The struggle of church business

By Nathan Freeland

I had a meeting with Pastor Sam. It didn’t go well.

From that meeting, I learned a great deal about what pastors are required to know and do but were never taught.

As a pastor, you may often wonder how you can make a greater impact for the Kingdom. I do as well. It’s why you got into the pastorate in the first place. Most likely, it’s what wakes you up each morning, excited to lead your church, ready to share the Gospel and transform your community.

Chances are, you also worry about dealing with the challenges of church leadership you are required to handle but were never really trained for. And these are the things that keep you up at night.

Sam and I were discussing the church budget and in a bout of frustration he exclaimed, “I have a Doctorate in Theology, not an MBA! They didn’t teach me this business stuff in seminary. I became a pastor to share the Gospel, but the elder board requires me to oversee the accounting, insurance, building maintenance, and tons of other stuff I didn’t know I was signing up for.”

Many pastors struggle with leading their church in an area they were never trained for. Here was a pastor who was a fantastic evangelist, loved people, and gifted in sharing the Gospel with anyone who walked in the church doors. But when it came to anything related to the business management of church leadership, he failed miserably.

Sam isn’t alone. While some pastors do come from a business background, most do not. Frankly, most pastors don’t like the business side of the church at all, but it’s not going to go away. Business is a part of the church, a part of ministry. Not only is it a necessity, it’s imperative to the long-term success of any ministry. It’s effectiveness not only strengthens the pastor’s leadership ability, it gives greater credibility to the church overall within its community. It’s in the best interest of all leaders, pastors, and church members, that the business aspects of the church are strong, sound, ongoing, thorough, and ever-evolving.

“I have a Doctorate in Theology, not an MBA! They didn’t teach me this business stuff in seminary. I became a pastor to share the Gospel, but the elder board requires me to oversee the accounting, insurance, building maintenance, and tons of other stuff I didn’t know I was signing up for.”

I often meet pastors who spent years in school focused on theological training, honing their speaking skills, learning to parse Greek, and counsel warring marriages, only to find that a majority of their Monday-to-Friday is about the budget shortfall, insurance claims, employee challenges, and deciding what to put in the Sunday bulletin.

Regardless of church size, every pastor and church leader must deal with some level of business administration. It might be deciding how much to pay employees, how much vacation to give, planning for a sabbatical, dispersing keys to volunteers, scheduling a plumber, deciding on insurance plans, organizing facility maintenance, planning for a capital campaign, or trying to figure out how to not get sued.

None of us can excel at everything, but we can learn how to minimize the areas we are weak in. If you are a pastor that struggles with business, you can learn to minimize your business deficits. Seek out a business-minded mentor, ask for help from your governing board, read business-oriented articles and books that have an emphasis on churches or non-profits, and tackle the business issues head-on, not letting them fester or be delayed.

Business is never going to leave the church, but the church can benefit from good business. Pastors that learn to do better with the business of church, do better at the church business.


Nathan Freeland is the author of CHURCH BUSINESS: Making the Business of Church Easier, Simpler, and Much Less Painful and president of Reach Consulting, a firm dedicated to helping pastors and church leaders with their church business. Freeland lives in Central California with his wife and six children.


4 Responses to “The struggle of church business”

  1. Dick Naylor

    Forgive me from being blunt. Where are the leaders at seminaries?? Obvious question, why don’t they prepare pastors for the responsibilities they are being trained to assume. How to contract with CPA’s, financial consultants, auditors etc. How to Biblically organize a church and assign the duties of personnel and money management to the leaders in the church (if there are any). To educate them on what will lead to failure in these areas IF they are not properly managed. If you need to use a current example of FAILURE is Harvest Bible Fellowship because of its totally inept leadership led in its failure by an extremely egotistical Pastor who started and perpetuated the churches failure in both areas of finance AND personnel. Teach them the significance of these MAJOR ASPECTS of a church. I do have an MBA, BUT
    seminary leadership has totally missed the mark in these areas and should be replaced by people who understand the obvious and will ensure that it is provided for in a clergyman’s education. Shame, Shame

  2. I agree Mr. Danilchick. Our theology and Biblical positions should be the primary drive behind our church decisions. But I do believe that business can influence and inform those decisions as well. There is much to learn from many people on this subject. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Vivica Mclain

    I am an accountant. I have been helping my
    I have been assisting my Church to navigate this exact issue. We have established and Administrative team of four that is assisting our Pastor to face some of these challenges with ease. I’m glad to see there is someone else out there trying to do the same. I intend on trying to assist more ministries going forward. Whereby assisting ministers in tackling and navigating this process through automation and member assistance. It’s easy once it’s all established. It leaves the Pastors to do and serve their intended purpose, saving souls.

  4. Thanks Nathan for this excellent advice. Another challenge to pastors and church leaders is how to bridge their theology with the business acumen that they need to acquire. These need to be consistent with theology informing the business aspects, not the reverse. For those leaders, I recommend my book “Thy Will Be Done: Strategic Leadership, Planning, and Management for Christians.” See the link
    for further information.
    Thanks again for reminding pastors of this critical aspect of their leadership!
    Peter M. Danilchick, D.H.L.

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