In the church, there is an aversion to administration, and understandably so. It is in the hirings and firings, budget squabbles, and strategic planning where contention often raises its head and the church seems the least spiritual.
But administrative, executive functions within the church need not be evil or even a distraction from the mission and ministry of the church.
Done and viewed properly, administration is a beautiful asset to ministry.
Thomas Oden (1983) reminds us of this fact when he recounts the history of church “administration” or “administry.” He writes:
“To be a minister one must administer; ministry therefore requires what once was called “administry.” The prefix ad- in front of minister in Latin simply meant “toward ministry” or “an intensification of ministry.” “Administry,” an old English word worthy of resurrecting, referred to all those tasks that contribute to ministry or lead toward ministry. In this sense the work of ministry is inseparable from certain tasks of administration. In fact the key Greek word for ministry, diakonia, has at times been translated “administration” (1 Cor. 12:5, 2 Cor. 9:12, KJV).” (pp. 153-154)
“The pastor’s call is to proclaim the gospel, administer the sacraments, and provide a well-conceived order for spiritually caring for the flock. Church administration is not an addendum to these requirements but, rather, deeply latent and implicit in them. For the Christian congregation is by definition a visible, socially palpable fellowship, an organization capable of being sociologically described and logistically cultivated (Calvin, LCC, vol. 22, pp. 102 f.; Wollebius, RD, pp. 135ff.). The church exits in time and space, not in ethereal realms alone, and thus requires temporal governance (Hooker, book 3, chap. 1, sec. 14)… It is precisely because the church has a ministry of word, sacrament, and order that it needs adept leadership, well-defined goals, financial planning, and wise administration by an efficient organization. These “management” tasks are never separable from the central imperatives of preaching, sacramental life, and pastoral care. Rather, they are needed for no other reason than to more adequately embody the body of Christ, to enable lay mission, and to make more effective and efficient the fundamental mission of the church as marturia, diakonia, and koinonia (“witness,” “service,” and “community”). (p. 155)
So, according to Oden, administration done right is administration for ministry, to ministry. It aides and supports ministry. It helps the church, which is corporate-physical…not just spiritual-individual, better function in time and space. Administrative tasks can be administry in its original sense.
I think Oden makes a reasonable proposal here for sanctified administration.
Why, then, does the church so often lose its way in this area? What do you think?
Oden, T. C. (1983). Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry. HarperOne.
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