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In praise of the back office - Pastor's pen for 21st April 2024

I write to you, dear friends, during a period when the office administrator is taking leave for perfectly good reasons. So let me issue a blanket apology for anything I forgot to do that I said I would do this week, in her absence. Churches, as you know, do not have wads of money to employ numerous staff. Indeed, we need to be prudent with the prayerful investment people have made with their tithes and offerings, balanced with the occasional leap of faith.

I write to you in a season in which our government is enacting their election promise to reduce the number of public servants, focusing on the 'back office' functions rather than the public-facing 'front line.' All told, it seems around two thousand positions might disappear (today's news media estimate). I've been a public servant and served in schools and several large institutions ranging from supermarkets to theological colleges. I've usually been somewhere on the 'front line', which reminds me that God has an interesting sense of humour. My experience is that where the back office work is accurate, timely and efficient, those at the front line are able to work better and smarter, and everything goes smoothly. We learned on Wednesday that the Prime Minister and his National members have a team of seven working behind the scenes on social media messaging and marketing, so they clearly appreciate the necessary work of the 'back office' to make them look good in the public eye.

The distinction between back and front office functions is something of a false dichotomy, perhaps manufactured for political theatre. In reality, successful organisations integrate the visible functions with the invisible, contributing to the delivery of their mission and vision. Amazingly, churches largely manage to do this with a team of dedicated volunteers, who do it for love. I look around and see many smaller churches struggling with this. We sail pretty close to the wind at times, with a small but committed team, which I am truly thankful for. Please know that I appreciate all who serve our community in this place, visibly or invisibly. May God keep us working in unity together, by his grace. Shalom

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