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Church management feels like spinning plates... we dash madly between priorities that teeter on the edge of disaster. Why? Because our church management toolbox is either underdeveloped or missing tools. Nonetheless, church management is of critical importance. Church management drives our places of worship to new levels of growth and outreach.

Heads Up!

Heads Up!

My team and I recognize the import role that church management plays in streamlining your ministry… and we also know from experience how tough it can be to select the ‘just right’ option for your church. So, we researched, vetted, and compared this year’s industry-leading church management software tools. Check out this thorough ranking of the best church management software tools available to you.

Personally, my own bible college training didn't address the fundamentals of actually running a church. We weren't taught how to recruit and manage volunteers, develop a specific church culture, oversee a financial campaign, the list goes on.

Effective church management will give you the ability to keep first-time guests coming back to your church, improve your church's growth, and ride out the rough patches we all go through.

Key Takeaways

Spinning Plates: management is a skill set not generally covered in traditional biblical studies or seminary education.

Growth Through Management: as church management improves, more resources become available for growth initiatives.

Software to the Rescue: church management software streamlines the myriad tasks associated with running a church.

In this guide, we will look at the broad strokes of church management and provide links to more in-depth articles on each topic.

Here’s what I’ll cover:

This Year's Top ChMS Tools:

Church management without church management software, especially in today’s digital world, is an incredibly difficult, frustrating endeavor. Here are the top 5 tools we recommend, grouped by use case:

Church Management Overview (plus one thing to NEVER do)

Church management (often accomplished with helpful church software) is about deploying your church’s resources (people, funds, attention) to ensure the mission and vision of the church is reached.

That means being intentional about how you lead each ministry in the church. Some definitions of church management will exclude worship services, but your volunteers, from ushers to band, and your financial team, among others, all need to be managed before, during, and after services as well. 

NEVER do This Thing:

NEVER do This Thing:

Micromanagement… never do it, ever. Please. There aren’t many faster ways to erode trust and alienate high-capacity volunteers. It’s the opposite of good management. I’ve learned this the hard way…

 

Josh

While management does involve some direct control from leadership, the best management is about placing the right people into positions where they will be most effective.

What Needs to Be Managed?

Short answer: Pretty much everything.
Long answer: Good managing applied in every area of your church leads to growth and sustainability. Good management during a growth period can give you the edge to carry you through a lean period.

Rule of thumb; if it breathes, costs money, or interacts with people in any way, it needs to be managed. 

Joshua Gordon

Twelve Things to Be Managed:

Most churches have a handful of key positions in common. In the same way, many of the following areas, especially in smaller churches, may have overlapping requirements, so we’ll group the following management teams by areas of expertise or responsibility.

1. Property Management: Half of Caring for Your Building

This category deals with the actual property of the church, typically the exterior. Key people generally include maintenance workers, janitors, project managers, and the like.

2. Facility Management: The Other Half Caring for Your Buiding

Facility management is the part of your team that covers the following areas (usually the interior of your church:

  • Cleaning the building and grounds, such as the parking lot
  • Supplying the bathrooms and offices
  • Maintaining the church’s physical building through repair and general maintenance.

Small churches might employ an all-in-one handyman, but larger churches may need to consider an expanded team with a dedicated facilities manager. In addition to regular staff members, you might need specialists who you can call in occasionally.

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3. Project Management: Executing a One-Time Vision

Church projects are varied but include:

  • Upgrading equipment and systems
  • Renovating church structures
  • Enhancing the church facilities.

Church projects might also include digital projects such as upgrading your church website, implementing presentation software, or setting up live streaming for your church services.

Here’s a brief overview of the steps in church project managements:

  1. Start the project by proposing the project plan and budget
  2. Finalize the budget through board approval, or through whatever process your denomination’s polity allows
  3. Work the project by coordinating contractors and volunteers
  4. Close the project by ensuring that the goals of the project have been met and all contractors and vendors have been paid
  5. Maintain your project to ensure that it keeps its value in years to come

Your church project manager should have a good background in networking and interpersonal skills. Project management involves dealing with both contractors and volunteers, so be sure to check out our in-depth guide.

4. Operations Management: Day-to-Day Excellence

Church operations management belongs here because your operations team will often be set apart from the spiritual leadership and will instead be focused on the day-to-day of keeping the lights on. Operations will coordinate the church board’s decisions with the departments that will fulfill them. In some churches, the legal department is part of operations.

5. Risk Management: Protecting the Church's Interests

Risks within churches usually fall into two categories. First is the legal risk associated with ensuring that your church is abiding by all tax laws. Some countries, like the US, make it very difficult to investigate churches and other charitable organizations, while other countries offer little protection at all. 

Second, and often unrecognized by most pastors I have worked with, are mandated reporter laws. These laws require that on-going child or sexual abuse be reported to the police. These laws supersede the privilege of faith just as they supersede doctor-patient and lawyer-client privilege. NOTE: please seek out a lawyer concerning your church’s needs and concerns.

6. Finance Management: Stewarding the Funds

Finance management starts with your church’s Treasurer and budget committee. Due to the charitable organization status of most churches and the tax exemptions or reductions that come with it, your management style should be hardest around your finances.

A more in-depth look can be found in our article on church financial management.

7. Crisis Management: Preparing for Worst Case Scenario

Crisis management is often found in action plans for various types of negative circumstances. Form a crisis management committee and ask questions about how to deal with natural disasters or allegations of impropriety among the church leadership. Brainstorm the various ways your church could need crisis management and develop plans to mitigate those disasters.

8. Records Management: Tracking the Key Details

Church records involve, but are not limited to:

  • Marriages
  • Baptisms
  • Christenings
  • Many more, depending on your denomination and services offered. 

Beyond those important records, you will likely be responsible for tax information concerning your members. Some of your congregation may wish for a tax form showing their charitable contributions. Recordkeeping of this variety is made simpler these days with a wide range of church software which we will get into a little later in the article.

Learn more about records management in the church here.

9. People Management: Caring for The Church

Volunteers are our lifeline. From the business end, they lower costs and increase sustainability. From the spiritual end, they show the benefits of joining our church community.

A short summary of the volunteer management process goes a little like this:

  1. Recruiting Church Volunteers
    1. Ask For Help
    2. Conduct Background Checks & Screen For Legal Issues
    3. Get To Know Your Volunteers
    4. Lead From The Front
  2. Train Your Volunteers
  3. Care For Your Volunteers

Dig deeper in this article on church volunteer management.

10. Communications: Striving for Clarity

Communication might be the single most important thing we do as pastors. We:

  • Preach from the pulpit
  • Negotiate prices on materials
  • Communicate church goals and ideas
  • Develop volunteers into leaders

We have more to say on this subject in this article on how to develop a church communications plan.

11. Member Management: Stewardship of People

Not every member becomes a volunteer or joins a leadership team. We cannot forget them as they will make up the bulk of our churches. If you don’t have the personnel to give everyone a personal call, many church software apps will allow you to track your members and even send messages to check-in when they miss service.

12 Event Management: Making Fun Things Happen

Every church needs to have an event manager. No matter what kind of church you have, you run events. weddings, vacation bible school, passion plays, and more all fall under the umbrella of event management. Get the breakdown on how to throw successful events in this article on church event management.

What About Church Administration? Is That Different?

Church administration is quite simply the structure that organizes people into the management team and ministry leader teams defined in the above section. Church administration usually starts with a church board or a bishop, depending on your polity. A denominational board or synod above them provides guidance.

Church administration is the business side, mostly (i.e.: the church financial committees, board of directors, etc) so the clergy can deal with the spiritual issues. In most churches, the lead pastor deals with both as the head of the clergy and the president of the board. As always, individual churches will have differences based on their bylaws and the bylaws of their denomination.

What the Heck is Church Management Software?

The church I grew up in utilized Excel spreadsheets, manual head counts, and physical bank ledgers as their tools for tracking funds, volunteers, and attendance. The lead pastor, with the help of an office administrator was responsible for keeping up to date with all of those. Heaven forbid the administrator got sick.

Today, though, church management software tools make it infitely easier to track, manage, reach, and follow up with your members no matter the size of your church.

Church management software (ChMS) refers to the tools used by churches to simplify their managerial and administrative taskload. ChMS tools allow churches to computerize their member database, giving receipts, their event calendar, and many other services that the church provides.

How Will Church Management Software Help Things?

Church management systems not only give you the convenience of real-time tracking of your budget, volunteers, events, and more, it can let you print off your tax reports with a push of a button and print statements for your members with another push.

Types Of Church Management Software

Facility Management Software

The best church facility management software will give you the functionality you need to stay on top of your building and facilities.

Communications Software

The latest in church communication software allows you to send mass emails to your congregation, follow up with new members, leverage text messaging capabilities, and keep in touch with your church members.

Financial Management Software

Since financial stewardship is so important, we have a number of articles to help you find the best fit for you and your church. In addition to keeping track of church finances and assisting with general fundraising, many platforms also enable online giving for donations and tithes.

Next Up: "How to Choose Church Management Software"

Church management is a wonderful and complex undertaking that can define the difference between a growing church and a stagnant one. This article is a great jumping-off point to refine and develop your management toolbox.

To that end, I recommend "How to Choose Church Management Software." It'll will clarify your processes for evaluating and selecting church management tools (and there's some great free stuff there, too.)

NOTE: If you're jonesing to run headlong down the 'everything about church management software' rabbit hole, here are a handful of articles to indulge yourself in:

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Joshua Gordon
By Joshua Gordon

Joshua Gordon is a lay-pastor, author, and editor of TheLeadPastor.com. Over the last two decades, Josh has worked closely with pastors and other christian leaders, helping them to sharpen and elevate their messages. Today, Joshua pastors at New Life Fellowship, a thriving church he helped plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.