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How to Find a Great Ministry Assistant

When looking for a great assistant for a pastor or other staff member, lay important groundwork to prevent problems in the future.

When looking for a great assistant for a pastor or other staff member, lay important groundwork to prevent problems in the future.

Before you begin

Write down the characteristics you want in a ministry assistant.

If you could create the perfect church secretary or ministry assistant, what characteristics would you look for? A vital, growing relationship with Christ has to be at the top of the list. You may also want to include a vision for ministry, a love for people, flexibility, patience, personal initiative, loyalty, confidentiality, integrity, a sense of humor, a high tolerance for stress, a teachable spirit, a positive attitude, a team player, a desire for excellence, and resilience.

There are many other personal characteristics you could add, but notice that the list did not include being a lightning-fast typist or computer whiz. Clerical skills, although important, can be learned and strengthened, but personal character takes a lifetime to develop. Look for the secretary with godly personal qualities who is willing to take on new challenges and improve clerical skills.

Define the position with a well-written job description.

Make the position title reflective of the responsibility and authority inherent in the role. If the job includes more than basic clerical functions, consider "assistant," "administrative assistant," or "office coordinator" as alternative titles.

Briefly describe the job function, then list the major responsibilities of the position.
Design an organization chart to show organizational relationships, and make sure your personnel policy manual is current.

Survey secular and ministry offices in your region to ensure that the salary and benefits are in line with positions of similar responsibility and skill level.

Begin the search

Start with prayer.

The first step in the search process is to pray earnestly for God's person for the job, just as you would for any other ministry position. A secretary or assistant makes a significant contribution to ministry effectiveness. You want the right person, not just someone to fill the desk.

Survey the options.

Think about your church members. Are there potential candidates who possess the qualities and skills you seek? Ask staff members you know at other local churches about persons who may be qualified. Check with your local denominational office. Consider advertising the position in their newsletter.

Personally approach candidates.

Stress the ministry opportunities of the role. You may be surprised that the person who has a better, higher-paying job elsewhere would happily consider your position because of a strong sense of calling to ministry service and the intangible benefits of working in a Christian environment.

The interview process

Ministers and support staff who will be working closely with, or supervising, the new employee should attend the interview sessions.

Provide an application.

Design an application that asks for pertinent information about education, experience, and skills. Ask open-ended questions in the interview that require thought and insight. Some examples:

  • How do you view the role of the secretary as a support for ministry?
  • What do you think you would enjoy most about this job?
  • How will your gifts and skills enhance the ministry of this office?

Share your vision and expectations.

You will also want to share your vision for ministry growth and your expectations of the team relationship. Using the job description, organization chart, and personnel manual, outline the duties and skills required.

Discuss compensation.

Discuss salary and benefits, the work schedule, holidays, sick leave, and professional development. Give the applicant a tour of the office, making introductions to other employees and showing them the work space.

The final selection

After interviewing all candidates, prayerfully review their qualifications, characteristics, and skills. Solicit input from others who were part of the process. Reach a consensus and rank the top two applicants.

You may choose to contact the person selected by telephone, but always follow up with a formal offer in writing and ask for a written acceptance or rejection. Establish a mutually agreeable date for your new assistant to begin, and start planning for the training and transition period.

Donna Gandy is retired director of LifeWay's Church Leadership Training department. She currently provides life coaching as a professional service.