Focus: Secretaries and Pastor Assistants

Focus: The purpose of this section is to help different members of the body of Christ become more familiar with the functions of each other.

WHAT I’VE LEARNED WHILE WORKING IN A CHURCH OFFICE

I have learned that my employment as church secretary is not a job but a calling.

It was such a surprise to me when I got offered this job as a secretary. My previous employment had been working in a card shop, at a deli, and then handing out samples to customers in stores. I never thought I was office worker material. In fact, I never worked in an office before. I didn’t type well, my shorthand was nil and I didn’t have great computer skills.

I worried, “How will I ever I fill the previous secretaries’ shoes?”

They had great clerical skills, they had training in counseling and they appeared confident in what they did. This environment seemed so foreign to me. I spent a lot of time comparing myself to them and I focused excessively on my shortfalls. I didn’t have those clerical skills and I didn’t see myself as a counselor and I thought, “What had I gotten myself into?”

Eventually, I came to the conclusion I have to wear my own shoes. God has given me gifts and skills can be learned. I focused on what I could do. Along the way and I learned to meet challenges and overcome obstacles. I focused on the skills I had - I had organizational skills; I liked working with a publisher program and I absolutely loved the copy machine. My typing skills have improved a bit and the spell checker is now my friend.

As far as my being a counselor, I figured out that I could chose to be pleasant when I answer the phone and that may just be what the person calling needs. A happy voice can change their outlook on the day and having someone willing to listen could make all the difference in the world!

With this job there is room for personal choices and preferences as you work with the other staff and ministries of the church. When working with people it sure helps to be flexible. I received counsel to guard my time, set boundaries and don’t be a doormat! But I have come to the conclusion that God is in charge of my schedule and a doormat says, “Welcome.”

On Sunday mornings I may get asked by several people for help. I want to be available and being annoyed that they didn’t call during office hours just spoils my attitude of worship. In reality the things that are requested are usually pretty simple and it’s a joy when I am able to help.

I get joy at making copies. I don’t mind the weekly task of producing a bulletin to inform the congregation of what is going on at the church. It is our method to keep folks informed. It is important to make sure the secretary knows what you want. Be clear with the facts. He/she needs to know the specifics of who, what, why, where, when, and how much for an activity/event. That way when a question is asked the secretary can give out clear information. I find nothing more frustrating than not being unable to answer someone’s question about a church event.

In this instant world sometimes tasks are requested that the person wanted it yesterday. We live with FAX machines, fast food and email…the pressure is on. To work through the challenges and deadlines of the assignments that arrive on my desk I maintain that they all are a matter for prayer and dependence on the Lord. It’s not me against the chore alone. Keeping focused on the Lord God Almighty, our Strength and Help in times of need is how I get through. With prayer, a creative solution can appear and the job can get done in record time.

I have Things To Do list and I love it when I get to check off an item. At times we all have tasks that get pushed aside for various reasons and they just never seem to go away no matter how much you wish they would. Most times they don’t go away so I have learned to juggle many things at once and feel satisfied when that job is done.

I think it is a myth that “people work better the closer they get to a deadline - at the last minute.” God’s grace can cover us but we need to pace ourselves and no one does their best when stressed, pressured and anxious.

God has shown Himself faithful when I work on the monthly newsletter. Sometimes an article arrives at what seems to be the last minute and miraculously it fits in the space that was previously empty. I have seen a theme present itself in articles without the authors knowing what the others have written.

I have found that you have a choice either to look at being a secretary as a job or as an opportunity to serve. A job has specific office hours with clear expectations of the tasks at hand. So the unexpected can throw you off balance but I see this as a call to be a servant. This comes with the opportunity to work at meeting the needs of the person(s) that God has placed in my life. This is a privilege and doesn’t just occur during the hours of 9:30-4:30 Monday-Thursday.

I have decided that I am working for the Lord and not a paycheck.

AnnMarie Beckett, Church Secretary, New Covenant Fellowship Church Secretary, Oak Harbor, WA

From a Pastor's Personal Assistant

When I was hired as my pastor and his wife's executive assistant, it paid a salary but it was not a "job" in the normal sense of the word, for me it was a calling from God. I live in Medford, Oregon and I serve at Joy Christian Fellowship as an armor bearer for Pastor Steve and Kim Schmelzer. That's how I see myself, as an armor bearer. God has given me administrative abilities and an anointing to get things done. It is one of the biggest joys of my life to be able to fulfill my destiny serving such wonderful people.

A pastoral assistant has a non-stop load of details she handles, especially if the church is active and growing, which we are. I have served here for eight years and as the church has grown, so have I. I have gone from a green, naïve person to a "seasoned' veteran. If I were to give advice to a just starting out assistant, I would say, first of all, learn to have a balance between the "Martha and Mary" part of you. An executive assistant works very close with their pastor and family and experiences some of the pressures that they encounter both from people and the enemy. To effectively help them, we have to keep spiritually "tuned" and strong. Our job is not just administration. We become friends and encouragers. We act as a shield of protection for them as well. Because of that, be prepared that not everyone will understand your function. One thing some people think is that I do what I do because I am "paid" to do it. That is so far from the truth.

Of utmost importance is the ability to be flexible through and through, yet firm when it comes to administrating the desires of the senior pastor. That is when diplomacy and graciousness play their parts. Not everyone will always like you, especially leaders when they are fussing with the pastor, which occasionally occurs. Always stand with your pastor and wife when they face difficulties, and when others do not agree. Eventually you will see that God is in control and works all things out for good. Your mission is to support them and make sure that the things you have been assigned to are running smoothly. Don't add to the problems. Be a bridge between them and the congregation, explaining why we do what we do.

One of the things I do is work with many volunteers now that the church has grown so much. Good and faithful volunteers are from God. If you are a volunteer, be faithful. You don't necessarily have to be skilled but faithful. Your price is above rubies!!! It takes many faithful volunteers to effectively run a church and I do appreciate them! I have found that God is giving me armor bearers to help me as I serve. You will reap what you have sown if you stand and do not faint!

Which brings me to fainting…it is a temptation because the load can seem great at times. One of the things I didn't realize eight years ago, is that this "job" would be one of the most challenging of my life. Seek rest and help. This is not just a job it is ministry. Learn to flow in the "grace" zone. Know that Satan wants to stop your ministry. Don't try and do it by yourself, you need a nucleus of people who understand your pressures and joys as well. I am blessed because my pastor's wife will brainstorm with me when I need it for problem solving… both administrative and personally.

Last, but not least, I have had to learn to lighten up and have some fun! It's not all about work, but about the every growing and abundant life that God gives when we are in His will!

Ellyn Hamilton, Personal Assistant, Joy Christian Fellowship, Medford, OR