Material History of American Religion Project

How to Organize Your Church Office

Churches are not just buildings, institutions, or spiritual communities—they are also employers. The clergy are the most visible of the church's employees and get most of the attention, but there is an often unseen army of support staff behind the scenes. The most important member of this army is that jack-of-all-trades, the church secretary, responsible for everything from answering the phone to guarding the building. For many church secretaries, it's not just a job, it's a calling, as suggested by this excerpt from How to Organize Your Church Office (1962). The author is Clara Annis McCartt, an experienced church secretary and "instructor in Church Office Procedures" at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Although it is customary in many churches to call all professional staff members, the clerical staff is merely employed. The assumption is, apparently, that since professional theological training is not required of the clerical staff, they do not have a sense of being called of God to their work. This is not true. Though their call from God may vary somewhat in its theological implications, it should be as real as that of any of the ministers.

Some churches have a policy of refusing to employ any clerical staff member who is presently a member of that church. When this is true, it usually means that at some time in the past the church has had an unfortunate experience in its choice of a clerical worker. The fault was not that a member of its congregation was employed; rather the fault was that a worker was employed without sufficient investigation of her qualifications, character, or call to service in the church.

Sometimes a church finds it must go outside its membership for clerical workers in order to avoid making a choice between two or more of its members, none of whom is qualified for the position which is open. Such a step may be wise but, generally, if a qualified person can be found within the present church membership, there is much less adjusting to do on the part of either the new worker or the minister(s). She knows the church program; she knows its organizational structure; she knows the membership; she knows the community; and she knows the minister(s) with whom she is to work. This degree of orientation would take many months for a newcomer to acquire.

If an addition to the clerical staff is needed, there are approaches which may be made: (1) Inquire diligently of the Lord; He often has the right person waiting to be noticed. (2) Present the need and requirements to the personnel committee of the church and request their assistance in locating the right person. (3) Quietly look over the membership roll of the church to see if any likely prospect might be found. (4) Inquire of ministers in neighboring churches of the same faith. (5) Check the "Situations Wanted" advertisements in the daily paper. (6) Inquire of employment agencies. (7) Insert a blind advertisement in the daily paper and/or denominational journal. Guard against having to wade through unnecessary applications by stating your requirements specifically in the advertisements.

Excerpted from Clara Anniss McCartt, How to Organize Your Church Office (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1962), 48-49.

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