Is Your Church Admin & Operations a Mess? Start Here.
All throughout the New Testament, we read about Jesus’ vision for the church.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said to His followers, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” (NLT)
In John 17:22-23, Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (NIV)
And in Matthew 6:18, Jesus said to His disciple, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (NLT)
In other words, the church is meant to be a picture of God’s love to the world; a testament to the love of Jesus; and a vehicle for the Kingdom of God.
Ask any pastor, ministry leader, or church member, and the vision for their church likely follows suit. Moreover, they’ll have dreams and plans to carry out the purpose of the Bride of Christ–reaching out to the community, equipping the saints, and seeing transformation of hearts and minds.
But to meet these goals, the church typically has to have more than passion, vision, and zeal; the church has to have the organization and tools to help it succeed.
The reality, however, is that church admin and operations are often disorganized at best; chaotic at worst.
If your church falls into this category, resist the urge to feel overwhelmed or helpless. There are a few simple steps you can take to clean up the mess, equip your staff, and revamp your admin –ultimately helping your church to become more effective for the Kingdom of God.
Before we dive into strategies for smoother operations, let’s talk about what gets churches into a state of administrative mess in the first place.
5 Core Challenges That Churches Face in Admin & Operations
The challenges your particular church faces will vary based on the size and state of your congregation, the number of your staff, and even the socio-economic and cultural climate in your community.
Still, there are common areas of difficulty that most churches will encounter.
Here are five of them.
1. Internal Communications
Healthy internal communications are critical to any organization.
How leaders and employees communicate about project progress, bigger picture goals, and even personal matters largely determines how successful they will be.
But poor communication is an all-too-common problem for many organizations.
Not only does poor communication come at a cost to efficiency and productivity; it can be expensive. In fact, one study found that “companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees.”
The church is no exception to this trend. Though your church may not have 100,000 employees, you can bet that for many staff, internal communications are still a challenge.
Churches often have:
- Multiple departments with dramatically different areas of responsibility...
- Multiple modes of communication…
- Multiple projects involving different departments….
- And of course, a range of communication styles.
The result? A greater need for clear, efficient workflows and protocol for how to best plan, discuss, and coordinate together.
2. Finance management
Finances are tricky in a church.
Since the church is by nature a not-for-profit entity, it’s easy to overlook or ignore financial management as a foundational piece for a healthy church. It might even feel a bit uncomfortable to talk about finances.
But finances are not a “necessary evil.” Good financial management is beneficial for the health and growth of the church, and critical to its safety and integrity. Poor financial management can result in debt and income problems. It can also become a dangerous liability, resulting in legal issues and even reputation damage.
To avoid these problems and get set up for success, churches need tools and policies to help them remain balanced, transparent, and growth-oriented.
3. Upkeep of facilities
Unless your church meets entirely online, you likely rent or own a facility. Depending on the size and budget of your church, that might be a warehouse, theater, renovated public space, or auditorium–or even a combination of buildings, including schools, offices, and additional centers.
We know that the church refers to people, not a building. But the buildings are still important as safe meeting places for fellowship, worship, and congregation. With that, they demand intentional administration and upkeep.
Facilities management includes:
- Ensuring that building regulations are met, such as fire code
- Cleaning bathrooms, floors, windows, and all surfaces
- Auditing the building for safety and making repairs
- Clearing the building of trash and locking doors
- And anything else that ensures the facility is safe and clean
Of course, upkeep and management will look different for different facilities. The key? Administrative oversight and communication to make sure facilities are up to standards.
No one likes excessive paperwork, but more than many other organizations, churches need to stay on top of documentation. Paperwork at a church can involve:
- Maintaining a non-profit status, including tax documentation
- Ensuring the safety of children/childcare workers
- Contracts involving church equipment, copyrights, and more
To successfully navigate paperwork, churches need to have workflows and protocol in place to make sure everything is going smoothly.
5. General oversight
Finally, churches can lack general oversight.
That can include a lack of insight on:
- Member numbers
- Member activity and engagement
- Progress on specific projects
- The health of individual ministries
- And anything else involving activity or engagement
Ultimately, a lack of oversight and insight can lead to a reduced ability to meet goals and move forward, and even to serve and love members well.
To get oversight, churches need tools and resources that can help them a) manage workflows and processes well, and b) get insight on both strengths (attendance is up!) and weaknesses (engagement is low..).
If any (or all) of these areas represent a weakness for you, then you might be experiencing the consequences–a sense of disorganization and chaos that overflows into church life.
In the following section, we’ll cover five shifts you can make right now to get on top of your admin and operations–and start seeing changes ASAP.
5 Strategies to Help You Start Turning Chaos into Order
Developing healthy internal administration is not an overnight process. It can take months–or longer–to integrate new tools, systems, and habits into your church.
Still, there are a few core strategies you can put into place right away to set you up for success.
1. Work on team dynamics
It doesn’t take a consultant to tell you that internal team dynamics are critical to success (although hiring a consultant isn’t a bad idea).
A healthy church staff:
- Knows how to express and receive both positive feedback and constructive criticism.
- Puts aside ego and offense to problem-solve and collaborate.
- Sets healthy boundaries for rest and communication.
- Unifies in prayer, love for people, and love for Jesus–despite differences.
An unhealthy church staff:
- Places unhealthy expectations on both leaders and other staff.
- Doesn’t give feedback; gossips instead.
- Burns out from working inefficiently or unproductively.
- Functions in cliques and silos.
When your church staff is unhealthy or even toxic, they’re not able to perform well at their roles, or communicate efficiently. As a result, admin, operations, and organization suffer–and ultimately, so does your church.
Improving your team dynamics takes time and potentially, lots of difficult conversations and even work with an external coach.
That being said, you can start with getting your team in order by addressing specific areas of improvement, discussing communication tactics, and even taking personality tests to get everyone in the mindset of mutual understanding and personal progress.
2. Adopt a tool for financial management
As mentioned above, healthy churches take financial responsibility and management seriously. They track their expenses carefully, budget accordingly, and use tools and protocol to help them remain stable and transparent.
Ali Morris was the former Elementary Director at Mariners Church in Orange County, CA–the 17th largest church in the U.S in 2016.
“We had to have tools in place to be effective and even safe,” says Ali. “If you don’t have all your ducks in a row, you’re not going to be able to continue to do the work that you’re ultimately called to do.”
“You’re not going to be able to do outreach or even serve your community,” Ali continues.
The bottom line is that financial management is key for success–and one critical part of financial management is the ability to monitor and manage giving.
Tithe.ly is an all-in-one platform that can help you both monitor the financial health of your church and give your church members an easy convenient way to give. To learn more about Tithe.ly, click here.
Good leaders know how to delegate well.
“Don't be a bottleneck,” said American politician Donald Rumsfeld. “...Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.”
Rumsfeld may have been speaking to other politicians or government employees, but the principal remains the same for all organizations–including the church. In fact, in an organization as complex as the church, delegation is critical for running various ministries, departments, projects, and more.
Appointing others to lead out in administrative tasks, documentation, organization, upkeep, and more can ultimately help you to become more organized and efficient.
And don’t wait until your church reaches “megachurch” status (2,000 members or more, according to this article), or even “large church” status. Delegate from the get-go, even if you’ve got 25 members; you’ll be thankful you did when it’s time to grow.
4. Use reporting
As mentioned above, getting insight on what’s actually happening at your church is critical–including attendance, engagement, and giving. But in an organization as rapidly evolving as the church, getting clear-cut insight isn’t always so easy.
Don’t rely on observation, hearsay, or intuition to gauge where your church is at. Instead, use a reporting tool (such as with Tithe.ly’s ChMS) to get accurate reports and insight so that you can make more informed decisions about admin and operations.
5. Keep it all in one place.
Churches are notorious for having silos, with departments and responsibilities ranging from toddler care to video production to finance. Silos, however, are one of the core culprits for producing poor communication–not to mention inaccuracy, lack of insight, and general confusion.
Don’t allow your church to run in silos; instead, use a streamlined platform to keep everything in the same place (and everyone on the same page).
Using a single point of contact for administration can:
- Improve workflows by providing transparency and accountability into project progress
- Streamline communication, and prevent inaccuracies
- Provide bigger picture insight into how the church is functioning–and where time, resources, and labor are being funneled
Not only that, but using one platform for administration can even reduce costs by saving time and improving efficiency.
Tithe.ly’s ChMS is a church management tool that can help you run your church better, keep everyone on the same page, and clean up your admin and operations.
- Member management for easier, faster, and better communication with church members.
- Automated workflows to ensure that tasks are getting done and projects are moving forward.
- Check-in for volunteers, to make volunteer administration easier.
- Integrated online and mobile giving to make giving simple to do and to track.
- Financial reporting and tracking to ensure organization and transparency.
- Serving planning tools to make life easier for worship leaders, hospitality volunteers, set up/tear down teams, and more.
- Reporting and insights to help you understand your church better...and make better decisions moving forward.
Ultimately, Tithe.ly is just one step towards helping you run a stronger, more organized church. But it could be a powerful step that helps set you up for success down the road–and changes the game in your admin and operations (And, with a free trial, why not?)
Church is Messy
A caveat to running an organized church: In some ways, church will always be messy. It involves people and personal transformation on a profound level. That inevitably involves complexity and mistakes.
That being said, setting yourself up for success in terms of admin and operations can equip you better for ministering to people, reaching the lost, and teaching truth.
The outcome? An organized church with beautifully messy people–and a church that makes an impact for the Kingdom.