The Business of the Church

The Business of the Church: The Uncomfortable Truth that Faithful Ministry Requires Effective Management (John Wimberly; ©2011 by the Alban Institute)

I was not as impressed with this book as I had hoped to be. Wimberly has considerable parish experience, and a good bit of practical wisdom to share with those who are guiding congregations (especially larger congregations), but he breaks little new ground here, mostly affirming what staff leaders tend to discover on their own fairly quickly.

That said, he does lift up a number of helpful pieces of advice that need to be considered, if congregational life is to go well. Among them, I'll try to remember:

  1. A systems approach to church management helps us to remember the interconnected nature of what we are dealing with.
  2. Finances are important, and the way we manage them has to be transparent, ethically sound, and efficient.
  3. Effective pastors are able to function both as a manager and as a leader (two very different roles).
  4. Anxiety is always present, and wise leadership knows when to calm anxiety, and when to use anxiety to promote change.
  5. New leaders require help in learning how to understand congregational finances and policy.
  6. An effective strategic plan can keep a congregation's efforts focused on its mission and vision.
  7. Good strategic leaders encourage congregations to do "less" better, rather than "more" poorly.
  8. Congregations that fail to plan for (and provide) the staff and facilities needed just beyond the horizon will rarely grow.
  9. It is important to determine who has final authority on managerial decisions before a crisis occurs.
  10. In general, management of individuals by groups is a disaster.
  11. Most people agree that good personnel management involves three things: 1. bringing people together to work effectively and efficiently for a common purpose, 2. helping people maximize their strengths and minimize the impact of their weaknesses, 3. training and developing the skills employees need to succeed in their work. (direct quote from book)
  12. Once a congregation has clarified its goals, it needs a staffing plan, with individuals who are committed to reaching those goals.
  13. When hiring, it is extremely important to go beyond references (independent, third-party advice is critical).