The pastor as manager

By Sam S. Rainer III

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?

Sam S. Rainer III is the president of Rainer Research and senior pastor of First Baptist Church Murray, Murray, KY. [] []


6 Responses to “The pastor as manager”

  1. I’ve just discovered your blog via the church executive website. I really enjoy your writings. One of the best definitions of Leadership and Management I’ve seen is that leadership is the ability to rally people to a better future and management is the ability to turn talents (gifts) into performance by matching the appropriate gift to the appropriate task.

  2. Gerald Norrington

    WOW!! I resonate with what you are saying these days. The Pastor has to be involved with the daily functions of the church. Some one said “Management is doing the right things” Being a Manager is information processing, decision making, implementing, overseeing, resourcing, and training.I agreed you need to be a team leader in managing teams. To be an effective manager you have to connect wuth people daily.

  3. On the first page of Jim Collins forward to Drucker’s– Management; Revised Edition, Collins writes: .”..managers and leaders-are they different?” Then he goes on to say, “…the very best leaders are first and foremost effective managers. Those who seek to lead but fail to manage will become either irrelevant or dangerous, not only to their organizations, but to society.”

    I would agree and love to see pastors managing and leading well.

  4. Here’s a small part of my study…..

    • Hears from God
    • Provides direction
    • Gives vision
    • Aligns the people to the vision
    • Motivates the people
    • Inspires the people to work towards the vision
    • Stays informed but rarely involved in the mechanics
    • Keeps the vision in focus and before the people

    • Primary role in planning
    • Supports the vision and direction
    • Visually sees all the parts that will be needed
    • Can count the cost because they know the cost
    • Organizes the people for their assignments to accomplish the vision
    • Involved in the implementation of the vision
    • Sustains direction by remaining involved

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