By Jeff Nichols
Why did you enter ministry? To make a difference? To help people? To introduce people to Jesus? There may be many things on your list, but somewhere close to the top is obeying Christ’s command to make disciples. That’s why you give your life to this grand adventure called ministry.
You want to tell people the Good News of Jesus Christ. You want to see them baptized and grow by leaps and bounds as they also share the Good News with people around them. When you see growth, progress, and passion in that person’s life, you say, “This is why God put me on this planet.” The Great Commission is living and breathing in your life at that moment.
But then you look at your calendar for the week:
Monday, 10:00 am – Meeting with insurance agent
Tuesday, 7:00 pm – Codes Board meeting at city hall
Wednesday, 6:30 pm – Church budget meeting
Thursday, 9:00 am – Attend church safety/security seminar
Thursday, 7:00 pm – Deacons’ meeting
Is this why God put you here? For insurance meetings and building permits? Did Bible college prepare you for this? Do you remember the class assignment on how to negotiate a loan? It wasn’t there.
Leading a local church, no matter the size, carries with it great joys like disciple making, teaching, and worship. It also carries what may seem like extra weight in the form of responsibilities, requirements, and obligations imposed upon you by the government as well as your church government and traditions. Is one good and one bad? Does one get you excited and one get you down?
In the excellent book The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne describe in detail the tension between the structural elements that hold things together and the organic nature of ministry that moves and changes and grows.
It has occurred to me more than once that most churches are a mixture of trellis and vine. The basic work of any Christian ministry is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of God’s Spirit, and to see people converted, changed and grow to maturity in that gospel. That’s the work of planting, watering, fertilizing and tending the vine. However, just as some sort of framework is needed to help a vine grow, so Christian ministries also need some structure and support. It may not be much, but at the very heart we need somewhere to meet, some Bibles to read from, and some basic structures of leadership within our group. All Christian churches, fellowships or ministries have some kind of trellis that gives shape and support to the work. As the ministry grows, the trellis also needs attention. Management, finances, infrastructure, organization, governance—these all become more important and more complex as the vine grows. In this sense, good trellis workers are invaluable, and all growing ministries need them (Page 8).
The “trellis” represents the administrative functions of the church—the structures, systems, processes, and functions that keep the pastor out of jail. Are they as exciting as Bible school and worship services? Depends on who you ask. The Lord has given different gifts to different people in His Body. Some people love putting together a spreadsheet as much as you love putting together a sermon. Turn to them and allow them to be used by God in their area of passion.
The responsibilities in this area and the questions leaders have usually revolve around three areas of the church: God’s People, God’s Property, and God’s Money. All three are God’s, not yours. You are a steward. It is your responsibility to use what God has given you to bring Him the most glory possible. The good news is you are only responsible for the gifts He has given you, no one else’s.
Most ministry is done by volunteers. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service…” A key responsibility for pastors and leaders is to find, recruit, equip, and release people for ministry according to their gifts and passions. How do you know when to start paying people for ministry? While there is no simple formula that fits every church situation, there are common factors that influence it more than others. Those factors are usually church budget and ministry needs. The church budget should be properly planned to prepare the church for adding staff, either part-time or full-time. The other question is how much to pay this staff member. Pastors and ministerial staff should be paid commensurate to what the church members in the congregation are paid. In addition, good resources are available to help churches determine the average pay for the position being hired. (See sidebar for resources.)
Dealing with the church facilities is a thankless task. How long has it been since you heard someone thanked for the restrooms being kept clean week after week? But let a toilet overflow or a paper dispenser be out one Sunday, and you will hear about it. Someone once said people will not come to your church because of the facilities (cleanliness, safety, usefulness), but they will not come back to your church because of its facilities. Ministry is messy, but that does not mean your building has to be. Potted plants needing watering, door frames needing painting, a church sign with the former pastor’s name on it, or ragged lawns may seem like small things. But they may lead people to wonder if their money will be spent wisely, or if their kid’s classrooms will be safe and clean.
The church facilities should help fulfill the church’s mission. Does your church want to reach kids and families? Is there evidence of it in your facilities? Does your church have a heart for the world? Can you prove it by looking at your facility? Align the church facility to the mission of the church, not the other way around.
Our eyes eventually begin to overlook glaring issues in our church building. That stain in the carpet bothered you the first month, then you started to overlook it. Guests will not. Ask a friend who does not attend your church to visit one Sunday. Ask him or her to fill out a simple questionnaire asking questions like the following:
+ Was there adequate exterior signage to know where to park and where to enter for worship services?
+ Was signage helpful or non-existent?
+ Was the facility clean, specifically the restrooms?
Your carpet will need to be replaced eventually. Will your budget be surprised when it is time to replace it? Or will you prepare ahead of time for maintenance replacements like carpet, paving, HVAC units, and painting?
Stewardship [stoo-erd-ship] the careful, responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care
The three areas addressed in this article should be stewarded, but none is more challenging than the financial resources entrusted to your care. The tithes and offerings of God’s children are to be used for the fulfillment of the church’s
mission. Proper systems and processes must be set up to allow this to happen in an ethical, legal, and financially
prudent way. Here are common questions to ask regarding church finances:
+ Who handles your cash, and how is it handled? Whether cash comes in through the offering plate, camp registrations, bake sales, or silent auctions, cash must be handled with proper oversight and management. Two people must be present whenever cash is being touched.
+ Who signs your checks? Who counts your offering? Who balances the accounts? There should be a division of responsibilities in these three areas.
Your church has been given three boxes of gifts. Those gifts come in the form of God’s People, God’s Property, and God’s Money. You are only responsible for what you have been given. You are not responsible for the gifts given to the church down the street or the one you read about online. Take the responsibility of stewarding these gifts seriously. Thank God for the privilege of serving Him through the administration gifts of the church.
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