Training and Conferences

Training is underrated in most church office venues. I think that most churches don’t want to spend the money on doing the training when it is incredibly beneficial. Every year I attend a national conference of my peers and I learn so much at each one even though I’ve been doing this work for over 15 years. Sometimes what I learn re-enforces what I already know, but that is a good feeling, too.

Ministers and other management staff need to go to at least one training conference a year. If for nothing else, it is good for their morale to get out of the office and to hang around peers. Usually money is budgeted for these positions so the people can go if they’ll only make it a priority. It is up to the supervisor to make the subordinate attend a conference – too many say they can’t fit it into their schedule. Everyone has excuses, just find the time to go!

Administrative Assistants (Admins) are on the low end of the totem pole and rarely are they included in a training budget. That is wrong. I work with about a dozen ladies – all of whom are very committed to their work and to the church. They are consummate professionals – very skilled at what they do and anxious to do it right, the first time.

When I came to my current church, I was told that the church database was insufficient for the church’s needs and that one of my priorities was to get new software. I had used that software for over 10 years so I knew what it could and couldn’t do. What I soon learned is that the Admins were not knowledgeable about the software. I began to remedy that immediately.

First, I brought in an expert to lead all-day classes for the ladies. We set aside time and they brought in questions. It cost me about $1,000 for the consultant and for the lunches. I probably recouped that money within three months – what the Admins learned they implemented immediately and they became more productive and efficient.

The second year, I brought in the same consultant for a half-day training session. After lunch, the consultant spent about 30 minutes in the cubicle of each person addressing her needs and concerns. The third year, I brought the consultant again. By now the ladies were pretty knowledgeable about the software and the complaints from the ministers and managers had diminished but I knew the ladies wanted to know more. This time, the consultant spent 45-60 minutes with each person – there weren’t classes for everyone, just individual sessions. After the consultant left, I met with the Admins and they drafted a series of documents to help new Admins and as “cheat-sheets” for the current Admins.

Finally, for the past several years I’ve sent at least two Admins to a national conference. These two get to spend a week out of the office in a nice hotel with company-paid meals and travel (that is a huge morale booster for them). They hang around other Admins for the week and get to know the software developers and technicians – now when the Admins call for help, they can put a face with the name. It does cost about $3,000 to do this each year but that money is recouped within six months in efficiency, effectiveness, shared knowledge with the other Admins, and morale.

A side benefit to all this is that the turnover of the Admins has been pretty low (less than the ministerial staff turnover). Every year they talk about who is going and they pretty much self-select – I don’t have to make the choices. They are a wonderful group of Admins who can now do just about anything on the software – there are no complaints about what the software can or cannot do. The Admins know it all!

Lead On!