Administrative Assistants: Church Member or Not?

This debate has gone on for years. Should a church administrative assistant be a member of the same church, or is it better to hire someone from outside the church? Here are some of the arguments I’ve heard on both sides.

Church Member?: Yes

  1. They know the congregation well. They know names and stories, and they know who’s related to whom. That information can prove invaluable.
  2. They often know the church history well. Every church has a history, and it’s always good to have some knowledge of that history. A new pastor can benefit from someone who has that knowledge.
  3. They’re available to help on Sunday. Sometimes the pastor needs immediate help on Sunday, and a church member assistant is there on the spot to help. 
  4. They can bring consistency to the office and to the church. That’s especially the case if the administrative assistant has been there long-term.
  5. The church already knows potential assistants. The learning curve for an assistant won’t be long, and the church won’t need time to get to know the new hire. 

Church Member?: No

  1. It’s sometimes hard to be a pastor and a boss at the same time. The pastor will have to be the boss at some points, and that’s tougher to do when the assistant is a church member.
  2. Any pastor/assistant conflict will likely affect several others in the church. That’s inevitable if the admin assistant has family in the church.
  3. It’s almost impossible for the assistant to stay neutral in times of church conflict. Being a church member often trumps being an assistant in those cases – and the congregational conflict becomes office conflict, too.
  4. Sundays can inadvertently become “work” days for the admin assistant. That’s the only day many church members see assistants – and they need them to know stuff right then. Assistants often thus find it hard to worship that day.
  5. It’s more difficult to fire a church member. You hope that’s never necessary, but it happens – and problem #1 in this section then kicks in. 

Okay, what are your thoughts? Where do you land on this issue? 


  • Bob Moon says:

    Church Member NO is a much stronger case than Church Member YES. PLUS, in the YES section, item #3, if an assistant is asked to perform their job on Sunday, then they should (by law) be paid. It is often difficult to separate the paid work from the volunteer work. And….a church member cannot VOLUNTEER to do on their off hours what they normally get PAID to do. (Labor laws…AARG). My recommendation: employ outside your congregation whenever possible.

  • Josh says:

    You laid out but pros and cons; as I see it, The cons outweigh the pros. If fact, the pros listed can easily overcomes.

  • Gary W says:

    Have hired both and weigh character – spiritually over hard fast rules. In 39 years I’ve only had one bad asst within the Church. For the sake of the Asst o/side Church is best – avoiding 7day work and personal loyalty in conflict.

  • Annette says:

    I am a non-church member employed at a church for 15 years. I like the idea of worshiping at another place of worship on Sunday mornings. However, after 15 years I feel I have two church families – my own church and where I work. And after 15 years – the lines become very blurred. Members have no problem calling or texting me in the evening or over the weekends. And I usually respond! I love what I do, I love the people in my employing congregation.

  • Bert says:

    As an HR professional serving with one of our SBC conventions I often hear from assistants who are asked to “volunteer” their time on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Many are told they will not get paid for that time. A direct violation of federal and state laws. A large majority of our churches would never pass a HR audit review.

  • Marshmallow says:

    In my opinion *and* experience*, all the reasons listed advocating hiring from within the church are more appropriately the very reasons *not* to hire within; familiarity breeds contempt and consistency can too easily thwart change and promote “church lady ownership.” Just too much risk surrounding *privacy* for church members to justify hiring a church member.

  • John VanLester says:

    having spent 36 years on staff its extremely difficult to separate not working 24 – 7

  • Adiaphora says:

    Never. When I have a Sunday off, I worship at another church because too many people need “one little thing” totally oblivious of the fact that 25 others have also asked for “one little thing.” I care too much about my parishioners to put them through that as staff members. I am not paid by the hour; office personnel are.

  • Bob curtis says:

    What about financial secretary? Member or non-member?

  • Jim Oates says:

    A “con” not listed here.. if you hire a church member and need to fire them, you fire the entire family and even extended family. No!!

  • Mary Duerr says:

    How about this? I was the church secretary AND the Senior Pastors wife. I loved my 12 years working in our church until we retired. I knew how to keep a confidence and and it was extremely helpful know who was who on boards and committees.

  • As clergy working within both scenarios I am definitely for hiring a non-church member. I had the sad experience of having to fire a church member secretary and it was a nightmare, for the congregation, the secretary and for me.

  • ericrubio11 says:

    Wouldn’t some of the same principles apply to any church employee? Titled pastor, second-tier professional ministry staff, facilities staff, admin staff, etc.

  • Another non-member church secretary here (3 years). I too feel I have two church families and would never want to work where I attend. I prefer to worship among others who are also blessed to NOT know all the problems that happened in the office during the week. Then at my “work” church I’m privileged to tend to all the needs of the pastor, the council and the congregants. Best of both worlds!

  • Bradley Lyle Jones says:

    One element I wish this article had addressed is the size of the church/staff. Having an administrative assistant who is also a church member at a small to medium sized church with only one pastor on staff is very different than having one at a larger church with multiple pastoral staff. In a larger church, it is sometimes easier to navigate through some of the aspects written in the NO column. Number 1 in the NO column becomes a non-issue if you have multiple pastoral staff. And number four becomes easier to navigate if there are multiple admin assistants or clear boundaries; preferably both.

    Clear/firm boundaries will help in small or medium churches regarding offsetting the negative aspects, but it will be more problematic if the church is not large.

  • Paula Lange says:

    I have been a member of my church for 50 years. I have been the Office Manager for 10 of those years. I love my church, my boss/pastor and job. God put me here. God had prepared all my working life to use the skills/gifts in the secular world to be the best employee/member of this church. I praise him and His holy name for the opportunity to serve Him in this capacity as both an employee and member!

  • As a pastor, I personally find it helpful to hear my assistant’s perspective on various things happening in the life of the church. I also encourage my assistant to think creatively about what we can do better in our ministries. I don’t think a non-member would be able to contribute in this way.

  • WayneW says:

    We currently have 2 church members serving in our church offices. Because we knew they were both people of great character it made hiring them much easier. So, hiring from within the congregation can be advantageous in that you can know the person very well. We have had no problems and do not foresee any. However, I understand this is not always the case.

  • Bubbles says:

    I work as an administrative assistant at the church I am a member of and it can be very hard to separate my feelings on decisions my senior pastor makes. If I worked at another church would I still have the same reservations? Maybe, but I wouldn’t know exactly how decisions would effect people of the congregation.

    I do find that being required to do work more hours (or being required to attend certain events on my off hours) happens a lot. All because that is what you do “for ministry” 🙁

  • SecAnne says:

    I am a life long member of my church and also the administrative assistant/church secretary for 7 years now. I work for God and His church and His people. There are time I feel obligated to do over and beyond, but that is because I am a member and want things done the best way. I love what I do even with the controversy and gossip – you must remain very focused and always confidential – especially when gossip is involved!

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