After nearly forty-two years of ministry, one major aspect of effective ministry is the ability to administrate one’s responsibilities well. Those who seem to master this art have a tendency to excel much quicker than those who do not. In Romans 12, Paul the Apostle discusses the motivational gifts and among those listed is the gift of “ruling, or leading or administering.” In describing the gift, he further details it by declaring that the “ruler” or “administrator” must do so with “diligence.” Another term for diligence is perseverance or painstaking. In other words, one who is to lead or rule well must go about the task in a detailed-oriented manner.
One of the problems many gifted preachers encounter is their inability to administrate well. Overwhelmed by the details of ministry schedules, demanding budgets and the ever looming fact that Sunday comes every week and messages must be prepared, too many pastors end up leaving the details for an effective ministry to someone else. Whether we like it or not, good administration in the life of the minister is imperative. How can a pastor develop his “diligence” in administration? It is a skill that must be learned, seldom is ever mastered and will certainly continue throughout the duration of one’s ministry.
Little did I understand the important role that my undergraduate degree would play in the effectiveness of accomplishing my goals in ministry! Upon graduation from Stephen F. Austin State University in 1976 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree majoring in management, God had already placed a call upon my life for ministry; but, I began employment with The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company as an outside sale representative in the Houston, Texas region. I was assigned to the duplicating products division which is a simple way of saying, “I was a copy machine salesman.” In order to be successful, I was informed that I would need to make five calls a day, twenty-five calls a week and one hundred calls a month. To fulfill the task, I was told I needed to develop a plan and then work my plan. It required that I begin by keeping records of every telephone call that I made so I could make subsequent re-calls to those who did not respond to my first initial solicitation. My administrative skills were well on their way to developing as I began to log every call I made with names, dates and times. In making one hundred calls a month, if I received five affirmative answers and placed five copiers, I had a good month. The reality was simple: in order to receive five yes’s, I had to encounter ninety-fives no’s. What great preparation for the ministry God had in mind for me.
After three rewarding and successful years with the 3M Company, God called me to my first full-time ministry position as Minister of Youth and Activities at Trinity Baptist Church in Pasadena, Texas. The discipline of making a plan and working the plan now turned into discipline of developing a schedule for Bible study, bus visitation, outreach and a plethora of youth activities. My annual goal and budget assessment with 3M was now applied to the budgeting of mission trips, youth choir activities and fifth quarter socials. It also entailed preparing for summer youth camp which required the planning and preparation of meals during junior and senior high camp. Having the BBA degree allowed me to help manage people, budgets, places and every aspect of my youth ministry. During my three years of youth ministry, the youth group grew from an average weekly attendance of 35 to over 140 per week. As a result, the need for administrative skills grew as well which prepared for my next phase of ministry pastoring a Southern Baptist Church.
For the next twenty-four years, God allowed me to pastor four SBC churches ranging in size from 120 to about 1000. For eighteen of those twenty-four years, I served as the senior pastor/administrator overseeing every aspect of church life from babies to budgets and everything in between. It was the administrative discipline from my early years at 3M that helped me to develop and maintain the type of consistency that proved to be effective for my ministry in the church.
As the Dean and Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas, for the past fourteen years, God has allowed my administrative skills to be put to use even further. What a joy it has been to administer students, faculty, support staff, and churches in helping preparing men and women for the call of God upon their lives. Yes, preaching and teaching is the ultimate work of ministry but without effective administration, the work of the Kingdom is more often hindered. Therefore, develop the discipline of administration, “ruling with diligence,” and the blessings of God will follow!
Denny Autrey has served as a Professor of Pastoral Ministries and as the Dean of the Havard School for Theological Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas.