Put bluntly, through trial and error — mostly error — God has taught us a lot about practical administration in the church. Like many pastors, I’ve often believed this was beneath me or at least some type of distraction. But here in our local congregation as well as in other places I’ve been involved, I’ve come to learn the importance and the effectiveness of a well-run church.
At the risk of being too simple, here is our formula:
Information + Inclusion = Importance & Involvement
The formal and informal leaders of a congregation ought to be communicating information to the rest of the church frequently and clearly. This includes the information included in the bulletin, posted reminders at the church building, email newsletters and the use of social media.
Negatively speaking, nothing makes people feel like outsiders in their own church like not being told what’s going on. Showing up at the church building only to find out a service has been cancelled, not knowing how people can sign up for different ways to serve, giving any impression of secrecy among the church leaders…all of these are ways to quickly but subtly set up an insider-vs-outside culture in your congregation.
There are areas of service, especially in reformed and presbyterian churches, that belong to the leaders of the church. But everything else should be seen as opportunities for recruitment and involvement. In other words, I can’t ask the high schoolers to preach during our worship service, but we can definitely involve them in leading the singing or team-teaching Sunday school or leading work projects around the church.
Not only is it unhealthy for the pastor or deacons to be doing all the work of the ministry, it’s unhealthy for the church as well. The more ways we find to include people according to their gifts and interests, the more effective our administration is becoming. This is a part of administration that often takes a lot of up-front work, both through recruiting and training, but it pays near-infinite dividends in the feeling and practice of spiritual unity and teamwork.
The goal and benefit of effective church administration is more than simply running things well, it’s communicating to each person in the church that they are valued and important to the life of the church. Each time we work hard to inform, we are communicating: “You are important; we want you to know about this so you can make plans to be there.” Every time we work hard to include, we are communicating: “Our church wouldn’t be the same without you; you are valued both for who you are but also for the gifts God has given you.”
So before we start pointing fingers at congregation members for not showing up to work days or not “buying in” to the latest ministry, it may help to re-examine how well the leaders are informing and including in every possible way they can. Often, by examining and evolving in these areas, we will see involvement increase as people understand how valued they by their church family.