Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Church Secretary Under Fire

By Russ Ward
For years we have been driving our church secretaries closer and closer to the edge as the job expands and more demands are made. Even the title "Church Secretary" is an old out of date term. They are no longer keepers of secrets, efficient wordsmiths and typists. They are quite often the backbone of the functioning church and wear more hats than a mannequin in a haberdashery.

My grandmother was a church secretary for years and worked hard everyday to further God's Kingdom in the era of the typewriter, the mimeograph and phones with dials. Even her always pleasant demeanor would be challenged by the requirements of the job today.

Quite often these servants of the church are called to be graphic designers, social media experts, computer technicians and the person in charge of the impossible task of keeping the minister on track. Each in itself a thankless task that no one really understands or appreciates. In reality, they are no longer just secretaries, but they are now communication specialists. Communication specialist that need all the help they can get.

The question quickly becomes how can we help them with a nearly impossible task. Here are some tips to help one of your churches most important people:

  1. Identify Weaknesses - This is hard to do. No one likes to admit they are not "all things to all people". However, if help is to arrive then shortcomings must be understood.   
  2. Find Help within the Church - Once you know where you need help, look at church roster to fill any of the weak spots with committed members. Be careful in assigning these tasks because more harm can be caused than good if it is the wrong person.
  3. Get the right tools. Churches, too often expect, too much while providing, too little support. It turns out that computers and programs are costly, but they are needed for the church to function in today's world. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to paint a Rembrandt with crayons.  
  4. Allow the administrative assistant the opportunity to get some training. If you don't have a graphic designer in your congregation, think about sending them to a course or two. Most colleges have classes you can audit for a very low fee or even free. Check out your local community college for options. 
  5. If you really have no one available and training is out of the question, think about what tasks you could hire to be done. Maybe a pro can create a new template for the newsletter or update the website. Keep in mind, you may have to pay a pretty penny in most circumstances, but that is usually better than finding a new secretary.
  6. Don't get in the way. Believe it or not you are not that easy to work with. Lots of difficulties come from an over involved staff that try to help but ultimately slow up the whole process. I have seen a minister try to help and make changes to the bulletin without mentioning it and when they were printed, the help turned out to be a typo and poor quality photo. Ask before you dive in. 
  7. Get young people or a youth group to help with social media. Many church administrative assistants struggle with social media. Pick some responsible college or high school students to pick up the slack. Set goals. Meet monthly to talk about purpose. 
  8. Show your appreciation. Church secretaries are under appreciated. Be an encouragement.    
These are just some examples to think about. Let's help each other a bit and post other suggestions. 

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