To be “in charge” is a charge.
Someone or something must be in charge of any organization. Order arises out of the person or group giving orders. Orders or directives create an accountability structure through which any organization can effectively function. Planning, providing, and protecting people and programs is the essence of what it means to practice administration.
Biblical Theology of Administration
Christian administration should pattern itself after the working Trinity. Each person in The Godhead has His proper role, committed to the same mission. In salvation, for instance, The Father plans, The Son provides, and The Spirit protects (Eph. 1:3-14). The Trinity gives the basis for the unity within the plurality of the universe (2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pe. 1:2). Christian administration follows this pattern, persons creating community, subordinating themselves for the good of the organization.
Trinitarian teaching produces the following guidelines for administration in the Christian community.
(1) Persons define relationship. Knowing who the community is establishes what the community does (Rom. 12:3-8).
(2) Organization defines roles. Order in any system is best established by how people fit into an organizational mission (Paul knew his role; Rom. 15:14-33).
(3) Function defines responsibility. Working together a staff complements each other within the framework of training another generation for Christ (2 Tim. 2:1-8).
(4) Purpose defines direction. People are asked to join a team committed to the same goal (Eph. 4:1-6).
(5) Unity defines commitment. The operational unity of a Christian staff should mirror the commitment of Father, Son, and Spirit to each other (Jn. 17:20-23).
(6) Oversight defines direction. Each person’s role dictates responsibility in an area (1 Cor. 12:4-12; Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Pe. 4:10-11).
Biblical Philosophy of Administration
Like The Trinity, people subordinate themselves to others to accomplish a task. Administration is born of an authority outside of themselves. Theology creates philosophy which establishes mission; members accede to policies which give oversight to any Christian community. Administrators are given authority within the structure of the organization. However, they must not be abusive in motive or action. Those persons holding positions in the organization must respect the authority of those whom they answer (1 The. 5: 11-12; Heb. 13.17).
Stewardship of people, programs, policies, and procedures is given as a task to those who administrate. Administrators bear the greatest responsibility to care for people. Caring for people should include discipleship, training, evaluation, and direction. Administrators should also carefully steward the resources within the organization to enact the mission and enable the people. People are not resources to be used; resources are to be used for people (Acts 6).
Administrators are given a charge to be “in charge.” Management, however, should not be dictates from the top down but service from the bottom up. Christian organizational charts should indicate responsible parties at the base of any diagram. Christian administrators bear the weight of lifting others up, encouraging their giftedness, preparing them for vocation, helping their abilities to benefit the organization (Gen. 2:22-25; Mk. 10:45; 1 Pe. 5:1-4).
Administrative decisions may not always be understood or appreciated. But the ruler has more information, the need to balance all interests, while keeping the long-term perspective of the organization in view (Pro. 16:10-15; 25:3). Administrators are custodians of God-given responsibilities within Christian groups. Boundaries established for administrative roles prevent abuse (Deut. 17:14-20; 1 Sam. 8:10-18)
Christian Practice of Administration
Human corruption necessitates accountability among leaders. The monarch must adhere to the dictate, “the law is king.” Oligarchies and republics should adhere to uniform standards for their representatives. Leaderless cultures succumb to anarchy and dictatorship. National leadership must be tempered by equal branches of government and regulations that curtail immoral activity among the privileged few (Pro. 28, 29).
Governance systems may differ within Christian organizations. Respect and compliance to standards must be clearly stated so that all knows the boundary. Fairness is based on a standard of righteousness. Favoritism, nepotism, or extortion should be eschewed. Protection of the weaker party is always Scripture’s concern (Deut. 16).
Christians should be careful to baptize non-Christian concepts for use in Christian organizations. Management, assessment, styles, psychology, decision-making, and a plethora of resources are consistently offered. Administrators should ask questions about the use of pagan thinking including
(1) What is the source of authority for any resource?
(2) What journals, seminars, or motivational leaders should provide influence?
(3) What biblical grid is in place that filters truth from error?
(4) Is the disjunction between Christian and non-Christian practice clearly identified?
(5) Does the information obtained cohere with the Christian responsibilities, mission, and role of the organization?
Scripture is clear that correction, instruction, and accountability are part and parcel of any institution, especially that of The Church (Gal. 6:1-5; 2 Jn.; 3 Jn.). Correction suggests a criterion whereby evaluation will take place. There is need for validation based on objective standard. Instruction is the opportunity for feedback for teaching that will both exhort and encourage. Accountability necessitates an overseer because fallen natures often cannot attest to truth about themselves. Since everyone is susceptible to error, mistake, and sin, human corroboration is helpful to arrest one’s flaws.
While there is no perfect system for evaluation, nonetheless, The Church’s mandate is to keep account of its members (cf. 1 The. 4:9-12; 1 Tim. 4:11-16; Ti. 2:1-10). Growth in Christ is the goal (Col. 1:28-29) for all believers. Grace should be given as much as is possible as it has been given to each Christian (Eph. 4:32). The Trinity establishes the practical application of roles in ministry, the affective goals of “grace, love and fellowship” together (2 Cor. 13:11-14).
Michael Anthony and James R. Estep, eds., Management Essentials for Christian Ministries (Louisville, Broadman & Holman, 2005).
Harold Heie and Mark Sargent, Soul Care: Christian Faith and Academic Administration, (Abilene, Abilene Christian University Press, 2012).
“Administration” © is one of 17 articles included in The Encyclopedia of Christian Education, Rowman & Littlefield, April, 2015 by Dr. Mark Eckel, Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.