Today we’re joined on the blog by my good friend Greg Smith who is Operations Manager at Catalyst Church. Greg has blogged for us before with 4 Ways To Avoid A Fiasco In Your Church Cash Flow Analysis and Can You Lead From The Second Chair?
Today he shares his 10 years of leadership experience on how to rock your church’s administration.
Excellent church administration is essential if you want to grow a healthy church.
Effective church administration can be a complex and challenging environment.
Limited resources, stretched finances, working with volunteers plus needing to possess a broad knowledge base on a cross-section of church and business principles, can all bring significant challenges.
There are times that you are required to provide specialist input or lead others in areas you aren’t the expert in.
It’s also a rewarding role that can often see you have the opportunity to play a major role in developing and implementing how the vision of your church is outworked.
I’m in my tenth year of serving in church administration in both small and mid-sized churches in Australia.
Top 10 Resources for Church Administration
Depending on your local church context and the composition of your staff or volunteer teams’ expertise, not all of these areas may fall into areas of your responsibility, but you will likely have some input in many of these areas.
1. Understand Your Church Finances
Even if you’ve come from an accounting background, some of the nuances of church finances can trip up the most experienced people.
The Church Finance Handbook is an excellent online resource developed by Saward Dawson Accountants that will help you navigate the somewhat complex finance issues that apply in churches.
Everything from when GST applies, how to deal with fringe benefits, plus a heap of useful templates and forms that you can adapt to your context.
2. Keep Church Communications Relevant
Communication is a vital function in the life of a church and one that is constantly changing with technological advancements.
How you communicated the church news and with your wider community a few years ago might not be where you need to invest your efforts today.
A key starting point is to develop a communications strategy which you will develop to suit your context.
In this, you need to be able to define who are you trying to communicate with, how are you going to do this, when is the best time to do this, what media is best to reach your target and why is this message relevant to them.
This will encompass what you do on social media, your website, blogs, printed newsletters, and the like.
Some resources I’ve found useful in this area to get started include:
Great relevant articles and tips that cover everything from marketing, online strategies, and public relations, all especially for a church context.
This is the place to go if you want a great-looking church website that you can maintain yourself.
This platform isn’t for everyone, but has some excellent features, is easy to customize, and best of all very easy to learn – perfect for a general administrator or volunteer to maintain rather than needing specialist IT expertise.
Whatever platform you choose make sure you are clear about who your audience is and keep the content up to date.
Using fresh visually appealing graphic designs will help you communicate your message in a relevant way that stands out, but not everyone has developed Photoshop or other specialist graphic design skills.
Canva enables anyone to become a designer and is the easiest design platform I’ve come across. As a not for profit you can request a free subscription.
3. Be Proactive About Raising Funds
Some people seem to have a knack for knowing about grants coming up and being able to access them.
Grants can be a great way to help resource that special project or new initiative you are hoping to get underway, but where do you get started if you haven’t done this in the past?
Sign up for an annual subscription to the EasyGrants newsletter, the newsletter of the Funding Centre which is an initiative of Our Community.
Also, attend a grant writing workshop to develop your skills in this area to help you better tailor your proposals in a way that will meet the criteria for certain grants and be viewed favorably.
4. Keep Your IT Infrastructure Current
Make your church budget stretch and access free or discounted IT software and hardware available to Not-For-Profits here.
Keeping your office IT infrastructure up to date and functioning is well worth the investment and will help your whole team’s productivity so it’s a necessary area to keep proactive in.
5. Develop Policies Rather Than Make Decisions on the Run
As a church administrator, you will often see the intricate day-to-day workings of a church and be in a position to introduce clear systems and processes that should simplify things for the wider team that you work with.
Development of policies needs to be part of your skillset as this will eliminate so many issues that have to be reconsidered and assessed each time by your leadership team.
As new issues come up and you see that this could be likely to be repeated or needs to be addressed on a broader scale, look to create a policy that will guide or specify your church leadership’s position on it.
The policy bank developed by the Institute of Community Directors is an excellent starting point where you can access templates for free that you can adapt to your context.
6. Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand – Proactively Manage Risks
The level of complexity in church administration can be daunting at times and can be a legal minefield.
Even if you aren’t the designated Risk Management Officer in your church, as the church administrator you will likely be involved in some way if a critical incident occurs within the church, and you can play an important role in setting and maintaining an appropriate risk culture in your church.
a. The resource section from Corney & Lind Lawyers and the blog from Moores Legal. They both make available guidance for charity and not-for-profits on several common issues applicable to our context.
b. ACS Insurance has a comprehensive Risk Management Guide for Churches available as well as several other publications on other common frequently asked questions.
c. Ansvar Insurance has a multitude of downloads, worksheets, and resources freely available.
There will be times when you will need to lean on external expertise and input to help you navigate some of the risks or incidents that come up.
Don’t hesitate to pursue good advice and avoid making assumptions.
Pastor, is your church positioned for growth?
Evaluate your growth potential with a simple 3 min quiz. Get personalized results with actionable solutions.
7. Educate and Equip Your Church Board
It is really helpful when the team within your leadership structure that carries the governance responsibilities of your church (sometimes a church board, management team or elders), understands and is proactive about all of the responsibilities they carry.
As the church administrator, you will likely play a role in either supporting the church secretary or treasurer in fulfilling their responsibilities or in some cases, you may carry those responsibilities yourself.
In any case, you can often support the ‘board’ with resources and materials that will upskill and help everyone on this ‘board’ to function well.
One of the best resources on this topic was developed by CMA titled CMA’s Essential Standards of Ministry Governance which is available as a free PDF.
The ACNC has several factsheets and guides available to help you manage your ‘charity’ duties. As a starting point and as part of your induction process for all new board members, I’d highly recommend the publication My Charity and the ACNC: A Guide for Board Members.
The Institute of Community Directors also has some great tools and resources that help prepare for a new board role, improve yourself as a board member, and ensure your board is functioning effectively.
8. Develop Your Leadership
It’s important to realize that as a church administrator, you can significantly influence many areas of church life.
You have the opportunity to be one of the key people that your Pastor relies on as the vision of your church is outworked.
It’s important to invest in your relationship with the key leader that you serve with so that you capture the vision and can carry it clearly when you are implementing and leading others.
I reflected some thoughts in a blog post Can You Really Lead From The Second Chair?
As a ‘second chair’ leader you will likely experience three key tensions unique to your role.
If you want to read more on this topic, I’d highly recommend the book Leading From The Second Chair by Mike Bonem and Roger Patterson.
The practical insights provided in this book have been a real encouragement to me and articulated these tensions in a way that has helped me process and express these challenges in a way that others can more readily understand.
9. Network with Like-Minded Leaders (don’t do it alone)
Like many church ministry roles, church administration can be a little overwhelming and isolating at times.
The thing to remember is that there are hundreds of other leaders facing very similar challenges.
It might take an effort on your part to seek out someone you can share the journey with, encourage or be encouraged, and learn from others who are serving similarly, but it will be worth it.
Church leadership gatherings often are weighted towards equipping and encouraging Pastors and, while you can grow and develop through these opportunities, church administrators don’t always think like a pastors and often face unique challenges in the role they play in a local church.
The annual Christian Ministry Advancement Conference (CMA) is the best networking, equipping, and encouraging opportunity I’ve regularly engaged with over multiple years.
This conference, the one-off workshops, and the resources that CMA put out will equip you with practical skills, help keep you up to date with the latest developments in areas such as HR, legal, and communications, will develop your leadership and will put you in contact with people in similar roles.
10 Learn to Celebrate the Successes
Coming from an engineering background in vocational church work, one of the hardest lessons for me to learn was defining and celebrating when you have succeeded.
In church ministry, and especially in administration, it is often a lot harder to define when you have achieved what you set out to do and the goal has been reached.
One of the keys to lasting the distance is learning to identify them and making sure you celebrate the successes both personally and with the team around you.
One exercise that has helped me is to create a statement that defines what a ‘win’ looks like for you and the team that you lead.
I hope and pray that this is an encouragement to you as you lead this important area of church life.
This is an overview of many of the issues and challenges churches face in administration and much more can be said about each of these points.
Hopefully, it gives you a reference point to start from if you want to delve into any of these topics further.