November 2015
Practical Matters

Strong Administrator = Strong Church

Remembering the roots as we celebrate the harvest.

Do you ever think of your parish administrator as a primary part of your community’s root system?

I often look at this image, hanging in the diocesan office’s kitchen, with renewed appreciation during this season. It reminds me of the importance of strong, healthy roots. I love that these roots seem to exude energy. In healthy, vibrant parishes there often is a parish administrator bringing energy and grounding to daily operations.

Parish administration often calls upon those who hold this title to be jacks of all trades. These staff members care for the personal and personnel, manage facilities and fiscal realities, support liturgy and all those who worship. So, how do we care for them?

Support Systems

In the Diocese Washington, we encourage participation in two activities:

  • Parish Administrators lunches: This gathering was founded by parish administrators. Held most months, administrators share stories and resources, get hands-on training with new technologies, discuss policy updates, and review changes to procedures and required documents. This also is a platform from which diocesan staff gets feedback about how our policies, procedures, and programs impact parish life – with an eye on the practical. The diocese sponsors these lunches so there is no cost to participate and each lasts about two hours.
  • Parish Administrators listserv: Resource sharing is the primary benefit of this exchange. Participants provide honest feedback about products and vendors, ask questions about a myriad of administrative issues, and participate in the recruitment of staff for parish-based openings. It also serves as a mechanism for caring for each other when a colleague faces illness, loss, retirement, or other transitions.

Valuing their Contributions

Treating parish administrators as trusted members of the leadership team is important. As a diocese, we recommend parish leaders consider these seven questions related to an administrator’s professional development and engagement:

  • Do you include professional development days in the administrator’s letter of agreement?
  • Do you pay for participation in skill building and spiritual wellbeing activities?
  • Do you invite the administrator to share information and perspectives with vestry and other leaders?
  • Do you seek the administrator’s opinions about the effectiveness of programs and procedures?
  • Do you routinely provide feedback to the administrator so she/he understands priorities and satisfaction with job performance?
  • Do leaders (lay and employees) respect the demands and deadlines associated with the role?
  • Is the administrator involved in leadership transitions, as appropriate, to ensure continuity?

By taking these into consideration, clergy and lay leaders care for and benefit from the voice of someone who may be the first point of contact for the community. The administrator may be the first to hear of concerns, ideas, and causes for celebration.

Shared Toolkit

Making sure leaders and administrators share the same toolkit also helps strengthen parish operations. You’ll notice that several articles in this, and every, issue of Vestry Papers and other publications reference a key resource list. Take time to explore these excellent sources of information, templates, checklists and guides - together. I’ve included my ‘go to’ resources in the list at the end of this article.

Try This 

Are you using any or all of the resources Kathleen recommends for a parish administration tool kit? If not, we recommend visiting their websites to familiarize yourself with them. Does your toolkit include a resource that’s not listed? Please consider sharing in the Comment section below.

Kathleen Hall is director, human resources and administration for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Prior to joining the diocesan staff, she worked as a parish administrator and served on the vestries of multiple parishes. Kathleen is a frequent participant of the Church Pension Group’s Benefits Partner conferences and Episcopal Business Administrators’ Conferences. Currently she serves on the Church Pension Group’s Client Council. Kathleen also worked in career services, volunteer services, and human resources in Virginia, Texas, and Maryland for universities, a science museum, a nonprofit pediatric hospital, and in public broadcasting.


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This article is part of the November 2015 Vestry Papers issue on Practical Matters