Interpreters Needed: How to Communicate Administration Principles to Non-Administrative Individuals

Purchase requests, planning, job descriptions, registration forms, and more.  These are part of a church administrator’s regular vocabulary, however, your non-administrative team members may feel like you’re speaking a foreign language.  In working with church staff, I’ve noticed (and often felt) the tension between visionary or creative personalities and administrators.  If you’ve ever been told “You’re too rigid!” or “That’s just adding too much bureaucracy and will slow us down.” then you’ve likely felt that tension.  You want to facilitate ministry, support your leaders and protect the integrity of your church – not slow things down or cause frustration.  So how do you communicate the importance of the not-so-glamorous back-office functions?  After working in and with non-profits for many years, I’ve identified several ways to translate:

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  1. Recognize that some words automatically come with a negative connotation.  Forms, process, planning, approvals, and budgets communicate the same thing to non-administrative team members – “This is boring and will slow down ministry.”
  2. Adjust processes and how you communicate them.  Review the forms and processes you’re asking people to use. Is there any way to make the forms shorter?  Are they easy to use?  Are any processes redundant or no longer necessary?  Make every effort to lighten the administrative burden.
  3. Communicate why a process or form is important.  “If we don’t get waivers signed from each volunteer and someone gets hurt, that could expose the church to greater liability.”  “If we don’t get multiple bids on these expensive purchases we could end up spending more than necessary.”
  4. Explain processes in terms they value. If a team member thinks a form is a hassle, try this: “If you’ll take five minutes to fill out the event request form, I can save you from hours of last-minute rushing around by coordinating the supplies, schedule, and communications in advance.”
  5. Be empathetic.  When you notice their frustration at a budget or planning session, let them know you understand.  “This isn’t my favorite activity either, but if we do this with excellence we will better serve our congregation and God by being a good steward of the resources He’s entrusted to us.”
  6. Ask questions.  Meet with a few non-administrative colleagues and ask for feedback.  “What processes feel unnecessary?”  “Which forms don’t make any sense to you?”  “How can I make your job easier?” Don’t get defensive – listen, take notes, and ask clarifying questions.  Thank them for their input and then start making some adjustments.

 

You and your non-administrative friends are after the same goals – serving God and reaching people.  The key is to understand that God has given us different gifts to use in His service.  Our responsibility is to learn how to communicate effectively and use those gifts in collaboration with each other. Communication takes work but the results are well worth the effort.

Administrators – How do you communicate with your non-administrative colleagues?  What’s worked / not worked?