The Church Secretary
Wed, 14 Apr 2010 - 4:07 PM CST
Successfully Fulfilling the Role as God Intended It
BY KRISTY DYKES
During an ecumenical meeting, someone rushed in shouting, "The building is on fire!" The Methodists gathered in the corner and prayed. The Baptists cried, "Where is the water?" The Lutherans nailed a notice to the door, declaring the fire was evil. The Pentecostals and charismatics praised God for the blessing that fire brings. The Calvinists quietly said, "God has predestined the fire." The Presbyterians appointed a chairperson to appoint a committee to look into the matter. And the church secretary grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the fire. (Source unknown.)
Hooray for the church secretary. She* has much in common with the Bible characters, Baruch, Tertius, Tychicus, and Epaphroditus—scholars who held positions of trust and significance as record keepers and assistants to great men of God. Without their work, one author said, we would not have the books of Jeremiah, Romans, Ephesians, and Philippians.
Today’s church secretary is:
- a computer specialist.
- a public relations agent—dispensing information with ease and courtesy.
- an inventory analyst and purchasing agent.
- a writer, editor, and publisher of newsletters, fliers, and brochures.
- a file administrator.
- an administrative assistant—coordinating calendars, schedules, and appointments.
- an office librarian—setting up procedures to circulate training materials/technical resources.
- a supervisor—managing volunteers (requires skills in delegation, affirmation, conflict management, workflow coordination, and personnel training and development).
- an office machines operator (computers, calculators, copy machines, phone systems, dictating equipment, collators, folding machines, and postage meters).
- a link between church members and the minister—frequently engaging in front-line, person-to-person ministry when a hurting member needs to talk. She becomes the listener, encourager, and affirmer, using discretion in passing along critical information to the proper caregiver.
Whether you’re an office coordinator in a large church, a personal secretary of a senior pastor, or the only secretary in your church, your role is not to run the church; your role is to assist the pastor and lay leaders, not direct them.
It is vital the church secretary be equipped with more than professional office skills and expertise. She must be a mature Christian; have a servant’s heart; and be loyal to God, the pastor, and the church. To successfully fulfill the role as God intended it, the church secretary must strive for excellence in key areas.
BUILD A SUCCESSFUL TEAM RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PASTOR/STAFF
A pastor told his secretary, "You and I are partners in ministry. The work you do frees me to witness, counsel, teach, and plan so our church and its members can grow. When I lead someone to Christ, minister to those who are hurting, or train effective leaders, you, too, have a part in that victory. It is the result of our combined efforts."
Two key ingredients guarantee a successful pastor/secretary team: mutual respect—each respecting the position of the other and the secretary acknowledging that the pastor is the leader of the team; and open communication—the two of you talking about projects, priorities, and problems, each knowing what the other is working on.
A church secretary must realize the pastor is human and has faults, moods, and annoying habits just as any person does. Someone said, "No man is a saint to his secretary." But the smart secretary will focus on her pastor’s abilities and make allowances for his failings. She will recognize his gifts, talents, and characteristics that God is using to accomplish His plan.
Likewise, the smart pastor will acknowledge that his secretary can become one of his biggest assets in ministry. He will encourage her to use her gifts and abilities and will challenge her with opportunities for growth.
ENHANCE YOUR CLERICAL SKILLS AND EXPERTISE
The church secretary should always be in a learning mode. The wise pastor will see that the church occasionally pays for her to attend courses/seminars and purchase tools such as books/manuals and newsletters (see sidebar).
DEVELOP PROPER BUSINESS ETIQUETTE
Proper business etiquette includes:
- Greet all visitors to the office in a friendly manner. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, told his greeters, "You are the face of this organization. How you greet people will determine how they perceive Wal-Mart." Likewise, how you treat people will determine how they feel about your church.
- Omit gossip from office routine.
- Keep your desk and work area free of clutter, food, or anything else that detracts from a professional environment.
- Always be on time.
- Use positive language such as, "How may I help you?" and, "Let me see if I can find out for you."
- Be cooperative and cheerful and pull with the team.
- Display proper phone courtesy. Callers form their opinions of a company within the first 20 seconds of a phone conversation. They want kindness, helpfulness, empathy, limited hold time, correct answers, and respect. Smiling while talking improves your pronunciation and quality of voice, increases the chances of friendly conversations, and reduces the chances of your voice transmitting anger. To practice smiling, stand a small mirror on your desk and force yourself to smile before picking up the phone.
KEEP A PROFESSIONAL APPEARANCE
Wear professional attire. Many businesses require women employees to dress up, with an occasional casual-dress day. Whatever the policy your pastor requires (and he should be the one to set it), make sure your clothing is tasteful, clean, in good repair, and modest (no short skirts, no low necklines, no tight apparel). Remember, you are a professional.
CONDUCT YOURSELF WITH CHRISTLIKE DEMEANOR
The apostle Paul exhorts women in Titus 2:5 "to be discreet, chaste." According to Webster’s, discreet means to be "careful about what one does." Chaste means "decent." Because pastors and their secretaries work closely together, there are dangers that must be recognized and warded off. Three ways you can do this are:
1. Watch your body language. Be careful how you sit and bend over and what might not be covered. One day I was dispensing punch and cookies at VBS. As I bent over the table, I characteristically put my hand across my chest as a shield, even though I wasn’t wearing low-necked clothing. A man in the church standing nearby said, "I wish every woman in America would do that. Evidently they don’t realize what they’re showing." He paused. "Or maybe they do."
2. Be careful how you look at your pastor and how you act while you are around him. Eyes are referred to over 540 times in the Bible, and Solomon said a woman can "take" a man by the way she looks at him (Proverbs 6:25). Always look at your pastor with a steady, level gaze, one lacking any sensuality. Be business-like, above-board, and pure and decent in your thoughts.
3. Run rather than risk an affair if you sense an attraction between you and your pastor (2 Timothy 2:22, TLB). Remember the story of Joseph. When faced with temptation, he took the noble route and fled. Find other employment.
John Wesley, the great preacher, provided this wise admonition. The church secretary would do well to heed it:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Kristy Dykes is a minister’s wife and lives in Lakeland, Florida. She is a writer, speaker, and has taught seminars for church secretaries.
*Note: For ease of readability, the writer used the feminine gender in reference to church secretaries and the male gender for pastors.
Ten Keys to a Successful Pastor/Secretary Team
1. Know your pastor’s work preferences. Does he prefer uninterrupted prayer/study sessions at certain times of the day? Does he want you to edit or polish his letters? Does he want you to schedule his appointments? What does he want you to call him?
2. Find out if there are certain calls he will be interrupted for, such as from his wife or children.
3. Make his correspondence a priority. Answering business correspondence is good public relations. Proofread letters and envelopes carefully before sending them out. Process incoming mail according to his preference.
4. Meet daily to coordinate calendars and remind him of upcoming meetings/events.
5. Anticipate his needs. For example, if a certain committee will be meeting, place the file on his desk along with any additional information that may be helpful. Always ask yourself, "If I were attending this meeting or working on this project, what information would I want?"
6. Be protective of his time by handling all calls and mail that he will allow. At least 80 percent of the requests that come to the church office can be handled by the secretary, so learn to distinguish between needs only he can handle and needs you can take care of.
7. Help him set up his personal filing system.
8. Complete routine tasks on time and follow through to completion.
9. Accept assignments you know will be stressful, as a challenge and an opportunity to contribute to the church’s ministry.
10. Get the details on assignments early and don’t bother him with minor problems. Solve them, and then inform him when the task is completed.
Church Secretary’s Communiqué
The Newsletter Newsletter
Profile: The Church Office Professional’s Information Source
Booher, Dianna. Good Grief, Good Grammar. Fawcett Crest: Ballantine Books, 1988.
_____. Would You Put That in Writing? How to Write Your Way to Success in Business. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1983.
Fisher, Robert W. How To Publish a Near Perfect Church Newsletter. Communications Resources, Inc., 1992.
Friedman, Nancy J. Telephone Skills from A to Z: the Telephone "Doctor" Phone Book. Menlo Park, Calif.: Crisp Publications, 1995.
Lord, Clayton. The Church Newsletter Handbook. (Valley Forge, Pa., Judson Press, 1997.
Parker, Roger C. The Makeover Book: 101 Design Solutions for Desktop Publishing. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Ventana Press, 1989.
Strunk, William, Jr., and E.B. White. Elements of Style. New York: MacMillan, 1979.
1) Attend workshops/seminars for church secretaries.
2) Interact with other church secretaries to see what they are doing with new technology.
3) Call or write churches across the country and ask to be put on their bulletin mailing lists to get ideas.