ADVICE FROM CHURCH ADMINISTRATORS
ON SUCCESSFUL CHURCH
Change is a prerequisite of church health; static churches cannot long stay at the peak of organization health. Given the central and unique position of influence enjoyed by most church business administrators, the CBA emerges as a key change agent in today’ local church.
This article draws upon the vast reservoir of knowledge possessed by CBAs across the country in assessing the CBA’s varied role in the complex church change process. The authors conducted interviews with a large number of CBAs in researching this article, so that an experience-based perspective on church change could be developed. The article thus looks at change from the CBA’s own special viewpoint.
A PHILOSOPHY OF CHANGE FOR THE CBA
The CBAs interviewed made it abundantly clear that the business administration area within the local church is frequently the very hub of church change. Since so many ministry activities impact the church in such areas as finance, personnel, and formal planning it is inevitable that business administrators get involved.
Organizationally, the CBA’s most legitimate direct change role is in budgeting, facilities scheduling, and staff support. In these traditional church business arenas, the CBA generally proactively spearheads the change process.
Outside the business area, however the CBA more properly should play an indirect, reactive change role, serving more to implement and facilitate change than to initiate or orchestrate it. In matters not directly pertaining to church business, the CBA must function as a superb team player, backing up and "running interference" for change-oriented colleagues.
In fact, the majority of CBAs interviewed concurred that they serve the church best by assuming a low profile in the change process--being a behind the scenes person. The low profile philosophy of change necessitates that the CBA have a much greater concern to getting results than for getting credit.
Several of those interviewed pointed out that the CBA must occasionally step out of role and act as change agent in non-business areas where another staff member has dropped the ball and not effectively managed the change process. Obviously discretion and discernment must be carefully applied in such instances.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR POSITIVE CHURCH CHANGE
Whether a particular church change is the CBA’s direct or indirect responsibility, considerable advance work is necessary to prepare the church for change. Without such groundwork, change implementation will likely be a clumsy, awkward process of blunted effectiveness.
The CBAs interviewed strongly stressed that effective change without concerted that effective change without concerted communication is impossible. Such communication must not only involve all those directly affected by the change but also include positive selling of the anticipated benefits of the change. The existence of interpersonal rapport (goal-sharing) among those involved in both initiating and implementing the change is a prerequisite for success.
The chances for successful change are enhanced by the extent that the influential people in the church are directly involved. The CBA must therefore stay in close touch with the church’s political network in order to constructively sell the influence-makers.
Still another important area of ground work involves "unfreezing" the congregation to prepare it for efficient absorption of the change. An unusually fertile time in the life of a church for introducing change is during a significant transition period, such as a building program, change in pastoral staff, reconstitution of committee memberships, etc. At such times the congregation is primed for change and less tied to the status quo. As one CBA put it, the staff should strike while the church is in a positive mood for change.
Change management demands that the CBA concentrate on winning the war (why change is needed) rather than the battle (how change comes about). Change-oriented CBAs must avoid "majoring in the minors," the fruitless process of fighting major battles over relatively minor change issues.
A CONCLUDING PERSPECTIVE
Churches are unique organizations, full of the tensions between status guo and the need for change, between staff authority and congregational power, and between sustaining a sense of mission and operating efficiently.
The CBA plays a unique role within the church. Many parts of the jobs are essentially secular: budgeting, information systems, food and plant operations, vehicle maintenance, etc. yet, the CBA also has an essentially spiritual role: helping the church truly minister to its people and the broader community.
As a change agent, the CBA is often found in the middle of important change initiatives in the
church--sometimes because the CBA initiates the change, but at least as often as a member of a staff seeking to support the change initiatives of the pastor or other staff members.
The CBA has a unique opportunity to be a resource for constructive and committed change in the church to the extent that he or she is knowledgeable of change strategies and tactics.