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24 March 2014

In praise of the church secretary

In praise of the church secretary

There is often a temptation in church to get wrapped up in our own acts of ‘service’, enjoy what we do, and secretly like the attention it brings. But what about the roles in which the hard work takes place behind the scenes?

It certainly isn’t the glamour role of worship leader and doesn’t have the trendy image associated with a youth worker, but nonetheless without it a church would cease to function. Being a church secretary or administration guru can often mean picking up the pieces from tasks which others have failed to do. Making sure the church minutes are kept up-to-date, drawing up rotas for cleaning; it can be a lonely and burdensome role. And the tasks that come with the role often go under the radar.

Alan Cameron, aged 64, has been administrator manager at Coton Green Church in Tamworth for almost eight years. He describes his role at the evangelical free church as that of a facilitator. A qualified accountant, prior to taking up the role he spent almost 30 years in the public and charity sector. Initially full-time, he now works three-and-a-half days a week.

Describing his job as “pivotal” and one which encompasses finance and human resources, he sees it as helping to bring about the kingdom of God in Tamworth.

“I have a passion to see God’s kingdom grow and people saved,” he said. “This role alongside my skills and experience allows me to contribute to God’s overall purpose.“As the senior non-pastoral employee line-manage the 10 paid staff that look after our building, run the pre-school, and carryout administration tasks including our IT infrastructure and communications.

“In addition, I advise trustees and elders on the financial and legal implications of decisions taken in the life of the church.

“Often I describe my role as that of facilitator – allowing the eldership to lead the church as the spirit leads while keeping the trustees out of jail!”

A notably full-on role, but why do it? Does he ever get frustrated by being the point of reference for church-related queries?

“I believe this job is God’s calling on my life and that He has equipped me through education, training and experience equipped me to do it.

"Without hesitation, I would recommend to others such a role. In my opinion, there is no other role which gives such job satisfaction. I’ve had many jobs over the years – this is an opportunity to work on behalf of the Lord with and for a great bunch of people.”

Recognition more readily comes to worship leaders and musicians rather than church secretaries or cleaners. What is Alan’s experience? Does he wish he had more chance to stand in the limelight or to get credit, and what frustrates him?

“It all depends on our attitude of mind.I believe we all, in whatever capacity, work unto the Lord so our job title is essentially irrelevant. It is our desire to serve the Lord that binds us together, whatever our role. We are blessed that this view is shared by our leadership and our congregation.

“We all get frustrated from time to time.In my case it’s usually when I have a self-imposed deadline to meet and I feel that I’m getting sidetracked – then the Holy Spirit usually reminds me it is God’s timing that’s important not man’s, least of all my own.”

What does a day in the life of Alan look like? The church secretary, who is married to Thelma, said: “It’s hard to describe but it would usually start at about 9am with a coffee and a chat with our senior pastor to discuss any issues that need addressing.

“Depending on the time of the month I may spend time on financial reports for our trustees and members or in preparing our accounts required by the Charity Commission at the end of our year.

“Payroll or personnel issues may take up a fair amount of the day but being available to speak with members of the congregation on a whole range of issues is a prime part of my role. It supports the relational aspect of our church and my place in it.”

Alan – who has two grown-up daughters called Isobel and Philippa – doubles up as an elder of the church, a house group leader and oversees a weekly outreach.

How and why does he do it all? He says it comes with being authentic in all aspects of his paid role at church.

“I do not believe the role I undertake would be sustainable or effective without this close connection because of the complexity of our organisation.” 

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