By Tim Massengale
“I don’t understand it,” Pastor Gordon said sadly, stirring his coffee. “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 was to work. I gave her a detailed job description. I even worked with her for several weeks and trained her how to do it. Everything looked great.
“Now, less than six months after she started, I just found out the whole thing has fizzled. Guest cards are not being filled out, follow-up assignments are not being made, letters are not being sent – nothing! When I asked why, she said that Brother Jones, our head usher, wasn’t getting the visitor cards to her. Why didn’t she tell me that sooner? And the computer program that prints out the follow-up assignments is not working right. How was I supposed to know? Doesn’t anyone feel a sense of responsibility anymore?
And not only Visitor Follow-up, but Bus Ministry, Home Bible Study, Saturday Door Knocking, – they’re all struggling. Do I have to sit right on top of every ministry and ‘bottle feed it’ for it to work? My whole outreach program is falling apart! What’s wrong? Don’t my people have a 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?
It’s not from lack of effort. Pastors often can pull from their files one outreach 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! But the problem is not a lack of burden or poor delegation. The problem lies with administration and management.
The Church Is A Body
Nothing is more finely organized and intricately designed than a healthy human body. The human body is often used as an analogy for the body of Christ. Christ is the Head of the church. 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 well organized, it must also be properly administrated, managed, and supervised 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. 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.
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.
There are five basic steps to applying the principles of good management in the local church. By following these steps, a pastor 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! Consider the following:
Develop a vision of the completed plan. The vision – a mental picture of the completed plan – stimulates action, innovation, and creativity. Catching this 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 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. 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 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 planning retreat. The Departmental One-Year Plan will be explained in a future article as well.
Determine the resources needed to achieve the plan. The management / 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.
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 in more detail in a future article
Follow through once the plans are made. The failure of most plans can be traced to a lack of follow through. When an individual feels abandoned by the leadership, sometimes 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 brought the activity off smoothly and successfully.
Darrel W. Robinson relates this point in his book Total Church Life. 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 process. 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 implementing a good management plan is your key to a successful organization and a growing church.