The Theology of Management Theory

In the Organization & Administration graduate class I teach for Trinity International University, I usually start off the class discussion with whether or not there is a need for such a class. (Why waste everyone’s time if they feel this is unnecessary preparation for ministry?)

One article I have used before comes from the infamous site, The Ooze, titled, “Management Theory and the Church,” by an executive pastor and former businessman.  In presenting the article this past Monday to the students, they had some great insights and provocative perspectives.

So give it a read and lend your thoughts.

What do you feel are Jay’s top arguments and why? (doesn’t mean you have to agree with them) When do you feel the church can become too imbalanced with management theory?  What about the statement we tend to hear, “The church isn’t an organization, but an organism?” (see past thoughts on this question HERE.)


~ by Dave Smith on January 8, 2010.

3 Responses to “The Theology of Management Theory”

  1. Jay’s first point that I believe speaks fairly loudly to church leaders/administrators is “1 in 8 [church plants] survive…I believe this is because the approach to ministry is shaped by the world, rather than by a burning desire to see lost people redeemed.” Although not all ‘ways of the world’ are to be avoided (this is a terribly irrelevant way to live and think), there is something to say about what goes into the planning process of church planting vs. business planting (or whatever you want to call something that isn’t a church). Is it the same in function and content as a business? No it’s not. Does the role of the Holy Spirit, God’s redeeming work for His people, and the church being a pretty key element in the story of God’s revelation to the world matter? I would think so. I would say it makes sense why 1 in 8 survive if processes are dependent on ‘worldly standards.’

    Another good point Jay made was about increasing the bottom line–aka profit. This cannot be the main focus of the church when it comes to management…Many who are not Christ followers already believe the church is money-hungry, always asking people for more money time after time. Although a church needs money to function, and members should want to faithfully give to their local church, money cannot be what is ultimately relied upon. What role does God’s provision & His work of the Holy Spirit play in trusting for needs to be met? The way the leadership team views importance on money will trickle down to to those who are apart of the congregation.

    A third point Jay made that I was struck by was, “It is much better for the pastor of the local church to spend time on his face before God discerning the heart of God for his congregation through Spirit-led direction.” Methods must take the back seat to prayer. We seek the heart of God, not man-made principles. Ultimately, God’s leading is what trumps all man’s methods and tools for successful management.

    Let’s be honest. I’m not incredibly familiar with management of a church (small or large). But, I have to believe that there is balance to management theories, methods, tools, principles of the business world and dependence on the God of this universe to lead His people in wise decision making. Every one of our lives should be covered with prayer before we turn to any man-made principles to try to make anything ‘better’ or more organized. Often times, I look at my life and it needs to be organized. But, before I start making a schedule to help time-manage, I ask God to reveal to me what in the world needs to go. Sometimes He answers, sometimes I have to choose wisely on my own trusting that it’s the best decision to make. It’s hard for me to say what the balance is…..I don’t just want to cop out and say “you’ll know when the balance is off….,” but if church leaders are in tune to the Spirit of God, I really do believe they’ll know when it’s time to make a change. What are our hearts dependent on at the end of the day? I think that’s a starting question.

    & when I hear that the church isn’t an organization but an organism, I have to say that at some point I agree and I disagree. I agree that the Holy Spirit who lives inside believers is mysterious! Nicodemus was told that the Spirit blows wherever it wants, therefore, we have to expect there is some amount of trust in God’s leading and in the Spirit’s movement for there to be growth in our churches (not chaos). There is fluidity here. We cannot control the Spirit.

    And for humans, we want to be able to be apart of things we can control. We want to see results. And we want to know that we did something right to get those results. I don’t think wanting the church to run smoothly is dishonoring to God. There needs to be some structure when running the church:: after all, it’s God’s tool for the spreading of His Son’s message– Reconciliation/Redemption/Salvation. Of course it isn’t to be taken too lightly!

  2. a few thoughts…

    structure for the people has always been a part of god’s community – e.g. levitical priesthood, moses using wise men to settle disputes, etc.

    “organism not organization” is at best an oxymoron and certainly naive.

    however, i agree with the author’s point, “now few pastors and church leaders would ever claim to trust in such management theory, but their actions speak louder than their words.”

    at the most basic level, many churches are trying to do the same thing – get more bodies in the building.

    more bodies = more giving = survival

    the big idea is that if i as a church leader do A, B, and C – then more people will come.

    the attraction to doing A, B, and C is that they are new, fun, creative, distinctive, can be measured and likely have been tried by others with positive results.

    in some circles, their can be debate is whether or not A, B, and C are “biblical” and can be used as an appropriate strategy.

    and perhaps in this conversation, it can be asked if A, B, and C are necessary?

    if “A” is church management, does the church need to “manage” itself in order to accomplish its mission?

    yes. wisdom would call for structure to shepherd and manage god’s people, especially larger bodies and multiple generations.

    and no. we can fall into the same trap of syncretism as others when we elevate principles from the business community to a position where it does not belong.

  3. Having served in a church plant who built its foundation on business practices this article really hit home for me. I have seen first hand how trying to build a church solely on a methodology of business with the currency of people can have a devastating effect on a church. So to read Bauman’s article was extremely refreshing as I feel that often people do not critique this part of church management enough.

    It’s interesting to me how some are so quick to blow off the notion that the church is a “organism not an organization.” The church functions (or at very least should function) completely different from any other organization that we see. This does not mean that the church does not need organizing. Those that postulate that the church is simply an organic entity (i.e. organic church) that must grow without organization I think are naive in their assessment. However, to go the other way and completely reject the idea that the church has an organismic quality to it fails in the same respect. We in turn must see the church as an organism that needs organizing. This leads us then to the question of how to organize the church.

    A rejection of business practices in the church is not altogether useful or necessary (nor do I think Bauman is arguing for this). However, I do not think that they should be the major influence on how we organize the church. I base this on two reasons. The first is that the business world has completely different goals. Therfore to whole heartedly embrace these methods in our churches will likely lead to a deterrent of the churches God-given goals and mindset. Secondly, an embrace of business practices as our primary method of church organization and leadership places scripture as a secondary method and thus minimizes the centrality of the role of God’s word in the church. If we as faithful Christians believe in Sola Scriptura (which I am assuming we do) then Scripture always needs to be the primary source to which we turn. Where scripture fails to speak then wisdom must prevail. This may or may not be an embracing of business practices. So I think the issue is more one of priority than it is anything else. If we are called to be Biblical Christians than that should always be our primary source. as Bauman puts it, “All scripture is useful for leading and guiding a church. Let’s make Bible needs to be our primary source in planning to grow a church.” This is the only way to ensure that our goals and motives as churches are aligned with God.

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