2. The Church Secretary is often the first congregational contact!
Leadership magazine reported that “friendliness of the people” in a congregation is the most important trait a newcomer looks for in a congregation.” (Summer 2002 Vol. XXIII, No. 3) If the newcomer receives a warm and friendly welcome on Sunday morning,
he/she is more likely to return.
Who is the first person in the church that the public often sees or talks to? Is it not often the church secretary? If a person (yes, even a telemarketer!) calls your church and hears a warm, cheerful voice on the other end of the line, do you think their first perception of the congregation is that it is friendly? Of course! If a person wanders in off the street, looking for food, and they meet a church secretary who briskly brushes them off, what impression will they have of Christ and his church? Bobbi Linkemer, an author and expert in business communications says, “A good secretary is important in a church setting because she is on the frontlines and is the first person the public sees or talks to.” (Mark Rowh, “Four
Essentials of a Church Secretary” Christianity Today, July/Aug. 1998)
Whether we like it or not, as Christians, we are always witnessing. What kind of witness do you give to those who call on the phone or who drop by in search of help?
The importance of first impressions involves more than human contact between seeker
and church secretary. A professionally-crafted worship folder (and newsletter), replete with appropriate clip art and readable type is crucial to a newcomer’s first impressions of the congregation. Materials from resources like “The Joyful Noiseletter” (a resource filled with church-related cartoons and jokes) go a long way in creating a welcoming climate to those seeking a church home. If the service folder and newsletter is laid out in a confused manner with the look of being sloppily put together it will leave a negative impression.
3. The Church Secretary is a “human computer.”
Who in the congregation knows the members better than the church secretary? Very few people! The church secretary, who I refer to as the “human ‘computer’ can match the needs of an unbeliever to whom one member of the congregation has been witnessing with other people in the congregation, whose skills or experiences make them better partners for that unbeliever.” (Kolb, p. 16) In this capacity, the church secretary works in complete confidentiality. She seeks to avoid putting pressure on a member of a congregation, no matter how suitable this person might be for meeting the needs of another witnessing member and the person to whom the latter member is witnessing. The church secretary avoids sending people who are hesitant to accept a specific assignment. With the pastor and the other members of the tag team, this human ‘computer’ plays coach and friend and sounding-board for those involved in giving witness to Christ. (Kolb p. 17)
Do any of your congregations have this kind of arrangement?
4. The Church Secretary is a missionary conduit.
Endless information and requests come across your desk in any given week –many of them are simply junk mail. Often times, the letters and emails that are received have to do with Synodical and/or District LCC missionary activity. More often than not, the pastor (and occasionally, the church secretary), due to information overload, dump this valuable information into a recycle bin or hit the “delete” button. This valuable mission information often never gets into the hands or minds of the church members. As a church secretary you have a wonderful opportunity to promote and publicize the Lord’s mission work. You can include the information in newsletters and bulletins. You can create an outreach bulletin board that highlights various different missionaries and projects. The information on this bulletin board should be routinely changed, say every two or three weeks. Think of the information that can be shared: District and Synodically-sponsored outreach (e.g. Thailand, Cambodia, Nicaragua, and Ukraine), LAMP, Lutheran Bible Translators, Lutheran Braille workers, Lutheran Outreach to the Deaf, Concordia Lutheran Mission
Society, LWML, Lutheran Laymen’s League, Lutherans for Life – Canada, etc.
One church office secretary reflecting on the church secretary as a frontline missionary said, “I see my chief missionary role in the congregation as getting the information about the congregation, about Lutheran Church – Canada and about regular occurring and
special events at our church to all the members of the congregation in a clear, and understandable format.” This format would take the form of: a bulletin, a newsletter, a special note placed in member’s mailboxes, a telephone call, a verbal announcement at a worship service, information shared at a Voters’ meeting, an up-to-date website, a
congregation Facebook page, etc.
Hopefully, by now, you are convinced – the church secretary is a front-line missionary. Now, a very important question needs to be asked and answered:
What is the most important attribute that a church secretary needs in order to serve as a front-line missionary? Does she need to be proficient in word processing? Does he have to be a fast typist? Does she have to be a people-person? What is the most important attribute needed for the front-line mission-minded church secretary?
Answer: A Christ-centered life!
The church secretary is the servant’s servant, ministering to the ministers and to the congregation and to those who do not yet believe, in quiet ways. As Gayle Hilligoss, president of Success Systems and editor of PROfile, a newsletter for church office professionals, says, “Lack of know-how seldom causes serious problems in the church office; lack of integrity does.” (Christianity Today) The church secretary has to deal with unexpected or difficult situations, cranky or demanding parishioners/newcomers, and pressured pastors. This means that the church secretary needs to be ministered to by the
Master Servant Jesus Christ before he/she ministers to others. One frontline church secretary said, “It is important to begin every day with prayer, and to try to do devotions daily, so that my own spiritual needs are being met, and I know that I have allowed my Lord to come into my life that day, as I serve him in his kingdom.” Bill Pannell agrees, “If you’ve made a habit of communing with God when the sun is shining, you’ll find it much
easier to sing in the rain.” (Leadership Fall, 1988, p. 112)
The church secretary certainly has her/his share of “rainy” days! Satan loves to “rain on our parade.” He loves to frustrate and discourage us. He loves to create conflict and misunderstandings. He loves to nurture criticism and negativism to undermine the Lord’s
work. All the more reason we need the SON to shine in our lives … to make him the center of our “universe.” Therefore, do you spend time with the Lord daily in his Word … in prayerful conversation with him? Do you live with the understanding that Jesus’ loves you and forgives you for all your sins? Do you rejoice in the spiritual gifts and the natural talents he has blessed you with? Do you rejoice in the partnership in the Gospel that you share with the other church staff and members?
No, you do not need to write the pastor’s sermon in order to be a front-line missionary. By virtue of your God-given vocation as church secretary you are a front-line missionary. May our Lord grant you much joy as you serve him, and the people he loves, as a front-line