Without question, the greatest responsibilities a pastor carries are prayer and preaching.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.—Acts 6:4
Even so, administration is part of the leadership package as well. In fact, this administrative aspect is captured in the New Testament word for pastor of bishop, which means “overseer.”
So if preaching is primary, but administration is important, streamlining your administrative responsibilities for the highest productivity is imperative. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Constantly Assess Your Processes
This isn’t to say that every week you need a complete audit and overhaul of your processes, but that you should maintain an open mind for improvement.
Constant assessment helps to keep you from getting stuck in a rut of doing something just because “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
For instance, we have a pastor’s prayer team that meets as a large group twice each year. For years, we held this meeting after a Sunday night service. That was challenging timing for me because I like to be available to our church family after each service and generally stand in the lobby to visit for quite some time after the service. But on a prayer partners night, this meant I either had to keep the prayer team waiting or cut lobby visit short.
Eventually, someone suggested we have the prayer partners meeting before Sunday evening service. It has worked wonderfully.
Continually ask questions like, Is this the most effective way to do this? And encourage others on your team to share their feedback and insights as well.
2. Frequently Review Your Calendar
Does your personal calendar reflect your God-given priorities? How about your church calendar?
Beware of putting events on the calendar just for the sake of busyness. Make sure that each event—personal and ministry—has a clearly-defined purpose.
That is not to say, that every activity needs to be serious or measurably productive. A family day at a theme park does reflect your priority of family. And a church activity does reflect a priority of fellowship.
But sometimes our calendars get away from us and become lopsided even with good things. And sometimes events or activities stick from year to year that should be reexamined in light of a growing family or ministry.
Review frequently. Look for needed updates or changes. And, especially, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction.
3. Regularly Meet with Leaders
Part of the work of a pastor is, “The perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
My role, then, is not to give a leader—either staff or lay—a job and say, “Okay, run with this” as much as it is to invest in that leader, helping them to do the work of the ministry through their leadership opportunity.
This is one of the reasons I think it’s important to regularly meet with leaders for the purpose of mentoring and training. Since our earliest days when we had only volunteer church staff, I have conducted a weekly staff meeting. During these meetings, I usually bring a lesson that relates to personal growth or ministry philosophy. Most ministries of our church also have monthly meetings with volunteers, also to provide ongoing training and encouragement.
4. Annually Conduct Reviews with Staff and Lay Leaders
I really believe that those who serve deserve a sit-down meeting, at least annually, to gain feedback from their leader and to be able to give feedback that may not as easily come up on a week-to-week basis.
For instance, a monthly children’s Sunday school training time may provide tips on class visitation. But at least annually, someone should sit down with each teacher and ask, “How is your class going? Is there anything you need in the way of supplies or facilities? Is there anything you’re concerned about or is there any way I can better help you?”
For our annual staff reviews, we ask questions like, “How is your devotional life? Are there any personal needs or questions you have? What do you think are processes we could improve? Are there ways I could help you better?”
We work to foster an environment of approachability where answers to these questions could be shared any given day, but asking big-picture questions helps to identify answers or even areas of need that should be met.
5. Continually Develop New Leaders
One of the exciting parts of the Ephesians 4:12 model of ministry is that, rather than a pastor’s job being to do all the work of the ministry, it is his job to equip others to do the work of the ministry.
This, however, requires a commitment to develop new leaders. It means that you are consistently involving growing Christians in ministry and investing in their spiritual growth.
Although sometimes it’s more challenging to train others than to just keep doing it yourself, it’s also more rewarding to be part of encouraging the spiritual maturing and gifts of others.
When we think of planning and administration, we have a tendency to think first of events, calendars, schedules, and perhaps lists of available people.
The real joy of pastoral administration, however, is not organization, but discipleship. It is developing the people God has placed in your undershepherd care as you do the work of God as a team.