By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — The job is not glamorous and the duties can often be tedious. But the behind-the-scenes work that is done by church administrators goes directly to the heart of the church’s functionality.
More specifically, these men and women — who dutifully balance the books and comb through the fine print — represent vital components in helping the church do exactly what it is called to do: Spread the good news of Jesus.
Jennifer Helton, church administrator at ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, said she enjoys knowing that her role helps pave the way for others to do their part.
“I get to serve our church staff, and they serve the community,” said Helton. “I get to help everybody be their best.”
Helton was one of roughly 130 church administrators who recently attended the Church Administration Conference at Judson Baptist Church.
The two-day event, hosted by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and Guidestone, included a wide variety of seminars and breakout sessions that provided information and ideas to help attendees navigate through the often tricky waters of church finances and administration.
The conference also served as a means of recognizing and honoring church administrators from across the state, and it included attendees from multiple denominations.
The event, which is held every two years, is also a chance for attendees to form new friendships.
“One of the biggest benefits of this conference is that it gives administrators a chance to get together and learn from each other,” said William Maxwell, administrative director for the TBMB.
“They all have different experiences and different things that have happened to them. And when they get together, they start telling their stories, and they talk about how they handle things. Then, when they go back to their church and something comes up, they can reconnect with someone they met at the conference to talk about how to handle the situation.”
The conference’s keynote speaker this year was attorney and best-selling author Richard Hammar, who spoke to attendees in a video teleconference.
TBMB director of evangelism Roc Collins delivered a sermon on the opening day of the conference, and also led a breakout session.
“Our hope is that this conference piques the imagination (of the attendees) and gives them a moment to stop and think, ‘hey, how would we handle things if this or that situation came up?’ ” said Maxwell. “We want to help them understand how to protect the church and how to protect their ministry.”
Throughout the conference, attendees were reminded that everyone involved in ministry work plays a crucial role, whether they sit behind a desk or stand behind a pulpit.
WHY THEY DO IT
Crunching numbers. Scheduling events. Making and taking reservations. Paying the bills. Dotting the “i’s” and crossing the “t’s.”
These are just a few of seemingly countless assignments that are performed by church administrators. To some, the job description might sound like a heavy burden. But for those who do it, the job represents an opportunity to serve the Lord and use their abilities for Kingdom work.
“It’s not about the work itself; it’s not about the daily tasks,” said Shay Hamrick, executive assistant at The Orchard Church. “It’s about the bigger purpose and the bigger focus on pointing people to Christ.”
Danielle Gutting, the finance director at ClearView Baptist Church, said she enjoys utilizing her abilities as a way of helping the church spread the gospel.
“It’s about thinking about the bigger picture and thinking about how my specific talents relate to that bigger picture,” Gutting said.
Clair Hennel, the finance director at The Orchard Church, said administrators make an impact in ways that stretch well beyond facts and figures, folders and filing cabinets.
“When I look at paying bills and duties like that — which some people might view as a drudgery — the key is to just keep the higher purpose in mind,” Hennel said. “I came from a financial planning (background), and I have always said that I wanted to use my gifts for the Lord. So, that’s what I always try to remember. Every little detail, every little reconciliation or number, is helping our church do what it needs to do.”
Gutting said she enjoys the challenges of her job, especially the problem-solving aspect.
“It’s a very rewarding job,” she said. “When I first took the job, it was about learning the church and learning the role. Now, I am trying to put some new things in place that will help the church overall. I am trying to find ways to utilize the money differently than maybe it’s been done in the past.”
ANSWERING THE CALL
Maxwell said administrators are the nuts and bolts of the church, and noted that they are the ones who hold things together, sometimes quite literally.
If there is a hole in the roof in the fellowship hall or a malfunction with the sound system in the youth building, church administrators are often called into action.
“The administrators — people who fulfill financial functions, whether it be secretary, church administrator, executive pastor and other roles — they are the behind-the-scenes kind of people,” said Maxwell. “But they are the ones that make sure that things happen. They make sure that when there is an event, the lights are on. And when something does go wrong, they are the people who everyone looks to in terms of trying to find a solution,” Maxwell said.
As for being involved with church finances, the job can sometimes include the difficult task of making budget-based decisions, which, in turn, can lead to a difference of opinions among church members and church leaders.
But those potentially tense moments simply come with the territory — and it’s just a matter of turning those situations into something positive, Gutting said.
“No matter where you are or what role you are in, there is going to be some opposition,” she said. “But I look at that as character building and as a chance for me to grow. If I don’t have any opposition, maybe I am not pushing hard enough.”
Tim Cool, chief solutions officer, Cool Solutions Group, Charlotte, N.C., led a session on effective budgeting strategies for church facilities. He noted administrators “have been called to steward what God has entrusted us with.”
As cliche as it sounds, it is true that “the work of the church administrator is never done.” There are always more decisions to make, more people to call, more numbers to calculate, more of seemingly everything.
But those who do the job say they maintain their sanity by keeping their heads above the clouds, so to speak.
“I think it’s a matter of keeping it in perspective,” Hamrick said. “The daily details that you are working on — they matter in the big picture in terms of helping the church reach its goals.”