Can I Be An Effective Pastor If I Don’t Like Management?

Pastors are not managers, at least in a corporate-business-world-publicly-traded-company-sort-of-way. But pastors are shepherds. And shepherds manage sheep.

Leading a church involves management. Perhaps you’ve had the privilege of attending a meeting discussing the finer details of administering the Lord’s Supper. If so, you probably recognize the importance of the managerial role in the church.

A church hierarchy assumes management. And most churches—even congregations with smaller staffs—are not completely flat. For instance, I’ve never seen a church intentionally give the same level of authority as the senior pastor to the student pastor. Maybe some might be better if they did (of course, some might devolve into chaos.). Even at the most basic level, churches require management. Who pays the bills? When does the meeting start? Who is responsible for snow removal? Who fills the baptistery? What is our policy? Those are basic managerial questions. Most churches are more complex.

Some senior leaders in the church gravitate towards being more like a senior writer or senior analyst. These leaders are recognized for their intellectual contributions but do not have managerial oversight. Many teaching pastors have this type of role in the church. Other senior leaders prefer to manage the minutia and deal with people issues. Many executive pastors have this type of role. Most pastors, however, must both teach and execute.

The vast majority of pastoral roles include management. So, can church leaders be effective if they don’t like management? Yes, but they must compensate in these ways.

Be self-aware. One of the core problems of bad management is poor managers often do not recognize their weak managerial skills. When you’re self-aware about your weaknesses (and willing to admit them), then you’re more likely to receive help from others. No pastor can (nor should) do it all. And all pastors should be self-aware of what they can and cannot do.

Discern what to delegate. Just because you’re naturally good at doing something does not mean you are able to manage others doing the same thing. Some pastors delegate their responsibilities too quickly. Others delegate the wrong responsibilities. And some tasks should never be delegated. Delegation with discernment makes up for a lot of managerial weaknesses.

Don’t fear being the doer. Some people prefer doing tasks. Others prefer managing people who do the tasks. If you cherish a few tasks, then don’t give them up. Keep doing them. For instance, a pastor might enjoy locking the church after the evening service as an opportunity to prayer walk.  Or, if you’re an artistic type, there may be certain creative tasks that are difficult to manage. Good church leaders know what select tasks they enjoy most and keep doing them, sparing their followers the inevitable and overbearing micro-management that would accompany overseeing others doing them.

You don’t have to like management to be an effective pastor. But shepherding a congregation does involve managing sheep. All pastors should both teach and execute. Few master both. If you’re weaker at managing execution, then you can compensate through self-awareness, discernment, and doing the tasks you enjoy most.

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Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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