A few years ago I got invited to have a meeting with Andy Stanley and a few other folks from North Point Community Church. (If Rick Warren is the Lebron James of modern church life, then Andy Stanley is the Kevin Garnett. Team player, skilled beyond his years and able to rock the pulpit like few other people on the planet.)
When I walked into the office to meet with him I was already a little sweaty. I approached the secretary in the lobby and said, “I’m here for a meeting with Andy Stanley.” She didn’t outright laugh, but I’m fairly certain her feet giggled a little under the desk. With around 25,000 people attending North Point, I’m sure she is used to seeing her fair share of folks who wander in and feel like they might have something important to tell the pastor. She was incredibly polite and said, “I’ll see if he’s available. Why don’t you sit down in the ‘crazy person’ section of our lobby and I’ll type up your request in my invisible typewriter.” (That last sentence was not true and was a direct steal from an episode of the Simpsons.)
Eventually she let me into the inner sanctum of the offices and I was able to go have the meeting. But sitting there in the lobby, watching her control the entire church world from a central command post I was reminded of a fact I often forget:
The secretary is the most powerful person in the church.
It’s the church secretary.
But they’re a mysterious lot. So few documentaries have been able to accurately study them in their natural habitat. And I’m not foolish enough to think that I possess the intelligence or the agility to properly document the life of a church secretary.
Instead though, I encourage you to send this list of questions to them. See if they’ll invite you into their world, if only for a brief moment, so that we church members, we civilians if you will, can understand what is going on in the heart and mind of the church secretary.
Here are the questions I have:
1. Should I say “Church Administrative Assistant” instead of “Church Secretary?”
2. Do you have a “cuckoo person in the lobby” emergency button under your desk?
3. If so, can you please tell me who it notifies? (I bet it’s the janitor. Every church janitor I have ever known looks like they could cut you. Not would, but could. And not deep, just enough to let you know trash cans on wheels are not designed for races.)
4. Is it true that sometimes you write funny messages in the bulletin just to see who notices?
5. When you’re mad at the pastor do you ever send him off to fake lunch appointments just so he’ll sit in some restaurant and stare at his watch for 30 minutes and be out of your hair? I probably would.
6. Do you have an arch nemesis that works at the church? It’s gotta be the youth minister. They make the biggest messes, use the most liability waiver forms and probably occasionally do pranks that involve you needing to call animal rescue services to remove a small woodland creature from the sanctuary.
7. If you don’t have an arch nemesis, who would you leg sweep? I’m talking members, staff, volunteers. Who is getting the leg sweep?
8. How long did you keep the secret bathroom all to yourself without telling anyone else it existed?
9. Does the pastor ever tell you to create a rule so that certain people’s emails go right to the spam folder instead of his inbox? Am I on the list? Shoot me straight.
10. Do you ever shot block volunteers out of love? Someone tells you “My kid is great at that Wii thing. I think he’d be good at designing your church website” and you reply, “Nah, we’re good. Thanks though.”
11. Are you ever tempted to wield the office supply requisition form like a powerful weapon? “Oh hey, you didn’t remember professional admin day this year. Hope you enjoy the cheap bic pens that come in a 400 pack.” That kind of thing. Ever do that?
12. Has a worship leader ever tried to write off hair product as a work expense?
If you’re a church secretary, please feel free to set the record straight.
If you’re not, but have a question of your own, please add it to the list.
Do you agree that the church secretary is the most powerful person at a church?