From the Archives: Why an Administrative Pastor

Article
09.30.2022

At 9Marks, one of our favorite books on pastoral ministry is Colin Marshall and Tony Payne’s The Trellis and the Vine. The main idea is simple: in the disciple-making work of Christian ministry, the real growth that churches should pursue is the growth of the vine (Christians). Growing the church’s trellises (administrative structures) is important only insofar as it helps the vine to grow. 

If Marshall and Payne are correct, and we think they are, there are some clear implications for what kinds of staff a church should look to hire. For instance, a church may benefit from hiring a trellis-building administrative pastor. 

Indeed, this is not the right course of action for all situations. However, I’d like to raise a few of the advantages of an administrative pastor for your consideration. 

YOUR FIRST HIRE: A FAITHFUL PREACHER 

The most important thing is to find a man gifted by God to preach the Bible. This is because God always saves and sanctifies through his Word. Like the apostle Paul, we must be willing to let everything else fail, if necessary, to continue preaching the gospel (e.g., Acts 20:18-24). 

This means that if a church can only hire one pastor, it should be a man who can preach God’s Word. 

YOUR SECOND, THIRD, or FOURTH HIRE: CONSIDER AN ADMINISTRATIVE PASTOR 

Vine growth in a church is easier and more efficient with good “trellises”—strategy, structures, processes, tools, and communication. Trellises like these help us steward our resources and relationships and promote supernatural, gospel growth. 

I was converted thirteen years ago at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Since then, I’ve seen the immense value of Matt Schmucker’s trellis work in our church. Now I get to work with Jamie Dunlop, the current executive pastor, who serves our church so well. I’ve also served as the administrative pastor at Clifton Baptist Church. From that chair, I experienced the pastoral demands and managed many details of our life together. 

Often, preaching pastors make their second hire a general-duty associate pastor. The idea is that this man will help with teaching, counseling, worship, adult education, and children and family ministries. That makes sense. After all, a pastor needs backup in all these areas. But what about administration? Churches often fail to consider this a pastoral priority. I think this oversight can hinder the vine’s growth. A man who is both a pastor and an administrator understands vine growth and stewards the trellises appropriately. 

This brings us to why I think an administrative pastor is often a good hire. Remember, I am recommending a man who is qualified to pastor and who is a proficient administrator. A pastor because, well, the job is pastoral! He handles the big-picture (e.g., strategy and organization) and the small details (e.g., budget line items and members’ meeting agendas). He must have sound theology, pastoral discernment, communication skills, preaching and teaching abilities, servant-hearted leadership, humility, love, and diplomacy in both fields. He also needs to be gifted in administration, organizational strategy, and communications because his job requires him to define, build, and manage the organization and its infrastructures. He must manage the church's strategy, processes, tools, and people. 

NINE MORE REASONS TO HIRE AN ADMINISTRATIVE PASTOR 

Here are nine more reasons why your church might benefit from hiring an administrative pastor: 

1. Strategy 

The preaching pastor will naturally influence and even drive the vision and voice of the church. But every vision requires someone to administrate and advance it in the area of its nuts and bolts. This takes time, patience, biblical knowledge, pastoral discernment, and hard work. A good administrative pastor brings these things to the table. 

You might have seen the Charles Spurgeon portrait with a couple of men hidden in the shadowy background. Did you notice these men? This portrait reminds us that Spurgeon’s ministry depended partly on brothers serving the church in the background. Most, if not all, good churches and pastors have such people. 

2. Organization and Infrastructure 

Typically, strategy consultants say that an organization will only succeed to the extent that clear processes and tools are in place to build, support, and maintain it. Gospel ministry is different because actual growth depends on God’s aid. Still, churches must consider how to steward their resources faithfully through good trellises. And this is the job of the administrative pastor. He builds and maintains processes and tools for all the parts and pieces of the church. These nuts and bolts may include: 

  • managing building(s) and property 
  • overseeing the logistics, schedule, and events 
  • managing tasks, personalities, details for staff, membership processes, money, important church documents, etc. 

3. Communication 

The best plans and processes will fail if good communication and teaching are absent. Much of the responsibility for communication falls to the preaching pastor and elders as a whole. Still, the administrative pastor is a kind of glue that holds the staff, leadership, and members together. A good administrative pastor is 20/20 when it comes to details. At the same time, he aims to manage those details for the glory of God. Practically, this plays out in how he communicates to the church. He works so that all the parties hear and understand one another. 

4. Member Care 

Administrative pastors should look out for the congregation's needs that others may be unaware of. With pastoral discernment, love, and empathy, he will be able to act on behalf of the church so that they are faithful to care for one another. For example, he may help build an effective deacon team to serve the church’s needs. 

5. Staff Care 

A good administrative pastor practically cares for the staff. He is the guy managing things like health care, compensation, housing, and the office culture. Further, he is a liaison between the church staff and other leaders. A good administrative pastor understands that businesses are profit-driven, and churches are relationship-driven. Managing these relationships is his business! 

6. Stewardship and Finances 

Church budgets and finances require pastoral qualification and discernment. The administrative pastor should be organized, efficient, above reproach, and trustworthy. He must manage and steward the church’s resources faithfully. This work may include his appointing a competent, like-minded treasurer. 

7. Teaching and Discipling 

An administrative pastor should have the gift of teaching. This is a biblical requirement for all elders (1 Tim. 3:2)! Therefore, he should assist in the local church's regular teaching, discipling, and mentoring. Going above and beyond may also mean training and mentoring other men who aspire to a similar position. 

8. Corporate Witness 

Our God is a God of order, detail, and beauty. While a church’s physical appearance should not sum up our growth strategy, it may subtly help or hinder its witness. A good administrative pastor should manage signage, landscaping, and the facilities for regular use by the church. This includes ensuring the grounds and building are safe for members and guests. His attention to detail may not be known, but it will undoubtedly be felt. 

9. Glory of God 

In many ways, the work of a good administrative pastor should go unnoticed. If he’s doing his job well (with God’s blessing), the church will run smoothly with him standing somewhat in the background. This doesn’t mean that his work is unimportant. The administrative pastor’s faithfulness supports the platform on which the preached Word goes forward. In so doing, he brings glory to God. 

In short, the teaching and ministries of a healthy church can be wonderfully enabled and enhanced by faithful management, stewardship, and administration.

By:
Ryan Townsend

Ryan Townsend is the Executive Director of 9Marks, and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D. C.

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