The Pastor as Manager

Sam Rainer

September 28, 2009

A dialogue continues among researchers about the differences between managers and leaders. It is clear that there is overlap between the two roles. It is equally clear that some managers do not lead, and some leaders do not manage. A helpful (but ultimately inadequate) distinction is that managers deal with maintaining consistency in the here and now, while leaders work to change the future.

Pastors of congregations hold both roles (among many others). They lead. They manage. There is an overabundance of material that addresses the pastor as leader. Less research has been done about the pastor as manager. The managerial side of pastoring can be frantic on any given day – the pace can switch from comfortable to chaotic with one phone call. Most people understand and respect this aspect of ministry. What is less known is how fragmented daily activities are. Much pastoral management can occur in short conversations and activities – 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there. Quick, hopscotch exchanges are normative in daily management of the church.

The management role of a pastor surfaces in many different functions. Here are a few of my anecdotal observations:

Liaison. Pastors are the spokespeople and representatives for their churches in the community. They should work to make new contacts, connect with other leaders, and communicate a positive message on behalf of the congregation.

Mediator. While pastors should not be expected to handle every conflict within the church, they do handle sudden crises. Pastors that are good managers step in at appropriate times when disturbances occur between members or with outside people.

Juggler. Pastors are expected to lead many teams comprising of laity and staff. Planning appropriately requires pastors to juggle several meetings and exchanges with different people.

Observer. Pastors should monitor the health of the church. They track the pulse of the congregation. Part of this observer role requires weekly knowledge of relevant church metrics – how is involvement in small groups trending? How is the worship service attendance tracking? What are ministry teams doing?

Disseminator. Since pastors touch base with many different groups and segments of the church (probably more so than any other person), they are in the unique position of knowledge gatekeeper. Part of managing a congregation requires pastors to disseminate information acquired from one group to another group. They help connect people and tasks for more efficient ministry.

The list is not exhaustive. What other thoughts do you have?

10 comments on “The Pastor as Manager”

  1. Eddy says:

    Great thoughts Sam, I’ve always found it hard to agree with the standard “you’re either a leader or a manager” line that comes at most leadership/manager training courses. I think that God gives both those gifts to individuals as He sees the need, especially in the church.

    How about managing expectations and change within the church. If they are leading the vision then they are usually the ones managing the fallout from the changes.

    Do you think its important for a Pastor to always do both or should they find another to help manage the day to day activities so they can focus on the leadership? Wont managment usually take the front seat becasue its often ‘urgent’ when really the ‘important’ is to lead the people/organisation?

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Eddy – Great question. My take will differ from others, but I firmly believe that all pastors (senior, assoc, etc) at all size churches need to be both manager and leader. Clearly, the senior pastor of a larger church has less of a role in the minutia of day-to-day operations. But, to some degree, all shepherds need to have a visible role in managing the flock. Otherwise, their leadership vision becomes detached from reality – pastors must maintain a balance between keeping daily consistency (managing) and casting a compelling future vision (leadership).

    You can’t lead well in a church without some managerial role. At minimum, senior pastors manage a team of people who help them manage. And proper delegation (which includes accountability and monitoring) is one way for pastors to prevent micro-management.

  3. Eddy says:

    Thanks for the reply Sam, I see your point and I agree with it. I agree that pastors do need to be involved in both in order to keep the vision relevant to their church and to ensure that it is being fulfilled.

    How do you work with/manage (for want of a better word!) a pastor who is a manager by nature but really doesnt beleive in setting a vision, sharing that with the church and setting goals for the church to grow and more forward? In a recent experience this led to extreme frustration on my part due to micro-managing and constantly changing “goal posts” as I sought to implement the smaller vision and goals in the ministry area i was responsible for… it was near on impossible to do becasue there was no wider church vision to fit into to, only ‘managing’ that seemed to change its mind all the time…

  4. Sam Rainer says:

    Eddy –

    I’m sorry to hear of your frustrations. Unfortunately, there is little one can do if the senior pastor refuses to cast vision. You’ve done the right thing in implementing a vision within your own ministry area. That is the best approach – hopefully the rest of the church (and the pastor) sees your ministry success, and it compels them to do similar things in their areas. The worst thing you can do is overstep the senior pastor – such efforts ultimately fail.

  5. Eddy says:

    Hi Sam

    thanks for your advice, I have to admit though that my efforts did little to compel the rest of the church to cast vision. After nearly 3 years of struggle I stepped down becasue it was better for me to respect my leaders and maintain our relationship then to continue to serve frustrated. As a result my wife and I are seeking God for fresh opportunities to serve Him, we just cant continue to fellowship in a place where there is no vision and direction. It’s been a sad time but God is teaching us so much through it all, love it how even in the down times God still leads, guides and teaches!

    Thanks for teaching and guiding us through your blog, I cant tell you how much I’ve appreciated finding that I’m not crazy for the way I think and that there are others out there living and leading through vision and goals!

  6. Samuel Nhlabatsi says:

    I agree with you that pastors have to be both management and leadership. My concern is that most of time, pastors turn to speed their energy either on one of the two. They become managers-loss sight about leadership. How would you help them have that balance?

  7. Phillip Issel says:

    So true, Jesus displayed exceptional management skills in dealing with his disciples, gave instrustions on what to do, when and how, strategy order etc. these are important management and leadership skills.

  8. Louis says:

    Whereas I believe a ‘good’ must both be a leader and manager, management of processes, resources, time and money is very important to the smooth and safe travel of the church (both spiritual and organizational aspects) across time. And this form of management must serve as the baseline.. Should the church make a giant loop in vision and achievement, the ‘leader’ aspect of the Snr. Pastor must show up and soar…else its management(constancy).

  9. Iliya Yohana says:

    SIR,I like your good work.
    sir can you help me the meaning of church management.thanks

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