Definition: A dictionary gives several definitions for this word. The nearest one to my meaning here is “management and direction of the affairs of an organization.” This may already set alarm bells ringing in someone’s mind. Some would argue that the minister should direct the affairs of the church. To some extent that is surely correct, though I prefer the word “lead” to “direct. Inevitably much of a minister’s work is “office work” and he needs to be as efficient in that field as possible. But while there is an irreducible minimum of administration that every faithful pastor must engage in, many men end up doing more administration than ministry.
A young pastor, taking up duties in his first church, may be expecting to spend his time mainly on preaching and pastoral work. He will soon find, in many churches, that a great deal of other kinds of work falls to his lot. Some churches have a very efficient and available church secretary who shoulders a great deal of the burden. But, depending on the expectations and size of the church and the expertise of the secretary the pastor may find himself organizing meetings, conferences and outings, booking speakers, meeting tradesmen who call to deliver goods or to do jobs on the church building, writing, editing and even printing the church newsletter or bulletin. His work will certainly include correspondence, telephone calls, filing, handling certain finances (at the minimum fees received for weddings and funerals). It may even include arranging chairs, turning on the heating, replacing broken windows, or arranging for someone to do that, putting out the rubbish sacks, cleaning the church and so on. Here the pastor faces a dilemma. On the one hand he may wish to show himself willing to do whatever the other members of the church are willing to do, and even to set an example in serving in menial tasks, but on the other hand he is called, trained, equipped and paid to perform tasks which most other members are not called and equipped to do. Moreover, many church members just do not realise what is involved in preparing two sermons and a Bible study (at least) each week, nor do most understand that a minister must read widely and deeply if he is to continue to feed the flock adequately over a period of years.
It may be that church members need teaching on what is involved in the pastoral ministry! But many ministers do get involved in much activity which is not only unprofitable, but also robs them of their time for pastoral responsibilities. This could be one of the reasons for the weakness of the church today. Ministers, instead of giving themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4) find themselves swamped by paper and the machinery of the world. It is not long before the pastor begins to feel very frustrated. He has his sermons and Bible studies to prepare, letters to answer, pastoral visits to make, but has little time for serious reading. Most harmful of all, his times of prayer are getting dangerously thin, a situation that adds to his burden of guilt since he urges his flock to spend quality time in prayer. Added to that there is the danger of neglecting his wife and family.
The not unnatural reaction to such a situation is to begin to think, “What I need is an assistant pastor.” In some larger churches that may indeed be necessary, especially if the assistant is given a specific area of responsibility such as evangelism or youth work, or is being trained. But I want to suggest that before getting to the stage when an assistant pastor is needed the appointment of an administrator should be considered. Most churches have a church secretary who gives out the notices, writes letters, takes minutes at church meetings, and so on. But nearly all church secretaries do their job in their spare time, whereas a full-time administrator is able to do so much more. Besides, if an assistant pastor is appointed before an administrator there remains the problem of all these little jobs that the pastor gets involved in. The assistant will come with the same aspirations, aims and desires as the original pastor. That is, he will expect to preach and lead Bible studies; so that work is reduced but the administrative work remains, and so often the pastor continues to do it. So, seek to appoint an administrator before appointing an assistant pastor.