by Gene Enns

“I feel AdminPrinciplescalled to an administration ministry.”

That’s not something you hear very often. Working at a Bible College, I often hear students say that they sense God calling them into some kind of vocational ministry, but they usually mean something like a senior pastor, youth pastor, worship leader, etc.

This isn’t surprising since the cry of a minister’s heart is usually the people. Pastors don’t get into ministry to do administration; they get into ministry to focus on people growing closer to God. Unfortunately, the administration package comes with ministry and is a vital component of it. Most pastors will end up doing a good amount of administration.

With that in mind, I’ve listed seven principles of effective administration below. Although there are many more that could be added to this list, this is a good place to start. Depending on your context, these principles will be applied differently. So without further ado, here they are:


Principle #1 – Get the Right People

1 Chronicles 15:22 tells us that Kenaniah was in charge of the singing “because he was skillful at it.” Bezalel and Oholiab were responsible for making the items needed for the tabernacle because God gave them skills, ability, and knowledge in these things (see Exodus 35-36). In Romans 12, and other places, we read about how God gives gifts to His people for the purpose of using them.

As important as someone’s desire to help out is, skill matters. We’ve all seen people, both in and outside of the church, functioning in areas that they clearly are not skilled at. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there is a time and place for learning a skill, or filling a need that no one else is filling, or even trying to identify whether or not you are skilled at something. However, my point is made by the apostle Paul in Romans 12 where, for example, he says that if a person’s gift is “encouraging, let him encourage…” Notice he does not say that if a person’s gift is encouraging, let him serve; or if it is teaching, let him give generously.

In the area of administration, it is vitally important that you have someone who is skilled, or at least has the capacity of an administrator. Just because someone is willing to help, that doesn’t mean that they should help with certain things. My children (age five and under) would love to help me drive our vehicle down the highway, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Much of your ministry’s effectiveness hinges on the abilities of those in charge of the administrative side of things. And if that area is broken or lacking, it will likely be reflected in the rest of the ministry as well.


Principle #2 – Go to the Source

In Acts 17, the Bereans studied the Scriptures to ensure that what Paul was saying was indeed in line with the Word of God. They went to the source.  I don’t know how many times I have heard people say that you can do this or you can’t do that as a registered charity, only to find out later, after going to the source, that they were incorrect.

Just because someone says you can do something, that doesn’t mean it’s correct. And just because you have been operating a certain way for many years, that doesn’t mean that you have been operating correctly, or even legally. You’ve got to be able justify the things you do, particularly to the government.

When it comes to charitable activities, do your research to ensure that you are operating properly. Look at the legislation, or at least make use of those who enforce it or can properly interpret it such as Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC) in Canada (I am unfamiliar with the US). CRA has a designated department called the Charities Directorate that specifically deals with registered charities. They are more than willing to help you figure out what you are allowed to do and not do as a registered charity. I have called both CRA and CCCC numerous times to ensure that we are doing things correctly in our ministry. The CRA Charities Directorate phone number is 1-800-267-2384.


Principle #3 – Set High Standards

Numerous times in the Scriptures, God calls His people to be holy, because He is holy. In Matthew, Jesus calls his followers to be perfect. Needless to say, these are pretty high standards; and yet, these are the only standards that will allow you to receive eternal life and intimate relationship with our God. Thank you Jesus for meeting that standard for us!

High standards are actually God’s idea. And I would suggest that we follow His lead. Our standards for how we “do” ministry should be high, and should be precedent setting for other organizations.

Having said that, CRA recognizes that most charities are run by volunteers who have no formal training, education, or experience in administrating government regulations in their charities. However, that’s no excuse for us to be lazy in how we administer the ministry. Make sure that your administration is done right and done well. The only result can be a foundation of effectiveness and efficiency that will translate into all areas of your ministry.

“High standards” could be understood to mean lots of forms, red tape, and many restrictions on ministry. Although there is a place for some of that at times, that is not what I’m referring to. Depending on your context, some things may involve a little extra work in order to do them right. If administration is indeed a ministry (which it is), then I suggest we strive to do it well.


Principle #4 – Communicate

Repeatedly in the Scriptures we are told to listen to what God is saying (e.g. “he who has an ear, let him hear”), and in 1 Thessalonians 5 we’re instructed to pray all the time. Ongoing communication with God is vital for a healthy relationship and a life of abiding in Him. In Amos we see that God doesn’t do anything without first revealing His plan to the prophets. It’s clear that God is a communicator.  In the same way, it is extremely important that there is effective communication in your ministry. And as you may have already discovered, that doesn’t happen automatically. You must be intentional about being on same page with your board, your staff, and your congregation. That involves lots of communication.

Although there is much that could be said here, I’ll just touch on a few brief items:

  • Inform – Not being aware of what is going on is one of the greatest frustrations in ministry. Just tell people what they need to know. Ask yourself, “Who will be impacted by this decision?”
  • Confirm – Depending on the issue, this may or may not be important. However, if there is anything important that you’ve delegated to someone else, it is never a bad idea to confirm that the work has been done.
  • Remind – We are constantly bombarded with information and interruptions, so it’s natural that we forget every so often. In a perfect world, no one should ever need reminding. Unfortunately, that’s not reality.
  • Don’t Assume – This goes along with many of the other items, but is also important to highlight. Don’t assume people know things or know how to do things if you haven’t communicated that information with them. Don’t assume you’re all on the same page. Be very clear and clarify with your people about anything that you deem important for them to know.
  • Ask – If you don’t understand something, ask. If you need some information, ask. James tells us that we do not have because we do not ask. Although the context is slightly different, the principle is the same: If you need something, ask.

One more area under communication that is important is speaking the truth in love. This could apply to a thousand different scenarios, but I want to highlight one area where I think the church could potentially improve by speaking the truth in love. That area is the stewardship of our people and this goes hand in hand with Principle #1 – Get the Right People.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, we end up having someone fill an area of need in the church (e.g. worship leading) and it soon becomes clear that they are not very good at it. But because they have a good heart and are faithful in their duties, the leadership doesn’t want to do anything about it. After all, that would hurt their feelings.

I sincerely believe that leaving someone in that type of position is poor stewardship of people on the part of the leadership. When someone is hindering a ministry more than helping a ministry, or when resources are going towards a position that is not able to be carried out effectively, the leadership needs to do something about that.

It’s true that people are more important than processes, programs, or money. But rather than using that as a reason to not do anything, this should be a reason to do something about the issue. Some people have never been told they’re perhaps not gifted in a particular area and as a result work in an area for years thinking they are contributing to the ministry effectively (and certainly in other ways they surely are). In the meantime, it’s likely that their true gifts were not being used to their potential.

Rather, let’s speak the truth in love in a timely manner. It can be quite humiliating for someone to find out years later that much of their work and effort was relatively futile. Although we need to be sensitive to their feelings and treat each one as a person, it’s important for people to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. This involves very intentional communication.


Principle #5 – Stay up to Date

In 1 Chronicles 12:32 we read about the men of Issachar who understood their times and what Israel should do. They weren’t living in the past, but were very aware of the present situation and how Israel needed to respond to what was going on during those times.  In the same way, it is important for us to not be living in the 1980s or 1990s or 2000s. Although there are some things that remain the same, such as the truth of the Scriptures, and other things that are worth preserving (some writings from the past are incredible), there are many, many things that change, even from year to year.

One of the things you need to stay up to date on is government legislation. Just because something was allowed 5 years ago doesn’t mean it is still allowed today. This is where you need to follow Principle #2 – Go to the Source, on a regular basis.

And as we’re all aware, technology changes frequently. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an overhead projector used in a church, or cassette copies of the sermon being sold. Even the purpose of emails has changed in the last few years. I almost never receive an email for purely social connecting purposes anymore – that all happens with Facebook, texting, or other, more instant connecting points. Technology is not evil; we’ve just got to learn how to use it properly. That’s not to say you have to incorporate every new toy, program, or app that comes along; but at least be aware of what your people are engaged in and see if you can maximize its use for ministry purposes.

Finally, your audience is changing. You likely don’t have the same group of people as you did 25, 10, or even 5 years ago. Generations change, neighbourhoods change, and with our connected world, all of this leads to changes in needs, values, loyalty, and goals. The gospel doesn’t change, but how it is communicated and worked out in your people might. Stay up to date with your people.


Principle #6 – Be Proactive

In the Garden, God told Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before Adam was even considering it. In the same way, it’s good for us to address things proactively. When it comes to policy development, most of the time they are developed as a reaction to a situation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (depending on the issue), but it is usually much better to be proactive than reactive.

As you work through your policies, I would suggest that the following are key areas where you want to be as proactive as possible:

  • Ministry (counselling, volunteers, plan to protect, etc.)
  • Financial (offering, spending authority, reimbursements, etc.)
  • Facility (rental, departmental usage, etc.)
  • Personnel (hiring, vacation, salary, etc.)

Again, depending on your context, some things will be more important than others, but don’t let policy development take a back seat in key areas. Unfortunately, that has resulted in some ministries being shut down due to ignoring due diligence in following adequate procedures (e.g. financial abuse, ministry abuse, etc.). Although we can’t prevent all bad things from happening, healthy policies can go a long way.


Principle #7 – Balance

In John 1, we see that Jesus came with grace and truth. He didn’t ignore grace, and he didn’t ignore truth. He balanced the two perfectly. In the same way, in many areas of life, it is important that we maintain a healthy balance. In administration, this is no less true. Although administration is vitally important, your ministry should not be administrating at the cost of the ministry.

Administration does provide boundaries, structure, and guidance for effective ministry and that’s how it should be seen. Healthy administration can propel a ministry forward, whereas unhealthy administration, whether in the form of lacking administration or burdensome administration, can stifle a ministry.

The administrative side and the practical outworking of the ministry should be complementary, working as a team. It kind of reminds me of something I heard somewhere – different gifts, different functions, one body (see 1 Corinthians 12). We need each other if we want to be most effective.

Too often, the people-focussed minister says something to the effect of, “I don’t want to administrate, I just want to help people know Jesus.” Although noble, the moment the minister starts to look at how he’s going to do that, he’s beginning to dabble in the area of administration. Guidelines and policies are an absolute necessity.

And too often, the hard-nosed administrator says something to the effect of, “If it wasn’t for the people, ministry would be a lot easier!” Again, sort of missing the point.

I encourage you to work out a healthy balance of administration and practical ministry in the context of your church.


Ideally, all pastors would be able to hire someone to look after all of the administrative needs in the church. But even then, some administrative responsibilities would end up on their desks. If we are able to understand some key principles of administration and appropriately apply them to our ministry contexts, I believe it will assist our churches, missions, and other ministries in becoming even more effective at fulfilling our call to go and make disciples of all nations.


Gene Enns has been involved in different ministry roles over the years and currently serves as the Vice President of Living Faith Bible College.

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