When I first started in church administration, lots of people, after the usual polite congratulations for the new job, paused and then asked me, ‘but what are you actually going to do?’ It was, as I was to find out, a good question! As most of the administrators reading this will know, no two days are the same and it is a rare week indeed when you do not find yourself doing something that most definitely is not on your job description.
In response to those enquiries, I found myself using analogies to describe my role and, over the years, have found these helpful when working with administrators, ministers and church congregations who are trying to understand the key aspects of their administrators’ job and purpose.
I now offer them to you and please consider whether any or several of the below describes your role, and if so, what you might need to watch out for. Maybe you could use this as the basis of a role review discussion with your minister or line manager?
Your job is to protect the minister / other staff from those in the congregation, neighbourhood or elsewhere who are always clamouring for attention, answers etc.
Be careful that those you guard actually want and need to be protected. An overzealous bulldog can be a dangerous thing for both its owner and the public who meet it!
Your job is to make sure everything fits together, everyone knows their part, where they should be, when and what they should be doing.
Be careful that you give space for that special person who often plays flat and off the beat, but nonetheless has a tune God wants them to perform.
Your job is keep the wheels of the church in motion, checking for places it may be getting stuck and applying a little judicious oil to get things started again
Be careful that you do not spend all your time fixing problems without also looking for why they may be occurring in the first place. Sometimes the church may actually need a mechanic.
Tea lady (or man)
Your job is to provide tea and a sympathetic ear to church and community members who pop into the office as a warm comfortable place to talk and sometimes moan
Be careful not to confuse accessibility with ability or gifting. Are you the best person for this and is this the best use of your time just because people know where to find you?
Jack of all trades
Your job is to be the church’s ‘go to’ fixer. You can be relied on to have a go, after all, who else will do it?
Be careful that you are not, by leaping to the rescue, getting distracted from the mundane, but important stuff that is waiting on your desk.
Your job feels like it is to be the minister’s ‘enforcer’. You make sure things get done and everything is ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’ in the church.
Be careful to communicate really well with your minister about what is really essential and what would just be nice if it were possible. Messy church can also be good….
Your job is basically to take the blame for everything that goes wrong, particularly when it is not your fault or it is out of anyone’s control.
Be careful of your own mental and physical wellbeing. Do this too often and it will take a toll on you and your family. Who is also praising and affirming you?
Your job is to know everything about everything and everyone. If in doubt, people know where to come for answers
Be careful of buses. If you fell under one would all that knowledge, experience and information disappear? Write it down!