At times in my ministry the challenges of actually running a church office can be confounding. On the one hand, the actual “running the operations of the church office” is usually left up to the church council with the input from the pastor. The pastor does provide structure; the operations are left to others. I find myself now and then trying to put myself in between the church office secretary (the person who is hired by the church council, or in our case, the Voters’ Body) and the managers of the operations of the congregations.
There are times when the old school ways slam right into the modern way of how a church office is operated. Church secretaries communicate more via text and email than by phone. The reasons are numerous, but one that is often overlooked by those wanting the old days back: A digital trail. When texts and emails are sent, the digital trail proving communication is easy. If someone wants flowers on the altar for a particular weekend, the forms are sometimes lost on the myraid of paper found on a church office desk. But when an email is received ordering flowers, a church secretary can’t say they didn’t receive it. Paper can’t get lost if the form is in the church secretary’s email.
Mass texts are also a fast way to communicate to groups of individuals. For example, a text notification about an upcoming meeting is instantaneous. You get the text, look at it, and know immediately the information the church secretary has sent. No need for a phone call when a text is sent.
We are in the age when actual church office work doesn’t have to be done in a church office. Whether it is electronic newsletters or digital bulletins or PowerPoint slides or returning telephone calls, all of it doesn’t have to be done in a church office. With texts and FaceTime and apps like Snapchat, communication is different today than it was ten years ago.
In 2017 and beyond, church secretaries and congregations will need to be more fluent in new forms of communication and digital production than they were in year’s past when secretaries worked in church offices for hours on end. The same work today can be completed at a church secretary’s home.
Around lunchtime today at Best Buy in the Garden State Plaza, I spoke with a church secretary from another local church who was herself confounded about how generational differences impact her work. When she arrived at the office this morning, she had a note taped to her computer screen letting her know that a meeting at church scheduled for the end of the week was canceled. After settling in for her morning, she then spent 45 minutes calling the people on this particular committee letting them know that their meeting was canceled.
“I could have sent a text or email to everyone, but the people in church don’t want emails or texts. They want phone calls.”
Every church faces similar challenges.