Why Pastors Must Learn Management Skills

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Pastors are shepherds. And shepherds manage sheep.

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.  

Sam  Rainer Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also serves as senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at twitter.com/samrainer, or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.

More from Sam Rainer or visit Sam at http://samrainer.wordpress.com

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