We get a lot of great questions (one way to ask us is through our new Implementation Lab), and here’s a great one I recently received:
“Is there a recommended amount of administrative assistant hours for a staff? I am trying to figure out what our church of 2,000 should have invested in administrative assistants. We are seemingly overstaffed but want to find some data or a resource to back up that claim.”
Whatever the church size, this is an important issue. I don’t have hard research for an answer, but I do have recommendations.
My answer starts like this: It depends. Why? Here are some of the variables:
1. What level of staff are you? Typically the lead pastor gets more support help than the men’s ministry pastor or next gen pastor. For example, the lead pastor, executive pastor, and other executive team leaders often have a 1:1 ratio, while other departments/groups in the church may each share an administrative assistant. I’m not saying that’s right, but it is reality. The more people you’re serving, the more help you get.
2. How good are you at working through others? A lot of people haven’t learned how to truly use an assistant. Some don’t want to. Some haven’t been challenged to do so. Others haven’t done it well in the past, so they don’t get much backing to obtain help now.
3. How fast is your church or specific ministry growing? The more growth, the more chaos-making, and thus the more need for support people to organize the clouds of dust, and to make sure people and details don’t fall through the cracks. The faster the church is growing, the more likely you feel understaffed. Declining churches tend to be overstaffed.
4. What economic level does your church serve? If your congregation is largely people, typically middle class or upper middle class, with lots of managers and executives who depend on executive assistants, then the more likely your church’s culture will value and fund support for church staff. By contrast, if everyone in your church is a do-it-yourselfer — a worker for others, or a one-person operation — then the expectation will be stronger that church staff should lead likewise.
5. How old is your church? Typically the more established the church, the more routines your church has developed which can be managed by administrative support, rather than a staff member. Typically the older the church, the more staff heavy it is.
6. How much of your staff is on-site vs virtual? At Leadership Network we use (and love) the virtual assistant approach provided by Belay Solutions. Belay reports that when they replace an on-site assistant in a church, who is working 30 to 35 hours per week, it’s often done with a 15-hour per week virtual assistant. Why? The nature of the off-site relationship is more task focused. The trade-off is someone offsite won’t have the in-person flexibility to pitch in and help others, be part of a staff meeting, pause to pray with someone, etc. They tend to wear fewer hats (church member, friend of others in the office, etc.) than those onsite.
I have two additional suggestions:
- Here is advice of Shannon Miles, CEO and Cofounder of Belay Solutions, “We recommend a church client start with 10 hours/week of executive assistant support per pastor (lead pastor, executive pastor, etc.). Over time and with intentional training, the hours tend to grow as the pastor delegates more responsibility to the assistant. The key idea is ensuring the assistant takes the aspects of the ministry that must get done so the pastor can focus on what should be done, such as growth, outreach, programming, etc.”
- Take a look at Leadership Network’s groundbreaking collection of ratios and benchmarks in the report, “12 Salary Trends Every Church Leader Should Know: 2016 Large Church Salary Study – COMPLETE REPORT.” It deals with many questions similar to yours, but it uses research to tell you what other churches are doing, and how that changes with church size.