Church secretary: varied tasks

Tags: scriba, faith

Since the summer of 2010 I’m the scriba of our church in Nieuwegein. ‘Scriba’ is something like ‘scribe’ in English. Basically, I’m sort of a secretary. Officially, my tasks are

  • Handling the incoming and outgoing mail (dead-tree) and e-mail.

  • Arranging the meeting agendas (together with the chairman).

  • Keeping track of all the official papers, meeting minutes and so.

I think it’s fun to write a blog post now and then about what I’m doing as scriba. Partially for myself to read back later what I’ve been up to during the year. Partially for others who think about taking on a job like that. And my wife wants me to write something like this for the church newsletter that she took over this month :-)

Every month, I have two meetings. Those two meetings pretty much set my agenda and provide the rythm to my scriba work.

3 January it was the regular full church board meeting. I won’t bore with the actual contents, but the basic elements include:

  • Some longer-term policy and thinkwork. Some things need careful planning and deliberation. We try and keep it efficient, though, by preparing beforehand and keeping the meeting points on track. You can easily fill a whole evening with some of the points we touched, but if you prepare well you can just discuss one aspect of the problem and leave the rest for the next time. “Expectation management” in the agenda!

  • Short-term decisions. You never escape having a bunch of smaller things that just need deciding. The number should be small. They have to be dealt with elsewhere, preferably.

  • Monitoring. Yep, welfare of the church members (and ourselves).

  • Keeping everyone up-to-date. Short messages about the current status of several projects. Important to keep that covered.

Two weeks later, the “moderamen” meeting: just the core of the church board. Main tasks there:

  • Prepare next month’s full meeting. Basically, we have the same agenda, but try and kick points off beforehand.

  • Handle the dull work. Clean up the meeting minutes (yes, for the full meeting we do need minutes for, amongst others, formal reasons). Handle the incoming mail (I already filter a lot). Handle some practical points.

  • Explicitly not the task: policy. Only preparatory work is OK.

After this meeting, I get to clean up the agenda for the full meeting. The scriba makes the agenda for both meetings and then sends them to the chairman for additions and changes. So I have to keep track of things and make sure everything is covered in time. And the chairman gets to inject things I forgot anyway and, importantly, he gets to put extra policy points in there that are important. That’s his task. In practice, it runs quite smoothly.

During the meetings, I notice that I try to ensure everything is neat and orderly. What I mean by this is that it is so easy to talk about something without really closing the issue or without making a clear decision. Especially when I have to change the agenda because of some discussion I often ask for a clarification like “ok, now what exactly are we proposing?”

And always there are two evenings worth of smaller tasks. Some examples from this month:

  • Mailing the provincial church organization that we found someone for a committee.

  • Collect the physical mail and sort it out to give to the various people. Sort some stuff out to put it in the trash can immediately. Some stuff goes on the official mail list. I was lucky this month: only two official items ended up on the mail list! The shortest ever, normally it are 10-20 items per month.

  • The yearly country-wide church overview books are coming, so I had to update our entries. Yep, that’s right. Plural. We’re a combination church: we belong to two churches. So I got to fill in the same data twice. It makes my programmer’s heart weep, but those few combination churches sure don’t warrant purpose-build dual forms :-)

Nothing related to my scriba work, but something I had to make for the church anyway: a beet salad :-)

salad logo

About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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