Options for the Back Office

By Sarah Movius Schurr

computer with pen, paper and office stuff

When people think of what it takes to keep a small congregation going, many people think of speakers for the Sunday morning services or volunteers to work with children. But a big part of keeping a congregation going could be called “Back Office” tasks. These are important but hidden tasks, like emailing the newsletter and paying the bills. Doing these well can help a congregation stay healthy and vital. Here are a few ideas that you might consider in making your “Back Office” run more smoothly.

  • Bookkeeper vs Treasurer: Some congregations have trouble finding a treasurer for the board because they believe they need a bookkeeper in the treasurer’s chair. This really limits your board member options and may wear out your one or two members who have bookkeeping skills. But really, the treasurer only needs to be able to understand a basic spreadsheet and communicate the financial information to the board. The congregation can hire a bookkeeper, on a per hour basis, to tend the money. The treasurer works closely with the bookkeeper for communication and oversight. This is money and time well spent!
  • Simplify the Printed Program: Many congregations have found they save time and paper by printing simple Order of Service programs on card stock, that are re-used each week. It shows the main features of the service, but leaves out things like hymn numbers. Those are announced during the service itself.  Having a re-usable Order of Service program saves a lot of weekly printing time and effort.
  • Share an Administrator: Having a staff person to do those office chores, like updating the web page and answering messages, can be a big help. If your congregation can’t afford to pay someone at even half time, consider sharing with another nearby congregation. If each of you could pay for a quarter time, then sharing office staff could provide someone a half time job. In today’s world of technology, many of these tasks can be done remotely, so there would be very little driving back and forth.
  • Email list services: Business like Mail Chimp and Constant Contact can help you manage your email announcements and newsletter distribution. Service can be free to low cost, depending on your needs. Using a marketing service like these not only saves volunteer and staff time, but can make the things that arrive in the in-box of your members and friends more visually appealing. In fact, many congregations have eliminated the monthly newsletter in favor of one or two shorter email messages each week.
  • Comprehensive Office Services: Launchpad is a service that originated in the Oak Ridge UU Church and is part of the Faith Rocket program. Launchpad will meet your office staffing needs on a remote basis. From membership database maintenance to bookkeeping to newsletter distribution, they provide customized services for a monthly fee.

About the Author

Sarah Movius Schurr

The Rev. Sarah Movius Schurr joined the PWR team in 2016. She serves as primary contact for all congregations in the states of Washington, Montana, and Wyoming. In addition to her primary contact work, Sarah is the PWR specialist for small congregation concerns.

For more information contact .