The church is unlike almost any other organization on the planet. It has a unique aim, unique needs, and often, a unique combination of people to manage, lead, and execute.
Unfortunately, the unique nature of the church as an organization also means that there are plenty of places for poor practices and inefficiencies to creep in. Without many examples of similar secular organizations to follow, churches often rely on outdated (and inefficient) ways of doing things–think paper trails, wasted time on administration, and poor communication with both staff and members.
In other words, churches don’t always do a great job at church management. The result? Collateral damage that can affect not only the integrity of the organization, but high staff turnover, lowered morale, and disengaged church members.
Effective church management, on the other hand, can help a church thrive. And it doesn’t just mean having a great administrator on staff, or someone with a business background steering the ship. It also means using strategies, tools, and ideas that can help create a more efficient, more successful, and happier organization–that ultimately, helps lead more people to Christ.
All that being said, here are the “do’s and don’ts” of effective church management–including taking into account what makes the church different; being mindful to avoid common mistakes in church management; and using the right tools and resources to help a church thrive.
DO stay tech-savvy.
By now, most would agree that using technology in the church is a good idea. Technology can help churches communicate effectively with members and even reach new people. In fact, one statistic from Grey Matter Research showed that 17 million Americans who don’t go to church regularly still visit church websites.
Technology in church, however, isn’t just about having a presence on social media or a cool homepage. Church technology is also about using internal tools and systems to make church smoother and more efficient.
Here are several things to keep in mind when integrating tech into your “church stack”:
- The more streamlined, the better. Look for tools that keep things centralized. As we’ll talk about in a minute, silos only make work confusing and inefficient.
- Onboard your whole staff. Teach your whole staff to use new tools and tech–the point of technology is to empower everybody, not just department heads or tech staff.
- Tech can apply to just about everything. The right church management tool should let you tackle just about everything–from managing tithe and finances to organizing volunteers to coordinating Sunday services.
The bottom line? Technology can not only help your church create a presence; it can also help you create a more efficient, successful organization.
DON’T silo your church management.
More than many other organizations, the church has a diverse set of goals, services, and “clientele” (i.e. church members).
That being the case, it can be easy to silo operations and communications within the church. Different departments may not communicate much in the day to day, or may use different tools or technology. For example, the worship department may use an entirely different tool to plan services than is used to coordinate volunteering.
The problem with that approach is that it creates gaps in communication, which waste time and energy that could have been used better elsewhere...and result in mistakes and miscommunication.
Communication silos aren’t exclusive to the church. In fact, in 2020, silos cost the average organization 350 hours of wasted work every year. And 48% of organizations say that “ineffective communication between team members” is a major hurdle to success.
You can bet that churches likewise waste time because of silos...and also face the all-too-common issue of poor communication.
The way to fix silos? Keep your workflows and processes under a single roof with a centralized platform for management and communication.
DO remember that your team will have varying levels of technology skills.
Some churches may have staff members ranging in age from Gen Z to Boomers...and everyone in between. That being said, church staff may range in technical skill and aptitude more than the teams of many other organizations.
“A lot of churches have multiple generations on staff,” says Audrey Kelley, head admin at All People’s Church in San Diego, CA. “Everybody needs to be able to use new technology.”
For example, you may have a 22 year-old who feels comfortable with new technology in a matter of minutes–and a 65 year-old who may require weeks of training to feel at ease with a new tool.
With this in mind, resist the urge to either a) overlook technology altogether, or b) allow those who are less tech-savvy to “skip” using your tech stack.
Instead, choose a user-friendly tool that can help improve church management for everybody–not just Millennials and Gen Z-ers.
DON’T overlook volunteers.
It’s often said that volunteers are the backbone of non-profit organizations–and the church is no exception.
Volunteers can range in responsibility and role, doing anything from greeting incomers on a Sunday morning to running entire departments to pastoring a specific community. As anyone who leads a church knows, volunteers are certainly not an afterthought. In fact, in many cases, volunteers make most things possible in a church.
That being said, volunteer administration is a key part of church management–and like everything else, should be managed with up-to-date technology and integrated with other systems.
DO put people at the center.
“Organizational culture” is a term that’s thrown around quite a bit these days. The point? Organizations and businesses are seeing the importance of focusing not just on workflows or profits, but on people.
In other words, they are seeing the value of creating environments where people thrive.
The church has a leg up in organizational culture, because the church has always been about people (or at least, in theory). Ideally, the church creates a culture of love, humility, and compassion that overflows not only into relationships and service to God, but into church management itself–including administration.
What does that look like, in practice?
Church management that puts people at the center:
- Simplifies communication with church members…
- Makes it easy to coordinate and manage small groups….
- Creates an organized system for staff to do their best work…
- And gives members an easy way to give from wherever they are.
At the end of the day, people-centered church management is about using systems, tools, and strategies that help you serve people first.
DON’T be reactionary (DO be proactive!)
Organizations that run well typically take a proactive, rather than a reactionary approach. They don’t expend all their time and resources responding to unexpected crises. Instead, they anticipate potential problems before they happen, set goals for the future, and stay focused on a long-term vision.
Just as a successful business proactively prevents hiccups and plans for the future, a well-run church doesn’t wait for problems to happen. Instead, it identifies potential issues and course corrects to avoid disaster.
Unfortunately, many churches don’t necessarily have the strategy or resources in place to take this kind of approach–and suffer as a result.
The hallmarks of a church with a reactionary approach to management are that they...
- See breakdowns in communication as singular incidents, and not indicators of a deeper problem…
- Spend a lot of time and energy on putting out fires instead of planning for the future….
- Lack a system or process for understanding what’s really going on with church engagement, giving, and more.
A church with a proactive approach, on the other hand, might….
- Formalize a system for communication and management for all aspects of church, including small groups, volunteer admin, and Sunday services….
- Have time and space to set and plan for long-term goals….
- And use data to get insight into church engagement and finances, and make decisions that focus on areas of need (By the way, Tithe.ly ChMS provides powerful reporting to help you take a proactive approach).
Ultimately, taking a proactive approach isn’t just a good idea; it’s critical to running and managing a church that serves people well.
DO empower your whole team to succeed.
A thriving church has a staff that’s equally empowered and equipped to lead their respective departments with the right tools and training. That being said, all team members should be involved in church management in a way that’s appropriate.
Church staff, of course, have varying levels of responsibility. The lead church admin, for example, is more involved with service coordination than the lead pastor. The financial lead has far more oversight of church finances than the children’s pastor. And the family pastor may be more involved with small group engagement than the facilities manager.
Effective church management means that your entire team has what they need to succeed in their respective roles–whether that’s to teach and preach, organize volunteers, manage facilities, oversee finances, or anything else.
DON’T ignore security.
One of the most important parts of church management is ensuring security and mitigating risk.
An effective church management system puts several safeguards and protocol in place to protect the integrity of finances, licensing, content copyrights, and more.
- Transparent budgeting across different departments…
- Trackable expense reports….
- Protocol for collecting offering and receiving tithes (including keeping 2-3 people present when counting the offering)….
- Making sure that software and other technology have up-to-date licensing….
- And ensuring that you have the copyright license to use content from different churches (songs, graphics, etc.).
Putting protocol in place will take extra time and effort – but it will pay off in the end, with the peace of mind knowing that your church is compliant and secure.
DO create a work environment that’s enjoyable.
Many of us know how it feels to work for an organization that’s poorly run, chaotic, and stressful. Not only does it depress productivity, cause burnout, and create relational issues; it can actually cause physical illness, and even result in staff turnover.
For a church, one of the worst case scenarios is that a poorly run organization actually causes people to leave the community, or become disillusioned with the Body of Christ.
More than many other organization, the church becomes accountable to its staff on a number of levels–for helping people not only to work productively and efficiently, but for helping them thrive mentally, physically, and emotionally. Ultimately, a healthier staff is also able to better serve congregants.
In an age when people are leaving the church at higher rates than ever, it’s important to keep the internal organization as strong as possible (the good news is that 28% of Americans say that the pandemic has strengthened their faith).
All that being said, effective church management can actually become a core foundation for running a healthy church.
When finances, service planning, volunteer coordination, facilities management, technology, and human resources have smooth processes and protocol in place, your staff also gets to enjoy working in a more organized environment. There’s less room for conflict and miscommunication, and clearer workflows make work faster and more efficient. Staff members have more space and time to get envisioned, and fellowship with one another.
Finally, organized church management makes it easier to serve the members of a church...which is the whole point, right?
One powerful way to support healthy church management is through using a church management system like Tithe.ly ChMS.
Tithe.ly ChMS helps you engage and grow your community, streamline administrative tasks, and equip your team to steward the resources God has entrusted your church with. Ultimately, it’s a great way to get started on not only creating a healthy work environment, but a healthy church.
The Final Word on Great Church Management
At the end of the day, no church is perfect (you already knew that, of course). Managing a church well is not just about checking off boxes or using the right technology; it’s about building a community for God and for people. Tools and resources are simply means for making space for the things that really matter– serving people, loving God, and advancing the cause of Christ.