Ed. note: Though the job description under discussion here is for an Administrative Assistant, the characteristics would serve all of us well. No matter what your position in the church office, these characteristics reflect those of a servant of Jesus—enjoy the article and be inspired.
Wanted: administrative assistant. Excellent interpersonal and technical skills required; friendly outgoing personality and ability to organize, essential; mind-reading skills, helpful.
Few formal guidelines identify the job of the church office assistant. Many churches operate with no written job descriptions. The truth is, your minister (I use the word “boss” as a term of endearment here) has some expectations not even the best written job descriptions could identify. In order for you to perform at your best, you must know the boss’ standard of excellence. When expectations are identified they can be met. Sometimes while the minister expects certain staff behavior, those expectations are not clearly defined or shared with the staff. The most effective executives realize the importance of letting the assistant know how the support position is viewed from the boss’ side of the desk.
In the best of worlds, you will always work with a super administrator who sees you as a vital member of the team and shares expectations. Realistically, this may not always be the case. Still, you can gain insight on your own boss’ perspective by considering what other bosses have said—things your boss wants you to know, but may never tell you.
1. Be dependable. Dependability is viewed by many as the greatest ability. Without it, few other abilities matter. The effectiveness of the church office depends on you being at your post at the assigned times. Even staying overtime won’t make up for coming in late. Ministers must often be away from the office. They count on the assistant to answer the phone, to respond to the needs of visitors, and to carry on the business of the church office. Habits dictate nearly 80 percent of what we do. Cultivate the habit of dependability. Be there, be on time, do a good day’s work, and then leave on time.
2. Keep confidences. You have access to much sensitive information: who gives what, who is having problems, and often, what those problems are. Moreover, not only members, but pastor and staff may use you as a sounding board. The assistant is expected to make a commitment to confidentiality. By being trustworthy you show your loyalty. Be patient and, over a period of time, your executive’s faith in you will grow and you will be entrusted with more and more of the information you need to perform your work effectively.
3. Communicate frankly. The best office teams operate in an environment where the assistant can share her work concerns honestly with her executive. The wise boss appreciates honest input from the staff. Team members should feel free to discuss questions knowing it is acceptable to express another opinion.
When concerns cannot be voiced, negative feelings can grow into major problems. Sometimes assistants feel pastors tell them too much, more than the assistant wants to know or is comfortable with. If that is your situation, your boss wants to know you feel your role as a listener is being abused. Avoid communication game playing. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
4. Maintain your sense of humor. Researchers say a healthy sense of humor is a sign of mental well being. Surely “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” A good laugh can often save the day. Exercise your ability to see the humor in office situations. You know you are really growing up emotionally when you can laugh at your own mistakes.
5. Forget about excuses. The reason why an assignment wasn’t done is usually of little interest to the boss. Rather than offer excuses, determine what the problem was and take steps to prevent its reoccurrence. Assigning blame is a waste of time. Assess the situation, determine a constructive course of action, and move on. In every instance, focus on where you want to go rather than on where you’ve been.
6. Follow through. Once you start a project, see it through to completion. Tie up all the loose ends on every assignment. When your boss has confidence in you, tasks are assigned with the complete assurance they will be taken care of properly. No one will be looking over your shoulder.
The key to having more freedom in your job is gaining the confidence of your boss. Picture a weight scale with your job freedom on one side and your executive’s anxiety on the other. When the boss’ anxiety is up, your freedom is down. But, when you lower that boss’ anxiety level, your freedom goes up. Establish a reputation for follow through by delivering quality results on time consistently. You boss will respond by giving you greater freedom in how you schedule your work and prioritize your tasks.
7. Think positively. Look for the good in people, situations, and in yourself. Take credit when it is deserved—and never when it isn’t. Be reluctant to turn every issue into a crusade. Certainly, some circumstances should be addressed. But avoid fault finding and petty problems. Pick your battles, address the important issues constructively, and realize that no one wins ‘em all.
8. Keep personal problems out of the office. The rule of separating one’s personal from one’s professional life has long been observed by successful business assistants. Wise ministers and their assistants alike recognize this is a good rule for them too.
No one is suggesting you hide your problems. The Christian professional should be transparent—honest and open. But, you must not allow your problems to interfere with your work. Once personal problems invade office hours they seem to take on a life of their own. Time spent on personal matters infringes on time that both parties have committed to the business of the church. Before bringing your personal problems to the office consider other options. Assistants who work for their own pastors may choose to schedule an appointment and to confine problem sharing to that time. Share problems only with those people directly involved in their solution.
9. Forget about perfection. Concentrate instead on excellence. Eric Severeid said it well, “Human beings are not perfectible. They are improvable.” You and I and our work can constantly improve; neither we nor our work will ever by perfect.
The goal is not mediocrity. Far from it. Carelessness causes more problems than anyone cares to admit. Strive for excellence but recognize the value of “good enough.” William James, the father of American psychology, wrote, “The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” Remind yourself that Jesus was perfect but not a perfectionist. He entrusted his work to us; no perfectionist would delegate like that.
10. Be willing to go the extra mile. Ministry is seldom convenient. Sometimes, but not always, service above and beyond the call of duty is required. When that extra effort is called for be willing to function in or out of the spotlight depending on what is needed. If you are asked to minister beyond what is outlined in your job description, do it and do it with grace. Just be on guard not be make fire fighting your standard operating procedure. It will burn you out fast!
11. Stay flexible. Times change. People change. Today’s assistant must be able to turn loose of the way things were. Work to adjust to how things are now—how this boss works, how this program will be implemented, how this change will take place. You may find the new way is even better than the old, comfortable one. Gain assurance from knowing that you tackle every job by mastering the same basics: do adequate research, be as accurate as possible, meet the deadline.
12. Keep growing in your job. We live in an information society. Our information supply is multiplying beyond calculation. The challenge is to transform information into usable knowledge. Take advantage of seminars and resource materials directed toward your work. Granted, you pay a price for training. But think of the price you pay for not training. Invest in yourself; challenge yourself. Look up every word you come across that you cannot define. Do things that increase your skills and force you to stretch your brain. Spend time every day in God’s Word. It will keep you on track.
To read PART TWO of this article, CLICK HERE.