Especially in college, I realized that as much as I learn effectively from books, I learn a lot from listening to people tell their stories. This class is no different! So, I designed an assignment (yes I dream about designing assignments for myself, I am strange) where I interview two people about the role of church administration in their work.
C is an office administrator at a larger Lutheran congregation in the Pacific Northwest, and A is a pastor of a 2-point parish in Texas. As her central role, I wanted to know from C what it was like to manage church administration all day. Also, since I want to be a pastor, I thought it might be smart to interview someone who is currently a pastor, whose call has imbedded administrative roles as a leader of two different congregations.
I took my notes from our conversations and arranged them into main themes that I heard rise to the top. So – in paraphrased form here’s what they said about the role of church administration and why it matters:
I’m learning that when it comes to church administration…
A: I came in and people were already doing administrative jobs. I am one among many who manages administrative roles in my congregations. Someone else gets the mail, someone else runs budget meetings (which I attend), and someone else does the day-to-day financial management, even though check-in on it regularly.
C: Yes, I have lots of administrative tasks, but a lot of my time is spent visiting with people who come in my office. Often individuals will find me on a Sunday morning to tell me something about their health or about a family member or friend. Longevity has helped with building up relationships and people trusting me.
The best part of church administration…
A: I get to be like a gardener and help people identify their gifts, whether they are administrative or otherwise.
C: The people. It was “unreal” when my spouse passed away. So many people came by with dinners and casseroles that we had turn them away and groups started getting mad. They wanted to help so badly, and their compassion touched me, and still does.
Most challenging part…
C: As the congregation grows, in membership and thus staff size, my job as administrative support changes. This congregation has experienced tremendous growth recently, and this impacts how I support the congregation and staff members in an administrative way.
The one of the best things you can do is…
A: As a parish pastor, it’s important communicate things far in advance, and in more modes than one. Our church and other local churches collaborated and led a youth event. With my gift of administration, I did a lot of the calling, communicating, advertising, etc., and sometimes it felt discouraging that other churches didn’t have or didn’t empower their members to manage their administrative tasks.
A: Acknowledge it’s a gift or not. If administration is not your gift, ask for help, and it’s okay to ask your parishoners for help. I lean a lot on my parishoners when we do visioning work, and they lean on me with a number of administrative tasks.
It’s all about…
C: Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing. This is why my faith is so key to being a church administrator. Know why you’re caring for these people and this facility; otherwise it might be a challenge to put in the effort or care this role requires.
What I (Allison) think:
From these interviews, I gained a new sense of appreciation for these church leaders and their roles. Neither of them are counting, arranging, organizing, or communicating in front of their computers all day. Their roles are extremely human, and they helped me see that administration enables them to connect with individuals and communities even more effectively. Like A said, not all of us have gifts in administration, but if you recognize that you don’t, don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’m so grateful for both of these church leaders and especially people like C who manage administrative tasks that keep our faith communities running. Thanks for sharing your stories with me, and learning with me what it means care for people, which includes the (all essential) administrative side of things!