CHURCH MANAGEMENT:
COMBINING THE SPIRITUAL AND THE ORGANIZATIONAL

Churches are characterized by both human (organizational) and godly (spiritual) attributes. The church is at once the body of Christ and a human institution. Because of its unique dual nature, the local church requires both spiritual and organizational management. Church management becomes a challenge of blending the spiritual with the organizational.

For example, the same congregation that prays, proclaims the Word, and celebrates the ordinances also must pay bills, maintain physical facilities, and keep business records. All these functions are necessary for the church’s well-being but cannot be managed in the same way. Church leaders face the perplexing challenge of fulfilling a spiritual mission through organizational management. Confusing the two--spiritual and organizational is the constant danger of church management.

ORGANIZATIONAL vs. SPIRITUAL CHALLENGES

The spiritual challenge of church management is to carry on Godís work in a lost world; providing the human resource to do so is the organizational challenge faced by churches. The following chart compares and contrasts these distinctively different challenges of managing a church.

Churches must be both spiritual and managerial; the two are complementary, inseparable. For example, churches must be concerned not only with right motives for financial stewardship but also with efficiently managing the stewardship program. Money must be cheerfully given and responsibly allocated.

Christian leaders must recognize, however, that spiritual and organizational (managerial) activities are separate and distinct. Managerial performance is no substitute for spiritual service. Financial budgeting must not be confused with charity; committee planning for a revival is not evangelism; conveying a Sunday School class is not necessarily meditation in the Word. To confuse the managerial and spiritual is to confuse means and ends.

ORGANIZATIONS vs. SPIRITUAL RESPONSES

Churches must respond spiritually to spiritual challenges and managerially to organizational challenges. Appropriate responses are shown in the following comparative chart:

 

 

 

 

 


 

Spiritual responses to a challenge

Prayer (contemplation)

Position (waiting)

Proclamation (invitation)

Provision (receiving)

Organizational responses to a challenge

Planning (anticipation)

Programming (organization)

Promotion (motivation)

Performance (execution)

The proper congregational response to a spiritual challenge is (1) prayer, contemplating God’s Word, seeking God’s counsel by entering His presence; (2) waiting on God’s will to be expressed in His way and in His time; (3) proclamation-sharing with others what God has revealed as His will and inviting them to participate in the revelation; (4) receiving the good gifts to His children.

By contrast, the proper response to an organizational (managerial) challenge is (1) planning, anticipating the consequences of present choices and commitments; (2) programming, procuring and organizing the human, financial, and material resources necessary to realize a plan; (3) promotion, supporting and sustaining people in doing their part to bring the plan into reality; (4) performance, implementing the plan efficiently and effectively.

Spiritual and organizational responses are both legitimate church activities; planning is as authentic a godly activity as praying. But problems are inevitable if the local church responds organizationally to spiritual problems or spiritually to organizational problems.

THE PROBLEM OF MISMATCH

Bethel Church is facing declining per capita giving from its growing congregation. If the challenge is spiritual (for instance, the church is spending too much of its budget for staff salaries rather than missions outreach), attempting to meet the challenge with organizational stewardship programs would be shallow and self-serving, thus aggravating rather than meeting the challenge of revising church priorities.

First Church’s youth program is involving a smaller and smaller percentage of the church’s youth. If the challenge is organizational (for instance, if the youth minister is inexperienced and disorganized), attempts to meet this challenge with "waiting for God to act" would overlook the need to establish clear goals and activities for the youth, thus aggravating rather than meeting the challenge.

These two commonplace scenarios illustrate the danger of mismatching spiritual and organizational responses. In appropriate action in such circumstances not only wastes time and resources but actually aggravates the church’s plight.

Response/challenge mismatches arise from four basic sources, each having its own peculiar causes:

Spiritual insensitivity: Interpreting events in humanistic, non scriptural terms, indiscriminately applying management techniques developed in secular settings to churches, acting before praying, favoring "tough-minded" management over "soft" Christian management, relying on impersonal programs to respond to personal spiritual needs, electing individuals who have no personal relationship to Jesus to church leadership positions, simplistically assuming that the larger the church the healthier the church.

Managerial insensitivity: Belief that organizational problems will naturally "correct themselves if left alone," tendency to view organizational matters as unimportant or unworthy of a Christian'í attention, lack of managerial training, reluctance to face up to politically sensitive congregational issues.

Traditionalism: Tendency to meet all new challenges with responses of the past, belief that past success is a guarantee of future success, lack of desire to question the way things are done for fear of upsetting others, belief that ongoing programs must exist permanently, managing by habit, treating human tradition as "divinely ordained."

Inertia: Viewing the new as unacceptably "liberal," believing certainly is preferable to risk, blocking member involvement in decision making, over commitment of members to existing programs, belief that conflict is always bad.

ORGANIZATIONAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH

Church health is a blending of spirituality and managerial excellence--a partnership or covenant between persons and God. The following guidelines are designed to help the local church attain a godly balance of spirituality and managerial excellence:

  • Churches must both be (attain a state of spirituality) and act (more spiritually in a lost world).
  • Spiritual challenges require spiritual responses; organizational challenges require managerial responses.
  • Managerial responses (means) must have spiritual purposes (ends).
  • Neither spiritual nor organizational will "take care of themselves" without conscientious management.
  • Church leaders must be spiritually mature as well as managerially adept.
  • Only God can solve spiritual crises in a church; congregations cannot manage their way out of spiritual dilemmas.
  • Because of its spiritual nature, the church is different from other organizations and must not be managed exclusively in a secular way.
  • God blesses both spirituality and excellent management.

 

 

As a spiritual body the church is concerned with:

As an organizational body the church is concerned with:

The quality of its spirit--how in touch it is with God’s will.

The quantity of its success--how to grow and meet needs.

What it waits for--how to wait for God’s direction.

What it works for--how to bring about achievement.

What it proclaims--how to carry the gospel to the world.

What it programs--how to establish ongoing groups

What it is confident in--how to increase its faith.

What it is competent in--how to increase its expertise.

Prayer--how to stay in communion with God.

Performance--how to accomplish tasks well.

Discernment--how to recognize and respond to spiritual matters.

Decisions--how to recognize and respond to secular choices.

Commitment to openness--how to maximize communication.

Concern for operations--how to channel and control effort.

Godly priorities--how to stick to God’s agenda.

Human popularity--how to create a marketable product.

The quality of its motives--seeking to serve God’s will.

The quantity of its money--seeking to finance programs.

Individual compassion--deep concern for individual welfare.

Individual/group passions-concern for excitement and emotions.