Some bosses winced at the word “boss.” I assured them, as I assure you, that the designation here is meant as a positive one—administrator, manager, supervisor. In most instances pastors fill this role; in some cases an associate or business manager oversees the staff. Many are very involved concerning office administration. A few, especially in team-of-two offices, tend to rely almost entirely on their ministry assistants to look after administrative tasks. All were clear about what they appreciate in those who fill support positions.
I appreciate it when you—
• Excel at the basics
“We count on our secretary to have excellent basic skills: spelling, grammar, computer savvy, business manners, telephone etiquette, organization, and time management.” These are the tools of the trade that every ministry assistant must develop.
• Keep calm
Being emotionally mature is a tremendous asset in the church office. “Things can get stressful here. Unfair things happen, things we can’t control. The assistant can’t take these things personally; she needs to remain cooperative and cheerful when others might get upset, hurt, or defensive.”
• Value your supportive role
“Being a support person is an important and valuable job. Our assistant recognizes she is not the pastor; she is not responsible for his work style, nor answerable to the congregation for his actions. I appreciate my assistant’s support; I need a helper, a team player, not a critic.”
• Adapt well to change
Coping with change is a vital part of this job. “When plans go awry, when the unexpected happens, we need everyone to roll with the punches. I expect my assistant to be able to shift gears and move ahead with what needs to be done.” If you can’t bend, you may break.
• Move beyond the basics
“Our assistant never has the attitude that she knows it all. She is a learning machine—one who does at least two important things no machine can do: generate ideas and express care.” As you perfect your organizational and technical skills, know that the abilities to innovate and to show compassion enhance your professionalism.
• Exercise initiative
“I like the way our assistant sees what needs to be done and does it. She doesn’t overstep her authority by any means, but neither does she worry about whether the necessary task is in her job description.” It can take a while to locate this fine line, but it is worth the effort for all concerned.
• Keep me informed
“I want my assistant to be candid with me about work plans, projects, or problems; I will respect her point of view and her confidentiality.” Several pastors said they like assistants to handle routine problems themselves. “If and when there are difficulties beyond her scope, I expect them to be brought to me. If she can bring possible solutions along with the problems, all the better.”
• Maintain a positive attitude
As important as excellent skills are, they are not what bosses appreciate most. “Technical abilities are needed, but even outstanding skills can’t compensate for negativity.” An enthusiastic, Christ-like spirit is the essential attribute every effective assistant brings to the church office.
Bosses want their assistants to know that, while they may not express it often enough, you are appreciated.