What a Minister Does: "Administry"

So, besides writing sermons, what does a minister do?  The term “administry” comes from a class I took way back when from Jaco and Barbara (Wells) ten Hove.  It encompasses all the administrative and management tasks of the church, but claims them as ministry. It’s sometimes hard to remember that all these little things that make the church run are ministry and not just the “details.”  Because though the old adage says, “The devil’s in the details,” the sacred can be there too.

In any given week, I meet for 90 minutes with my administrator and staff and another hour with my Director of Religious Education.  These meetings are key to communication and morale.  I check in to see both what they are doing and how they are doing. Sometimes these meetings are guided by lists of questions that need answers. “Who put that meeting on the calendar and do they really need the whole building?”  “Who is the point person for the new worship music jams?”  “Are you going to be here on Wednesday at 2pm when the water delivery comes?”  “What are everyone’s plans for vacation time?”  “Did everyone remember to update their insurance forms?”

Sometimes we have longer conversations about how things are going at the church and how everyone feels about it.  Is there someone coming in trying to micromanage a part of their work?  Are they feeling appreciated or invisible?  Where is a program “stuck”?  Is there a big idea they are excited about?  What do they need in terms of support to be able to do their job more effectively?  These are ongoing conversations.

Working for a church is frustrating in a lot of ways.  Everyone in the congregation is your boss and they all have  high expectations because they want a community that lives up to their ideals.  They don’t even realize how high their expectations often are. (Until they don’t get a call back or their announcement doesn’t make it into the order of service, or someone is not as friendly as they think they deserve…) It takes a lot of soothing, framing, listening, and reminding to keep church staff in good spirits. It is indeed, a ministry.

But “administry” means more than attending to the staff. It means attending to details.  Answering phone calls, letters, and emails takes me at least an hour a day.  (When one of those calls is from the media, it can suddenly take many hours.) There are calls and emails from prospective members, people in need, other congregations, the district, and the UUA.  There are invitations to speak, questions to answer, surveys to fill out, events to publicize, concerns to address, and weddings and funerals to schedule.  There are time sheets to sign, check requests to approve, and amazing amounts of paperwork to fill out. Much of this requires the minister’s knowledge or input, and all of it is about being responsive and accountable–in short, it’s ministry.

Thinking about numbers–Worship took about 30 hours a week.  I’d say administry takes at least another 10. So, we’ve hit 40 hours a week and we haven’t even begun to talk about pastoral care and all those meetings…

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3 thoughts on “What a Minister Does: "Administry"

  1. Working for a church is frustrating in a lot of ways. Everyone in the congregation is your boss and they all have high expectations because they want a community that lives up to their ideals.

    You’re generous. I’ve been in Congregations (not the current one!) heavy on bosses. Having an Historic Structure with a big fan base didn’t help.

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