Church Administration

Extensive Consideration of the Major Pitfalls and Challenges of Church Administration

Curated from a lecture series by Tom Pennington
In partnership with The Master's Seminary

Oversight & Priorities

  • Part 1

    The biblical foundation of oversight is covered in the first half of the video. At 44:30, Dr. Pennington begins to talk about a biblical philosophy of oversight.

  • Part 2

    The first half of the video continues the discussion of the biblical philosophy of oversight. At 49:00 through the end of the video, Dr. Pennington discusses a biblical view of priorities.

Study Questions
Does church structure matter?

In these videos, Pennington argues that church structure is no accident, but is essential to the health of a church.

What is the leadership structure that Pennington argues for in the video?

Pennington argues for local church leadership consisting of multiple elders.

How do the titles "elder," "shepherd," and "overseer" relate to one another?

They all refer to the same office in Scripture. The difference is that “elder” refers to the character of the person, while “shepherd” and “overseer” refer to their function.

What are the life priorities of elders?
  1. Personal spiritual life
    1. Scripture
    2. Prayer
    3. Participation in corporate worship
  2. Family
  3. Public ministry


Study Questions
What are Pennington's big three criteria for staff candidates?
  1. Attitude
  2. Aptitude
  3. Interpersonal Skills
If a church is looking to hire for a new position, should they hire from within their church?

Pennington argues that the church should be the first place to look for candidates, but warns that it is easy for a church to “settle” if they only consider those that they know best.

What does the typical process of hiring look like?
  1. Advertise
  2. Send applications
  3. Sort applications
  4. Evaluate applications
  5. Schedule interviews
  6. Notify non-hires
  7. Conduct second interview
  8. Call References
  9. Job Offer
  10. Paperwork
  11. Orientation
What are some of the criteria that churches use when evaluating and sorting applications?
  1. Timeliness of submission
  2. Appearance of the form
  3. Level of articulateness
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Work History
  6. Specific tests
What is the main objective in an interview?

The main objective in an interview is to be a detective that is trying to gather data about the candidate. This is not to treat them as less than human, but to truly get to know the person. Some tips to keep in mind are:

  1. Ask open-ended questions
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Keep careful notes

Pastoral Search


Finances & Team Management

  • In the first half of the video, Jim Rickard discusses church finances from an accountant's perspective. Starting at 46:45, Dr. Pennington lectures on the management of church employees.


Study Questions
What are the four key things pastors should do with their money?
  1. Be generous
  2. Take care of your family
  3. Protect your family from a catastrophic occurrence
  4. Plan for the future
What is the primary warning that Rickard has for young men pursuing pastoral ministry?

Don’t be ruled by money. He says he has known more men that have left the ministry because of financial indiscretion than moral indiscretion.

How does Rickard define "Housing Allowance"

He has five categories in his definition. They are:

  1. Rent/ purchase of a home/ maintenance of a home, not to exceed the fair market rental value.
    1. Fair market rental value is ~1% of appraised-value per month.
  2. Furnishings.
  3. Utilities.
  4. Cleaning supplies.
  5. Miscellaneous repairs.

Video Resources
  • John Piper talks about how he believes a church ought to think about the salary of their pastor.

Managing Staff

Study Questions
What is a good motivation for treating the staff under you well?

Though staff are not slaves, the principles from Paul’s instructions to masters and servants apply. As the boss of their staff, pastors still work for a greater boss. They must remember that every aspect of their job ought to be done for the sake of the great master, Jesus.

How is compensation related to caring for one's staff?

Compensation meets the needs of the employee and frees them up to put more energy into their job at the church or ministry.

Recommended Reading

Financial Reports & Budgets

  • The first half of the video details financial reports and statements that are essential for the pastor. The second half (starting at 51:10) is Dr. Pennington's explanation of how to prepare and police a church budget.

Financial Reports

Study Questions
Why should one be interested in church financials?

As a pastor, one is called to be a faithful steward of what God has given. If one cannot be faithful with money, how can they be expected to be faithful with anything else?

Should a pastor know what any given individuals within their church gives?

No, this is almost always unhelpful and can lead to being judgmental or partial towards individuals.

Are there any resources to help hold churches accountable with their finances?

Dr. Pennington recommends that churches join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

Can a church take out a loan for a building project?

Yes, this is not as much of a clear cut issue as some Christians make it out to be. The most important principle is for churches is that they have a plan to pay off the loan in a reasonable time.

Church Budgets

Study Question
What is a zero-based budget and when might be a good time to use this method?

A zero-based budget is when past budgets are ignored and each department or ministry starts with zero dollars. In the budget making process, they must defend why they deserve every dollar that they want to receive instead of receiving money based on the pattern of past years. This method may be useful when a pastor has inherited a church that has not spent much time evaluating its budget in many years. This method is often too time-consuming to utilize every year.

How should a church calculate revenue projections?

Some churches claim to be trusting that God to provide far more in a new year than he did in a previous year. They may call this faith budgeting. This idea, as noble as it sounds, is often foolish. Churches should project revenue based on past giving patterns. This is still trusting God, but done intelligently.

Why is it important to track every expense?

This is a way to be able to prove that the department or activity that the expenses were for were actually necessary and helpful. Every expense provides more to be evaluated as the next budget is created.

Who, finally, must approve the church budget each year?

This depends on each church’s structure. In an elder-ruled church, the elders will be the final approvers of the budget. However, in an elder-led congregational church (as many baptist churches are today), the elders create the budget, but the congregation has the final say on the budget.

Call to Ministry

  • This final video addresses the issue of calling in the life of a pastor.

Study Questions
What are the four tests of a man's call to ministry that are found in 1 Timothy 3?
  1. Craving: of both the office and the work.
  2. Character can be attested to by those surrounding the man, particularly in his local church.
  3. Capacity: Ability to teach and manage life.
  4. Confirmation of the entire local church.
    1. Selection of the individual.
    2. Evaluation of the individual.
    3. Recognition of approval from the church.
Is it possible for a man to know that he is called to ministry apart from the affirmation of his local church?

No, the call can only be discerned in the context of church community. Certainly, there is an internal craving, but it can only be interpreted with the help of a church.

Recommended Reading
  • The Call to MinistryR. Albert Mohler Jr., Donald S. Whitney, Daniel S. Dumas

    This workbook by the faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is designed to help you discern whether or not God has has called you to vocational ministry. If you are wrestling with this question in your own life, this should be very useful resource for you.

    If the cost of the print copy is a hindrance for you, you can download the eBook free at

    This workbook by the faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is designed to help you discern whether or not God has has called you to vocational ministry. If you are wrestling with this question in your own life, this should be very useful resource for you.

    If the cost of the print copy is a hindrance for you, you can download the eBook free at