Churches are multi-taskers. On the one hand, the church is a ministry called by God to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to teach the truths of the Word of God, and to minister to the least of these. On the other hand, they are also a business entity that must balance a budget, hire and fire employees, manage groups of people (both paid and volunteers), organize events, market their initiatives to the community and own and maintain property. The North American church, more so than the church in other areas of the world, has a unique challenge in straddling the world of ministry and the world of business. But it becomes even harder if you persist in viewing the dichotomy rather than the whole.
The intersection of ministry and business
Ministry and business do not have to be two mutually exclusive concepts. In fact I would argue that they shouldn’t be. The work of the ministry does not undermine authority or exempt the called from honesty and integrity in their stewardship of resources. Nor do sound business practices exonerate an organization from actively practicing compassion, faith and hope in its administration.
So what’s a pastor to do when they’ve had multiple years of Bible College and Seminary preparing them to effectively preach the gospel and shepherd a congregation, but they’ve never had an accounting class or business administration class? How do you truly become all things to all people – running the business of the church and leading the ministry of the church?
1. Delegate – this is not easy for pastors, typically for 2 reasons
- A perceived or actual lack of qualified individuals to delegate to
- The misconception or pedestal ideal that pastors should be able to do it all without help
But you must. Analyze your own strengths and weaknesses. Not sure of your own strengths and weaknesses? Ask your spouse. I’m positive that they will be able to assist you in your evaluation. It sounds simple. And conceptually, it is. Know your strengths. Do those things. Delegate the rest, with over-site when needed. However, the reality can be far more complicated. It may be a matter of actually seeking out qualified individuals in your congregation and asking them for help. Often, we like volunteers to do just that – volunteer. But when you truly need qualified individuals to serve as board members, building committee members, capitol campaign administrators, or financial advisors, it is often better for you to go to them.
I can think of at least two recent incidents in my own church where a successful business person had never volunteered to help in the church because they weren’t good at teaching Sunday school, didn’t want to work in the nursery and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. They felt that they didn’t have “gifts” that could be used by the church. Yet these 2 individuals had tremendous skills in the business and financial world – they just didn’t know that they were needed in the church world until the pastor asked them.
2. Investigate – Learn.
I don’t mean go out and get your Master’s degree in Business Administration (unless of course you want to). I mean keep up to speed on what tools and resources are available to you as a business person. Read. Stay informed. Keep up to date on software that could streamline your bookkeeping. Follow business and leadership blogs to learn best practices. Pay attention to the business news, the business channels on Linkedin and other social media, and the business owners in your congregation. Attend your local Chamber of Commerce community business meetings and business card swaps. The more you know about the businesses in your community, the more you will understand the families of your community and their needs. Plus, you’ll be picking up valuable business skills in the process.
3. Initiate – Bring in new staff when needed.
This may be a full time business administrator position. Or it could be a 3 month accounting/bookkeeping clean up performed by a qualified individual for a short period of time. It may be a full time IT/marketing/social media computer specialist. Or it may be a website company hired for one month to overhaul the church website. Staffing does not need to be a full time salaried position all the time. You may have college students working on their MBA who need to do an internship. You may offer a retired contractor or master builder the opportunity to oversee the building project for a 1 year time/salary commitment. Be proactive when you need help. There are many ways to fill the need in your church.