The Role of Management in Church Growth
By Tim Massengale
“I don’t understand it,” Pastor Gordon said with disgust, stirring his coffee slowly. “I’ve done everything I know to make it work. I asked Sister Judy to oversee the Visitor Follow-up program. She accepted. I explained how everything worked. I gave her a detailed, written job description. I even worked with her for several weeks and trained her how to do it. Everything looked great.
“Now here it is, less than six months after she started, and I just found out the whole thing has fizzled. Guest cards are not being filled out, follow-up assignments are not being made, and letters are not being sent – nothing! When I confronted her on why, she lamely claimed that Brother Jones, our head usher, wasn’t getting the visitor cards to her. Why didn’t she tell me that sooner? And the typewriter is broken. How was I supposed to know? Why didn’t she get it fixed? Doesn’t anyone feel any responsibility to the Work of God? And not only Visitor Follow-up, but Bus Ministry, Home Bible Study, Saturday Door Knocking, – they’re all dead or dying. Do I have to sit right on top of everything and ‘bottle feed it’ to make it work? My entire organization is falling apart! What’s wrong with my people? Don’t they have any burden? What’s a pastor to do?”
A COMMON PROBLEM
Pastor Gordon’s problem is a very common one. All across our fellowship pastors are launching programs and starting ministries, organizing departments and training directors, spending hours developing a plan to reach their city, only to look around in amazement and see all their hard efforts gradually crumbling, almost before they were fully started.
“What’s wrong?” Pastors ask; voices edged with desperation.
And it’s not from lack of effort. Pastors can often pull from their files one organizational plan after another – all have failed. No wonder many sincere shepherds have become so despondent that they now say, “I preach, I pray, and I leave the rest to God.”
But is that all God called them to do? Is it getting the job done? No! Than what are they doing wrong?
The problem is not that of burden or poor delegation. The problem lies with administration.
THE CHURCH IS A BODY
Nothing is more finely organized and intricately designed than a healthy human body. Every muscle, bone, and organ is joined together in such a way as to allow the entire body to function effectively and efficiently. This is made possible because approximately ten pounds of tissue rests inside our head – tissue that makes up the world’s greatest computer. Our brain computes facts, figures, activities, and all bodily functions simultaneously.
The human body is often used as an analogy for the body of Christ. Christ is the Head of the church. He is the brain, the control center. He controls and coordinates all activities for His body. For a local church to operate properly, it must be effectively organized and administered. If the human brain does not operate properly, sending the right signal to the body at the right time, then it makes little difference how wonderfully organized and designed it is. It will only stumble and falter along. The same is true for the church. If church growth is to take place, not only must the Body of Christ be will organized, it must also be properly administrated, managed, and supervised by a “brain” in order to make that wonderful organization work in unity.
One of the New Testament words used for the role of a pastor is the term bishop, meaning “overseer” (episcopos). This shows us one of the important roles of a pastor. The pastor must work beneath Jesus Christ – our Chief Shepherd – as an under-shepherd. The pastor must take oversight of the church under the headship of our Lord. If Jesus is the “brain” of this body, then the pastor is the “spine” through which all directions and commands are channeled. If the spine becomes separated from the brain, or even damaged, the body will become paralyzed, or at best, not work properly. It is needful that the wonderful Body of Christ, the church, be managed and administrated in an effective manor. All the organization in the world is useless without good administrative skills.
Unless a pastor fully appreciates, understands, and implements the management process, a church will never achieve it full potential. The complex body of believers we call a church is make up of married people, single people, the divorced, the widowed, youth, and children. A growing church will succeed in blending this diverse group into a God-glorifying unity. Managing this body involves the full spectrum of leadership skills – delegating, motivating, training, planning and executing plans, administering, organizing, and anything else that might be needful to help the body fulfill their objectives and callings from God.
This explanation though, leads us to a sobering conclusion. This management roll is carried out by the pastor, and few pastors are equipped for this role. Although a pastor may be fairly good at organizing and delegating – asking “so-and-so” to do “such-and-such,” once the baton of responsibility has been passed, they often lack the skills to manage and administrate the organization they have created. The pastoral-training process focuses primarily on equipping a man for teaching, preaching, counseling, and shepherding duties. Few are trained in management. Management is a skill, just like carpentry is a skill. Like carpentry, it must be learned; and as with any skill, it improves with use and experience.
WHAT IS MANAGEMENT?
Management is best defined as “the process of motivating, directing, and supervising a group of people in order to accomplish the goals and affairs of an organization or enterprise.” This is simply saying that a pastor-manager must help his leaders develop the plans that are necessary to see the goals of the church achieved and then insure that those plans are carried out. Effective planning requires effective management. One cannot work without the other. This is why the management system presented is called the “Four Part Planning Process.” If the four steps of effective planning are applied to a church, then the pastor is fulfilling all the basic steps of good management. These four steps are as follows:
- The Plan Development Stage (the annual planning retreat).
- The Plan Organization Stage (the departmental one-year plan).
- The Plan Implementation Stage (the monthly planning council)
- The Plan Accountability Stage (the weekly tag-in).
But before we explain these, it is important for you to properly understand what true planning is and why effective planning is needed to see your goals fulfilled.
Why plan? Is planning important? Why even ask this question? Don’t most people recognize the values of planning?
The answer, unfortunately, is “no.” This author concluded long ago that planning is not a “natural” activity for most people. A few people are planners by nature, most others are not. These are some of the reasons:
It is human nature to think more about immediate concerns and problems. Planning is something that can be put off until tomorrow, or even next month.
Planning initially takes a fair amount of effort. Unless a pastor or church worker can clearly see the benefits for them personally, they hesitate to give that effort.
Managing a church by planning usually involves a change in their decision-making style. This change is hard for pastors or church leaders to adopt.
Curiously, the reasons pastors give for not managing their church by planning are not the same as those I have just cited. Instead pastors offer reasons such as these:
Nobody can predict the future – it’s too fuzzy.
How can planning help you when you know things are going to change in the next few years?
We don’t want to straitjacket our saints with a lot of plans.
We don’t want to hamper the supernatural leading of the Spirit with a lot of human plans.
We know our church and its problems so well that there’s no need to get formal about planning.
We’re too busy running the day to day activities to plan.
These are common excuses. None of them are truly valid. They reflect poor understanding of what planning is all about.
Robert White, in his book, Managing Today’s Churches, gives several very convincing arguments in favor of planning. These are based on some very simple concepts:
- Every church needs to do some systematic planning for its future. Otherwise the future will just “happen” without any preparation. Church growth is no accident. If the Holy Ghost gives specific direction for a particular situation, we will follow it. If not, we need to plan on accomplishing what the Lord called us to do: Reach our city. Churches do not achieve their growth and evangelism goals without planning.
Planning provides the basis for measuring and supervising programs and individuals to ensure that they are directed toward the goals of the church. In simple terms, this means getting maximum horsepower out of your church organization and people. Without plans, how do you know if what you are doing and what your saints are involved in is accomplishing anything? You don’t. And if you don’t care where you are going, any road will take you there.
Communication is one of the greatest needs in any church organization. Planning is one of the most effective means of communication there is. When key people in a church are involved in planning the future, setting goals, and evaluating ways of achieving those goals, the result is real communication – and real results.
Planning provides the basis for allocation of a church’s resources to its various activities. Without planning, these resources, in all likelihood, will not be used efficiently. No organization has limitless resources. This is especially true of the church.
The value of the above concepts to the future growth of the church is immeasurable. The failure to plan can be costly. One church found this to be true with regard to their building program. They bought several prime acres of land and proceeded to design and construct their first sanctuary without a master plan for the properly. They gave no thought to future attendance or additions. The result was an inadequate first phase. When a master plan for the property was finally drawn, they discovered that the location of the first building was completely wrong and as well as the wrong design to be functional with any type of addition. They are now paying a great price for poor planning.
WHAT IS PLANNING?
Planners recognize that no one can accurately predict the future. Planning is not forecasting. Instead, planning is making reasonable assumptions about what the future will be in order to make decisions today. For example, assuming that we grow: we will need more room, we will need more buses, we will need more Sunday school teachers, we will need new converts classes, and so on. To wait until the need is upon us is to be caught unprepared.
Edward Dayton said in God’s Purpose/Man’s Plans, “The entire concept of Christian planning is based on the premise that God would have us know Him more fully and that He desires to reveal to us His will for our lives and for His Church.” This is not our church, it is God’s. He has a will, a purpose, and a goal for His people. As long as we lack a plan of action, the goal of the church will remain a dream: but a goal, plus a plan, plus some sweat and effort equals reality. Planning consists of identifying the overall purpose of a project, the activities to be performed, their sequence, and the resources required to accomplish them. If any of these elements are missing, plans will have less chance for success.
There are actually two levels in which planning will take place. The first level is as it relates to the entire church: direction, vision, long-range goals, facilities, activities, staff, equipment, and so on. It involves things that affect the entire church and body. On this level the pastor is the prime dreamer, initiator, and proposer.
The second level of planning is done by the individual departments and ministries. Here the department heads should be the primary planning initiators. The pastor will fill the role of motivator, trainer, helper, and resource person for those in charge of the specific departments and ministries.
The pastor must take care that he does not become so involved in the second level that he neglects the first. If the major direction, vision, and goals are not established, the church will not grow. A pastor must work toward freeing himself so that he can plan in a creative way. He should help the leaders with their plans, but must not neglect his own.
PLANNING WITH PURPOSE
Purpose deals with the question “why” in such matters as: Why is this important? Why should I get involved? Why do we need these things done? Why should this be top priority?
Defining the purpose motivates people to unite behind a cause. Jesus always recruited people to a cause or purpose – not a job or plan. He assigned jobs only after people joined the cause. For example, Jesus began his ministry by saying to potential disciples, “Come, follow Me . . . and I will make you fishers of men (Matt. 4:19).”
Planning is hard work, so it can be very discouraging. That is why it is important to begin the planning process by identifying the overall purpose of the project being planned. A strong sense of purpose helps develop the conviction and commitment needed for the work of planning. If the purpose is not understood, planning may be considered “just more busy work” by those involved.
A member of a church once said that the annual departmental planning meetings were a waste of time. “I don’t know why we have these meetings,” he said. “All we do is decide to keep doing what we’ve been doing. The trouble is, no one knows why we started all these programs to begin with. Half of them don’t work anyway!” The problem here was lack of purpose.
Unfortunately, all too many planning sessions serve little purpose. Unless the purpose of the function is clearly understood, an activity can become a traditional ritual performed by rote.
Therefore, every planning session should begin by answering the question, “Why are we doing this?” The answer to that question represents the purpose. And if the purpose is meeting a real need, people will see the value of getting involved in the planning.
PLANNING AND THE LOCAL CHURCH
There are five basic steps to applying the principles of good planning in the local church. By following these steps, a pastor or church worker will find that his time is more effective, more is accomplished, goals are consistently reached, department heads are motivated and less frustrated, and fewer problems arise. The failure to plan often results in management by reaction: You run first one place, then another, putting out fires and solving problems. Proper planning will eliminate many of the unexpected crisis situations that arise as new programs are set in motion. The old saying “To fail to plan is to plan to fail” is timely and true!
- Develop a vision of the completed plan. The vision – a mental picture of the completed plan – stimulates action, innovation, and creativity. Like the purpose or cause, a vision motivates people to make a strong commitment to the project. It also helps develop group unity and personal conviction and justifies the use of resources in achieving the goal.
You, as pastor, need to have this vision firmly established in your heart. It needs to be in writing. Dates must be set to take you each step toward the fulfillment of your goal. This involves the use of the “Five-Year Numerical Goals” and the “Five-Year Quality Improvement Goals” worksheets which are available from the Apostolic Information Service (www.apostolic.edu). This vision must be imparted to your people. They need to see it as you see it.
- Develop creative plans and activities to accomplish the goal. As indicated earlier, the purpose answers questions concerning why the plan is important and needed. Goals explain specifically what is to be achieved and when. And the activities focus on how the plan is to be accomplished. These activities should be innovative to keep people and their plans from becoming stagnant. Therefore, when developing activities, people should be encouraged to look for new ways of reaching their goals. The finest method of achieving this is by having an Annual Planning Retreat with your leaders. As a group, you and your departmental leaders work together upon each project, building ideas and solving problems. How to have your own planning retreat will be explained later in a future article.
Place Activities in Proper Sequence. Once the activities have been identified, the next step is to place them in proper sequence, making sure each activity is performed at the proper time. The right activity performed at the wrong time can be just as devastating as conducting the wrong activity altogether.
Working with eight or ten departments can make this step a challenge. The easiest way to do this is to ask each department director to hand in a One-Year Plan following your annual retreat. The Departmental One-Year Plan will be explained more fully in an upcoming article.
- Determine the Resources Needed to Achieve the Plan. The planning process is not complete until the resources needed to achieve the plan have been determined. Jesus pointed out the importance of evaluating resources when planning a project or activity. He asked an important question that required thorough resource planning to answer. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28)
Just saying, “We are going to do this” will not get the job done. Somebody must select the people, reserve the location, purchase the supplies, raise the money and so on.
There are six key factors to be considered when determining the resources for your plans. These are:
A. What people will be needed in order to achieve the plan?
B. What type of facilities and how much space will be needed to see your plans accomplished?
C. What type of equipment is needed and is it available?
D. What type of supplies will be needed and how much?
E. How much time will be required to prepare for and execute each activity?
F. How much money will be needed to accomplish each activity?
All of these questions are asked and solutions are found at the Monthly Departmental Planning Council. A monthly planning council is essential if the pastor desires to see his plans fulfilled by those department heads that have accepted the responsibility. This will also be explained more later on.
- Follow Through Once the Plans are Made. The failure of most plans can be traced to a lack of follow through. When an individual is abandoned by the pastor, often times a minor problem can stall the entire program. A pastor must place “accountability to the responsibility”. This is best done at a brief, five minute “tag-in” session with all your directors. A quick “how’s it going?” can encourage and bring to light any problems that may have developed. How to conduct a “Weekly Tag-in Session” will be explained later on also.
When management is effective, it will not be highly visible. Everything will flow without much attention being called to the management process. People who look on may not realize how and when things were done. It was because of good management that the organization (the delegated leaders) brought the activity off smoothly and successfully.
Darrel W. Robinson relates this point in his book Total Church Life (Broadman). He tells how that, after launching a major Sunday School enrollment campaign, a neighboring pastor asked one of his key laypersons in the church what particular program they were using and how it was organized. Although the layperson had been very involved in reaching people, he had not been a part of the planning and organizing stage. He answered, “Oh, we are not using any organizational plan at all. It is just happening.” For all he knew, it was just happening! Yet Pastor Robinson knew that many hours of effort, organization, and management had gone into seeing the program become a success. But little of that work was outwardly evident.
That is how it should be. It is when the organization is out of kilter that it draws attention. A person that walks normally down the street is hardly noticed. A person that stumbles and falters in a halting way is highly visible. Is your church stumbling? Do your outreaches and programs flow smoothly and successfully? Do you launch something, only to look around six months later and find it falling apart? Perhaps the “Four Part Planning Process” is your key to a successful organization and a growing church.
Tim Massengale is an instructor at Indiana Bible College and the author of “Total Church Growth” and “Let My People Grow.” He is available for church growth seminars and church growth consulting work. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-800-0247.