I’ve taken a handful of spiritual gift surveys in my life as a believer and though they’ve varied a little bit here and there, one specific gift has always shown up as a “top three” strength/gift: administration. After the first test (probably taken some time in high school), I remember thinking, “Great. So I’m supposed to be the ‘secretary’ at meetings for the rest of my life?” I wasn’t very excited about it, but I thought that’s what the gift of administration was relegated to.
As I’ve grown up, grown in my walk with the Lord and dug a little deeper into this spiritual gift, I’ve come to understand it better and to love exercising it with and for God’s people. So, what is the gift of administration? I’m so glad you asked!
There are a couple of “lists” of spiritual gifts described in the New Testament and administration shows up in 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 – “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.”
The Greek word for “administrating” is kybernēsis and it refers to governing, piloting, and directing. It’s from the Latin root that means “to steer.” It’s a term that is used to refer to a shipmaster or captain – someone who is giving direction. According to Dr. Larry Gilbert, “Leading, ruling, organizing, governing, and administering are words that come from different translations of the Scriptures of the same Greek word.” Clearly, this gift isn’t limited to my vision of a secretary!
I can think of a couple of Biblical examples that I think are helpful examples. Neither includes an explicit description of “the gift of administration”, but based on what the word means, I think this Spirit-enabled gift shines through pretty clearly.
Jethro (Exodus 18) – Moses’ father-in-law sees the toll that ministry is taking on Moses as he hears the disputes of the Israelites and he proposes a system for pronouncing judgments that includes others and takes the bulk of tasks off of Moses’ shoulders. Jethro himself isn’t leading the effort to hear the people’s disputes, but he is organizing the ministry. He sees the big picture and jumps in with behind-the-scenes leadership.
The Apostles (Acts 6) – This example is a little different in that the spiritual gift isn’t connected to one specific person, but I think it displays administration really clearly. The church is growing and there’s a problem with how the Greek widows are being cared for as compared to how the Hebrew widows are being cared for. The apostles assess the situation and realize that they themselves cannot meet the needs, so they summon the rest of the disciples and together the group selects men who are capable of meeting the need. The apostles led the people to a solution after they looked at the big picture and developed a plan for meeting the need.
There seems to be a clear connection to leadership with this spiritual gift, but not necessarily in a “up-front-everyone-sees-you” way. It may include that, but it doesn’t have to. I would bet there are a lot of pastors who have the gift of administration, but it’s not only for pastors, or visible leaders. This gift shows up in a wide variety of scenarios and roles.
As I’ve grown in my understanding of this gift I’ve come to really love exercising it. I’ve always been a “big picture” thinker, needing to see and understand the context of a situation before I’m willing to offer my thoughts. And I absolutely love thinking about the strategy behind a given action – thinking about the most efficient way to do the task, who all of the “stakeholders” are and if their needs are being addressed, how to maximize cross-team functionality, etc. I genuinely enjoy these type of conversations more than any other!
For the past two years, I’ve been part of the Communications team at my church and have been able to think strategically about how we communicate, but also how to streamline and leverage cross-team communications within our church ministry. I’ve helped brainstorm creative solutions to problems, crafted plans for the promotion of events, considered long-term ramifications of various ideas, and helped bring clarity to larger projects. What a joy it’s been! With the arrival of our sweet baby boy, I’ve stepped away from this position, but I will always cherish the season that let my gift shine, and I’m thinking and looking for opportunities to use it in this new season of life.
On the other side of the spectrum from working at a church is serving a specific family or group. In fact, one of the clearest examples of this gift I’ve ever seen is actually in my friend Emily. She has used her spiritual gift to serve the body in incredible ways. When one of our friends was diagnosed with cancer that would take his life quickly, Emily organized help for his family… and when I say “help” I really mean wraparound care. Child care. Meals. House projects. You name the need and she was on top of organizing the help to meet it. It was a lot to coordinate, but she loved doing it. She was able to see the big picture, develop a plan, and recruit the right people to implement the plan. Not only was the family helped in really tangible ways, but people were given the privilege of using their gifts (mercy, service, faith, etc.) to strengthen the body as a whole. It was a beautiful picture of the gift of administration at work.
It never ceases to amaze me that God has gifted individuals uniquely and that He arranges people together in communities where their gifts can serve the whole. They are spiritual gifts – as in, the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us with these gifts. And they serve a grand purpose in strengthening the church as a whole. What a privilege! John Piper puts it this way, “To strengthen someone by a spiritual gift means to help their faith not give way as easily when trouble enters their life. We have spiritual gifts in order to help other people keep the faith and maintain an even keel in life’s storms.”
God is so kind to give us gifts, isn’t He? He could just as easily give us tasks… but He doesn’t. He gives us gifts empowered by His Spirit (the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead!) to serve each other and strengthen the body as a whole. So, whether it’s taking meeting notes, directing from a visible position of leadership, or serving one particular family – if you have the gift of administration, rejoice!