/how-todays-clergy-are-putting-their-faith-in-management-training
Piper, J. (2013). Brothers, we are not professionals: A plea to pastors for radical ministry. B&H Publishing Group.
Rainer, T.S. (2013, March 6). Why pastors must learn management skills. Church Leaders. Retrieved from https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/165590-sam-rainer-pastors-must-learn-management-skills.html
Roxburgh, A. (2000). Crossing the bridge: Church leadership in a time of change. Percept Group.
Welch, R. H. (2011). Church administration: Creating efficiency for effective ministry. B&H Publishing Group.