491 Words on the Pastor/Administrative Assistant Relationship

I don’t know which solo pastors or head of staff pastors need to hear this but… if your administrative assistant is not doing any assisting or administrating you need to get a new one.  The person/people who is/are assigned to do all of the things that need doing in service of making the church run well should not be making your job a living hell. This feels like common sense, and yet, I can’t tell you how many people I work with who, after we get two layers in to what’s going on, end up revealing absolutely jaw-dropping stories of assistant level staff engaging in shenanigans, serving as a hub for gossip and sabotage, or flat out refusing to do the work that the pastor needs done. There are a lot of hills pastors should not die on, this is one they should. 

It’s impossible to overstress the amount of professional dissatisfaction that comes with working with a terrible administrative assistant, or one who works at cross purposes with your goals and working style. Conversely, I can’t overstress the value of a good to great one. A good administrator will make you 60%** more effective and a terrible one will cut your effectiveness by 86%** Tragically, I’ve seen people leave their calls because of this. Absolutely insane. 

Also, to be clear: a terrible administrative assistant is 92%** worse than none at all. 

The best place to take care of this is when a pastor starts a new call.

  • Churches: you can anticipate this and have a chat with administrative assistants when you’re in the midst of a search. Have an honest conversation about the importance of working well with the new pastor. Staff restructuring may be required. If the admin chooses to resign or look for a new job after this conversation, don’t stress about it.  Good church admins will be able to work well with a variety of pastors and navigate the transition well. Chemistry is important, too. 
  •  Pastors: when you’re interviewing, do your due diligence on the administrative staff. Ask to interview the person or meet with them, if possible. Insist on hiring your own personal assistant if you feel you need one. (More on this in a separate post, but I have a personal assistant who works less than ten hours a week and without her, I’d be currently unemployed. Facts.)

If you didn’t take care of this at the point of hire (note for next time!) you might have a long road ahead in fixing the mess. Get help if you can: a coach, a therapist, a spiritual director, a wise lay leader or all four. It’s worth digging into. It’s a bigger deal than you think it is. Having the right team is everything. 

Good luck and let me know how I can help. 

** – Numbers completely made up. 

+Truly shocking how many church admins I’ve met who can be described, charitably, as grumpy. Nope.

#WritersWrite and I write almost every day. I sometimes share my thoughts publicly in this series called “500 Words or Less” This practice allows me to explore a variety of different topics in a restrained/contained way and learn what resonates with people. I wrote it, not AI. If you share, please give proper credit. © Traci Smith, 2023. All Rights Reserved.

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