An orchestra without a conductor, a building site without an architect’s plans, and an airfield without an air-traffic controller. That’s the church without administration.
If thorns are the stuff of work in a fallen world, thornbushes are the stuff of teamwork. That’s why God’s Spirit has given to some the gift of administration (1 Cor. 12:28)—a gift hard to appreciate until you’re on a team, in a meeting, or at an event without it; a gift that allows people to work together in happy, coordinated, and fruitful ways; a spiritual gift of grace for spiritual works of grace made possible by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whether you’re an administrative assistant, a VBS director, an executive pastor—or a pastor of any kind, for that matter—you know administration isn’t as easy as it may appear. From broken printers to broken people, administration is hard and often thankless work. But it’s important work—very important work! In the context of the local church, administration frees Word workers for their assignment and creates vehicles for the Word to spread (Acts 6:1–7; Rom. 16:1–2; Titus 1:5).
So, if God’s Spirit has given you this gift, give yourself to God’s people.
If administration feels uninspiring, here are six images for six ways God blesses his people through your gift. And if administration isn’t your thing, these images will help you recognize and celebrate God’s gift to you in these people.
1. You’re their orchestra conductor.
An orchestra conductor creates beautiful music without hitting a drum, plucking a string, or blowing a horn. Through your gift of administration, you lead God’s people to create something beautiful together.
You’re a creator, and people are your instruments. Conductors don’t assign parts hastily or without notes to play. Through wise delegation you entrust the right roles to the right people, establishing clear expectations so they’ll know what to do and when they’re doing it well.
Then you investigate what you delegate. Conductors don’t schedule rehearsals for the sake of rehearsals but for music, and you schedule meetings with intention so that your team will not only work hard, but also work in harmony. Conductors hear what the music should sound like and see where things are going. And good conductors aren’t confusing in their direction; they work to be clear and understandable so people play their parts for a beautiful symphonic whole.
2. You’re their design architect.
Before there’s music there’s a composer. To use the imagery of a building, before a single brick is laid an architect is alone, pondering, and weighing options for the structure he or she will design—giving attention to every wall and support, every corner and switch. Through your gift of administration, you strategically plan the work of God’s people for the health and growth of the body.
You’re a planner. Without the proper plans, chaos would ensue on a building site, and the same is true in the church when God’s people come together to do anything that involves more than two people. You go before them, ensuring the right things get done in the right way. You work early so they won’t have to work late.
Your designs are fireproof—carefully considered to avoid preventable surprises. Like an electrician, you order the flow of energy to maximize the light and heat of God’s Word while minimizing the possibility of a fire.
Your designs are friction-proof—preventing needless interpersonal conflict and confusion. You design the plumbing, considering how communication will flow from one person and team to another.
Your designs are fail-proof—carefully ordered so that people and plans have to try hard to fail. You don’t hope people remember to keep their commitments; you help people keep their commitments.
And, finally, your designs are future-proof—taking into account the inevitable transitions and turnover that lay ahead on any team, including your own role. You want the ministry’s aim but also its design to be governed by priorities and principles, not personality.
3. You’re their air-traffic controller.
“I try not to let the planes touch.” That’s how one air-traffic controller described his job to me. It was his job to know where in the air each plane was and to see those planes to the runway on time and in order. Where schedule changes meant one plane was late, he knew it and helped others accommodate. Through your gift of administration, you coordinate God’s people so that they get where they’re going in order, on time, and safely.
You’re a coordinator. This requires that you have an expert grasp on the instruments needed to do this job: spreadsheets, lists, email templates, project timelines, organizational charts, and software to leverage all of these things well. These tools are tedious to some, but you know they help you do your job better—to discern what’s best next, in order and on time. When a plane is on time, you’ll know it. When a plane is late, you’ll know it and you’ll know what to do about it, whom to tell, and how to adjust. You’re a master of systems and contingency plans. If there’s a problem on your watch, you don’t blame or complain; you already have notes to ensure the error is avoided in the future.
4. You’re their commanding officer.
Commanding officers are responsible for their troops, and that responsibility is exercised in the making of consistently good decisions for them and the mission. This is especially important as issues inevitably arise that you didn’t plan to address. Through your gift of administration, you direct your people consistently with decisions that are adequately informed, properly timed, and clearly communicated.
You’re a decision-maker. Your decisions include purchases and sales, hires and fires, and rewards and reprimands. You know you don’t make perfect decisions, but you’re decisive, and your people have learned they can trust you. You listen, search out crucial questions, analyze what you learn—considering risks and counting costs—and then you decide. But there are some decisions you don’t make, and that’s on purpose. Some decisions you receive from those over you, and you carry them out. Some decisions you’ve assigned with purpose to others; they know what decisions are theirs, and they’re equipped to make the right decisions. In all of this decision-making and decision-trusting you carry yourself with a settled confidence, even when things are uncertain, knowing that panic on your part will be multiplied in those you lead.
5. You’re their supplier.
Some jobs need a hammer. Others need a screwdriver. Others need pliers. Through your gift of administration, you resource your people with what they need to do their work.
You’re a resource. You work hard at making it easy for your people to work hard. You know that the wrong tools will damage your process, your product, and your people, so you’re busy researching gear for the work you and your team are assigned to do. Your people won’t always love their work, and that’s okay. But when they are consistently unhappy or overwhelmed in their jobs, you know that they may need better tools, or a better capacity with the tools they already have. You resource people for work that’s both successful and satisfying.
6. You’re their servant.
The work of administration puts us over the work of others. But these people do not work for us. Rather, through your gift of administration, you are serving others as you serve the Lord together.
You’re a servant. Administration is a service to those whose organizational vision you support. You’re there to make ideas happen. In those relationships, you work by a certain motto: make time and take work; don’t take time and make work—an easy equation to reverse. So you carefully weigh what questions or discussions are appropriate for an email, a call, a text, the next meeting, or an impromptu visit. Administration is also a service to those you lead. When God wanted to convey the nature of our service together, he didn’t give us an organizational chart but the image of a body. You’re a steward of the Spirit’s gift, channeling it with love for the unity and maturity of Christ’s body as every part does its job (1 Cor. 12:4–13:13).
Administrate for His Glory
So what’s the difference between administration in business or the military, and the gift of administration for the church? Spiritual gifts are empowered by the Spirit himself. Don’t just administrate to get things done, then. Instead, administrate “by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 4:11). Your Spirit-filled administration minimizes the fall’s effect on the good things we want to do together.
If you are an administrator or know one, you’ll agree this is an idealized portrait of administration. That’s okay. Take these as encouragements but also as exhortations to more faithful administration for a more faithful church. Your work may be tiring, but it’s never in vain when it’s unto the Lord (Ps. 127:1; 1 Cor. 15:58). Your work may be at times thankless, but may it never be without thanks to God from your heart (2 Cor. 9:12; Col. 3:7). Don’t just get things done. Administrate things done to the glory of Jesus.