When it comes to leading a church, it’s easy to focus on the biggies: preaching, worship, and making disciples. What we may not consider initially are the support systems that help make those core elements of leading your church possible.
Here’s just some of what goes into your worship service every week:
- Cleaning your worship space
- Making sure you have working central heat and air
- Getting enough seats for people
- Arranging for volunteers to take care of children
- Having greeters in place to meet people
- Coordinating volunteers
- Preparing volunteers for your offering
These behind-the-scenes activities support the ministry that happens at the altar.
Providing a safe and welcoming environment makes it easier for people to listen closely to the message the pastor preaches and hopefully make a decision to follow Christ. Church management involves making those behind-the-scenes tasks happen on a consistent basis.
What does church management include?
Depending on the size of your church, a church business administrator or Executive Pastor will fulfill or oversee these areas. While Senior Pastors need a basic understanding of these functions (particularly the financial aspect), it’s best to have staff dedicated to leading church management functions so the Senior Pastor can focus on preaching, teaching, and overall leading of the church.
If you’re a church administrator or possess a similar role, here are five church management tips to help you get started or improve on how you’re serving your church.
Part of church management is stewarding the financial resources entrusted to the church.
People tithe and give to the church, trusting leadership to use that money well. To earn and maintain that trust, you’ll need to put safeguards in place to prevent misuse or fraud and to ensure you spend church dollars wisely.
Here are three areas of your church’s finances you’ll need to manage:
Unfortunately, a quick Google search yields several examples of church leaders who’ve broken trust with their church through mismanagement or fraud. One way to significantly reduce the risk of that happening is through internal controls and segregation of duties.
For starters, to avoid the mismanagement of the church’s money, you’ll need to have multiple people involved in financial processes to ensure no single person has the authority to do too much with the church’s money.
- At least 2-3 people should be in the room at all times while counting the offering.
- The person who takes the offering to the bank for deposit should not also be the same person who reconciles the church’s bank account.
- The individual who enters vendor invoices into the church’s accounting software should not have the ability or authorization to sign checks.
If your church provides credit cards to staff members to use when traveling on church business or for smaller expenses, you’ll need them to submit an expense report along with their receipts. You need this information to document what they spent.
- Consider using an app or online tool for expense reporting. These tools enable individuals to scan and code a receipt using a smartphone. This reduces paperwork and reduces the risk of lost receipts.
Being a good steward of financial resources involves developing (and following as much as possible) a plan for how to use those resources. That’s where a budget comes into play.
- Each department of the church (Adults, Children, Youth, Outreach, Facilities, Communications, etc.) should develop a proposed budget annually.
- Church leadership should review and either approve or require adjustments to these proposed budgets.
- Once a budget is approved, each department head should work to ensure his/her department stays within budget.
- The church administrator should provide each department and church leadership with financial reports each month that show budget vs. actual by department. Department heads should explain any variances from budget.
Imagine coming into work and not having a computer or access to the Internet.
We’ve become very dependent on technology to help us track church finances, create sermon graphics, and research text for a sermon. Selecting, purchasing, and maintaining the technology needed to run your church is also part of church management. This can include desktop computers, laptops, wireless network, audio/visual equipment, software, and online giving tools.
- Take inventory on a regular basis to ensure you have licenses for each installation of a piece of software (Microsoft, Photoshop, etc.).
- Install and continually update antivirus software on all church computers.
- When you determine your church needs to purchase new software, work with those who will use that tool to document their requirements, evaluate potential vendors, and select which software to purchase. Don’t just choose a tool that a megachurch leader mentioned at a conference. Review several options and choose the one that’s the best fit for your church.
- Make sure your accounting software is still a good fit for your church and its financial reporting needs. Some churches have church management software (ChMS) that includes general ledger accounting plus database management while many others have those tools separate. Either approach can work, so you’ll need to review several options to determine which will work best for your church.
- As you evaluate vendors, ask about whether they integrate with third-party systems. If you offer an online giving option, such as Tithe.ly, their ability to integrate will reduce your time spent doing data entry.
- Church management software can make the church administrator’s job much easier. ChMS tools enable you to have guest and member information in a single, easy to search, location online. You can organize small group rosters, allow people to register for events, reserve rooms in the church facility for a Bible Study, communicate with volunteers en masse, and check-in children on Sunday morning.
- Before you use images, worship songs, or videos, you need to confirm you have the rights to use those works. Many churches purchase a copyright license from a company such as CCLI to ensure they’re compliant with copyright laws.
- Establish and maintain an internal network (or use a cloud-based option) to save electronic files.
- Make sure all files are backed up off-site on a daily basis.
#3. Human resources
Very few churches are run entirely by volunteers. Most have at least one full-time employee (usually the pastor), and many churches have 20+ staff members working full-time.
Part of having employees is making sure the church is compliant with applicable HR laws and regulations. Church administrators will also need to work with the senior pastor and department heads on how they handle hiring new employees, dealing with issues with current employees, and the process for terminating an individual’s employment.
- Develop and maintain an Employee Handbook that includes employment-related policies such as time off, holidays, pay schedules, FMLA, acceptable use of church computers and other equipment, and social media policies. New employees need to read and sign that they understand and agree to these policies. This establishes a baseline understanding between church leadership (the employer) and the new staff member.
- Develop a job description for each staff role. Taking the time to determine what you want someone in a specific role to do and the results the individual in that position needs to achieve helps in the hiring and evaluation processes. Staff members will appreciate the clarity this document provides.
#4. Volunteer management
Service times require heavy involvement from volunteers to handle the greeting, seating, childcare, security, and other activities that make the service run smoothly.
To establish and maintain a robust volunteer team, church administrators need to ensure they have a robust process in place for recruiting, training, and leading volunteers.
- Develop job descriptions for each volunteer role to set expectations and ensure staff members are consistent in how they talk about each position.
- Invite people to join the volunteer team in a variety of ways. One-on-one invitations, announcements from the stage, mentioning the need for volunteers during Sunday School or in small groups, putting an announcement in the bulletin or on the church website, having a special service where you promote serving in various areas, are all ways to invite people to serve.
- Provide training for every volunteer. Training will need to be more in-depth for roles such as childcare or security, but every new volunteer should receive training. If you don’t provide volunteers with information on what the role entails and what success looks like, they’ll do their best to make it up. However, the result may not look like what you’d intended. To avoid that scenario, you need to provide clear instructions and vision for each role.
If your church meets at a location it owns, you’ll need to ensure the building(s) and surrounding land is well-maintained.
- Monitor who has keys to the building and consider installing an automated system where the facilities manager can lock or unlock certain doors remotely.
- Establish a schedule for cleaning the building and surrounding areas (parking lot, etc.)
- Make sure you have the appropriate number of fire extinguishers in key locations throughout the building and that staff and volunteers know how to use them
- Develop and enforce a schedule for maintaining, repairing, and replacing the HVAC systems, roof, parking lot, flooring, sidewalks, paint, furniture, etc.
#5. Risk management
We don’t like to think of all the things that could go wrong at our church, but we need to consider the worst-case scenarios so we can make plans that help prevent or at least reduce the impact of those events.
- Develop plans for weather events that are common to your part of the country (tornados, landslides, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, heavy snowfall, etc.). These should include what to do should such an event happen during a church service (do you have everyone take shelter in a particular part of the building or do you evacuate everyone and to where).
- Decide on criteria for when to cancel services and how to communicate that to the congregation and community.
Parents entrust their most precious little ones into your care each week. They expect their children to receive excellent care and to be returned to them safely after each service. To make that happen, you need to have safeguards in place.
- Require at least two trained and background checked adults to be in each nursery or childcare room at all times.
- Clean each room and all toys, cribs, changing tables, and other items on a regular basis.
- Install and monitor security cameras in each room and at the entrances/exits to the area.
- Use a children’s check-in system to receive children and confirm you return the right child to the correct parent/guardian.
- Work with the church’s insurance agent to ensure you have proper coverage. This includes general liability, loss, key man insurance (for if your senior pastor is suddenly unable to work), special event policies, etc.
- Talk with the insurance agent anytime you make significant changes to the church building (remodel or addition).
Unfortunately, houses of worship aren’t immune to security issues. We’ve seen shootings and other horrific events happen during church services. To reduce the likelihood of this happening at your church, it makes sense to have a security team and policy in effect.
- Consider working with local first responders and ask them to review your security plans, including what to do in the event of an active shooter situation.
- Determine whether you’ll have paid security on-site during services (such as off-duty officers) or if you’ll have trained volunteers to provide protection
Over to you
As you can see, church management encompasses a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities (and what we’ve provided here certainly isn’t an exhaustive list).
The role of church administrator or Executive Pastor requires someone with an eye for detail, the ability to develop easy-to-follow systems, and of course, with a heart for ministry