Sometimes funds are scarce. God has created the world abundant with water, trees, blue skies and people we love. Though we have what we need, we don’t have everything. In congregations, this lack is sometimes evident regarding budgets.
The finance team would like to increase the budget for youth ministry, but the cost for the new parking lot is an unpleasant surprise. Or, pledges are down because a major employer left town. There is a widening gap between income and expenses.
Sometimes a congregation’s board does have to decrease the budget. Tough decisions are part of leadership in a faith community, just as they are in a business or a family. It is common for leaders to have difficulty deciding where to make budget cuts and for how much. The discussions about budget cuts can be as unpleasant as the cuts themselves.
Here’s an idea that might be helpful if you face decreasing income. Try creating a budget for a period less than a year. Create a provisional first quarter budget or establish a half-year budget.
By shortening the time frame of your budget, you leave room for positive, unforeseen adaptations. You also feel the pain of shortfalls incrementally. The downside to this is that your congregation could be delaying a painful decision; pushing the inevitable down the path and hoping someone else doesn’t stumble over it later. However, shortening the timeline of your budget in times of scarcity can be a way for your congregation to be more nimble, to adjust more quickly to difficulties or opportunities.
During a recession, one congregation chose to freeze salaries, but only for the first quarter. The board agreed to revisit the decision after four months. When the time arrived for further consideration, giving had increased almost ten percent. This happened, in part, because the congregants knew about the provisional decision and many members boosted their offering because they wanted to support the hard working staff. As a result, each staff member received a two percent raise.
Resources you can use
When it comes to congregational budgeting, sometimes tried and true resources are among the best. Kennon Callahan’s Effective Church Finances is a practical book for clergy and laity alike.
When money is tight, illustrate the budget situation with more than numbers. Some congregations create narrative budgets, a way to represent income and expenses with graphs, illustrations, and even stories. The article Narrative Budgets, prepared by the Anglican Church of Canada, will provide you with more information.
If you have a specific budgeting question, use our chat function or email us to begin a conversation.
We want to help you move from scarcity to possibility.
Many congregational leaders know the importance of clear mission and vision statements. However, congregational leaders are less capable at enacting plans.
Years ago, Kennon Callahan described this as “calling plays the players can play.” There are lots of visionary congregational leaders, but not so many who can pull off Vacation Bible School. There need to be more leaders who learn to put plans into action. There need to be more who can manage annual festivals, start a small group ministry or spearhead an outreach trip. As a congregational leader, dreaming the big stuff can be seductive. But sometimes leadership means being able to design an operational infrastructure that can support a new Advent program.
After all, what good is a vision if the website hasn’t been updated?
The difference between management and leadership
I know there is a difference between management and leadership. But I also think the difference of the two apply more distinctly to very large organizations. Given the scale of most congregations, the distinction between leadership and management is certainly smaller than for a Fortune 500 company.
The link between leadership and management in the congregation is learning. Effectiveness at both means a commitment to learning how to do something new. Sometimes it is not so much vision that is needed as the ability to learn to accomplish tasks. This dynamic is true for many in the congregational system. The dynamic of learning is not limited to the lead pastor or to the chair of the board.
Congregations that flourish function as a learning community. This is true even if the congregation doesn’t call itself that.
There is an observable pattern among congregations which learn to do new things. This pattern goes beyond the distinctions between leadership and management. The specifics of this pattern differ from congregation to congregation. However, this pattern reveals the importance of plans and behaviors as a congregation moves through:
Is all this not theological enough?
This pattern is interestingly close to the pattern of revelation, identified by James Loder in his book The Transforming Moment. This pattern is at least as important, however less enticing, than having a vision. Sometimes good management is excellent leadership.
In terms of organizational learning, the book Immunity to Change from Kegan and Lahey provides a powerful perspective on how to manage any number of relational and missional challenges while leading and managing a congregation.
About the Contributor
Church Management Resources
It is important for congregation leaders to implement a strong management style to help guide their congregation. That is where church management resources can be helpful. Anyone with experience managing or running a business will likely understand that the religious sector can be a bit different. Congregations come in many shapes and forms, and while they are usually going to be very different from that of a traditional business, a lot of the aspects of managing an organization might be the same. In order for the congregation to keep its lights on, for instance, it needs to balance the books. That is one area where strong church management can provide insight and leadership.
If there are religious leaders out there who are facing difficulty in running their congregations in the modern era, it can be good for them to know they are certainly not alone. There are lots of moving parts that can all contribute to an effective balancing act, and this is where church management resources can so often prove to be critical. Remember that there are outside resources that can help assist leaders in managing their churches effectively, and it can be a good idea to take a look at what has worked in the past, along with some of the most common mistakes that other religious leaders have made. If leaders are able to follow in the footsteps of those other people who have had success, while at the same time working to avoid these common mistakes, they may be able to help place their congregations in the best position possible to be successful. This can be seen as one of the main principles of church administration.
When taking a look at a church management PDF, it might prove worthwhile to try and tailor these ideas to meet the unique structure of that specific religious environment. After all, some congregations are larger than others. With this in mind, not every idea is likely going to work for every church. Rather, it might be the responsibility of a leader to take a look at these outside resources, figure out what will work the best, and then implement those ideas effectively. This is likely going to be how to set up a congregation for success moving forward.
Church Management Books
Even though there are plenty of online resources that can be helpful, it might also prove helpful to take a look at a few books. When it comes to the best books on church administration, there are a few factors that religious leaders may need to consider. First, they might consider taking a look at when the book was written, because while books from decades past can still be helpful, it can be worth keeping in mind that the current environment has perhaps changed significantly since then. Therefore, books that were applicable in the past may run the risk of not being as relevant today.
Then, religious leaders might want to try and look for books that are easy to understand. For example, there are some books that could be filled with outstanding ideas. On the other hand, if they are difficult to interpret and understand, it will potentially be difficult to apply those ideas to a church environment. If legislators are able to keep these two factors in mind, however, they may be able to find church management books that can ultimately be useful. By taking a look at the top books on church management in the modern era, it might be possible for legislators to learn about a lot of ideas that can be helpful in the current environment.
Principles of Church Management
It can perhaps be easy to get lost in the details when it comes to managing a church in the current environment. With this in mind, it might be good to think about the top principles of church management, when looking at how to run a church office. This is something that likely starts with the church ministry structure and organization. A lot of people who occupy positions of leadership, particularly when it comes to churches, are used to controlling things. After all, a lot of tasks can be made easier if people simply perform them themselves. However, it can prove to be impossible for someone to run every aspect of a church on their own, as there is likely simply too much to do. Therefore, one of the first principles of church management that people may do well to follow is to place the right people in positions of leadership, which can help set the church up for success moving forward.
With this in mind, it can be helpful to try and provide those leaders with enough autonomy to be able to do their jobs effectively. If church leaders micromanage the situation, after all, they will not be giving their leaders an opportunity to shine. Furthermore, they may even detract attention from other areas of the chart which can be seen as being just as important. If church leaders are able to keep these principles in mind, they will be better able to empower their leaders to truly flourish.
Effective Church Management
Effective church administration can be critical. When running a church administration and leadership group, perhaps one of the foremost parts of effective church management is collecting feedback from as many people as possible. Everyone should feel like their opinion is being valued, including not only individuals who occupy positions of leadership within the church, but also members of the congregation itself. It can be good for leaders to know when to speak and when to listen. Be sure to think about how other people feel about the current environment in the church.
Another potentially important part of effectively managing a church today may be flexibility. In an environment that can oftentimes be seen as one which is changing quickly, it can be useful for the church to be able to wield, adapt, and be flexible in the modern era. If the church is agile, then it will perhaps be able to respond more quickly to the changing landscape, keeping the congregation together while at the same time attracting new members.
Finally, church leaders may also benefit from knowing how to delegate responsibilities. Even though it can be tempting to try and do everything, it can also be good for church leaders to know when to ask for help. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. In reality, it is simply a sign of intelligence.
Church Administration Resources
It might be a good idea for church leaders to understand the difference between administration and management. Administration refers to the process of setting objectives and schedules, and can possibly be seen as an important part of running a church. In contrast, managing refers to the process of developing actions and plans, and it is usually going to be the responsibility of managers to detail how something is going to be carried out.
Church administration resources can also be seen as important. When it comes to church administration training, it can be good to train those specific individuals on the various resources they are going to have available to them. This could include things such as templates, software programs, email lists, and plenty of other tools that can help expedite their daily tasks.
Oftentimes, church leaders might have the responsibility to ensure that everyone is using their time appropriately. If someone is spending an inordinate amount of time in carrying out clerical tasks, this is likely valuable time that could be spent elsewhere. Fortunately, there are software programs out there that can automate a lot of the tasks that used to be done by hand. When it comes to church administration, it can be a good idea to take a closer look at some of the resources that people have available to them. That way, everyone might be able to use their time wisely.
Church Administration Structure
When it comes to church leadership structure models, the size of the church might play a role. By taking a look at church administration notes, it may soon become clear that small church administration is likely going to be different from that of a large church. Thus, the church administration structure is naturally going to vary from congregation to congregation.
A small church may only have two or three administrators. For example, there may be a church leader, a treasurer, a secretary, and someone who is in charge of running small groups. Small churches might even have volunteers who lead these small groups or run Sunday school sessions.
In contrast, a large church is likely going to have many more positions. There might be a dedicated technology person, a dedicated AV person, and even a dedicated public relations advisor, as a few examples. Furthermore, a large church might even have some of its leaders be responsible for running small group sessions.
There is perhaps no single “right” way to organize the structure of a church. Instead, church leaders might need to think carefully about how many people they need to ask for assistance when it comes to running the church. As long as they have the right people in the right places, the church should perhaps then be in a good position moving forward.
Church Management System
Ultimately, there is a lot that can go hand-in-hand with running a congregation. Keep in mind that a congregation is likely going to have people of all backgrounds. There will be children involved, teenagers, adults, and elderly individuals. Some people may have disabilities, and others may come from disparate socioeconomic backgrounds. It is oftentimes going to be the job of a church leader to be able to cater to all of these individuals in a productive way, and that is perhaps the hallmark of a church management system, and potentially one of the most important parts of church administration 101.
Even though there may be a lot of challenges that come with running a church today, this can still be one of the most rewarding experiences. By figuring out how to address these challenges, church leaders can possibly begin to place themselves in a better position to be successful, while also endearing themselves not only to the members of the congregation but also to their fellow church leaders. It will be interesting to see what happens next throughout religious communities all over the country, as some might consider religion to have never before been more relevant than it is today, and it has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life of many people.