Virtual Assistants for Pastors?
Seven reasons one may help your church.
Virtual Assistants for Pastors?

Many business persons, particularly small business entrepreneurs, are moving toward engaging virtual assistants as vital components of their enterprises. The more I hear and read about virtual assistants, the more I am convinced that pastors and other church staff may benefit as much as anyone from this practice.

A virtual assistant is not an employee of the church. This person likely lives in another part of the country, or even the world, and carries out specific duties for the pastor. For those pastors and church staff who currently have a great assistant, be thankful! This article is likely not for you.

But many pastors do not have the benefit of either a full-time or part-time assistant. By the way, I distinguish between a secretary and an assistant. I will clarify that issue in the second point below.

As a point of full disclosure, I have never used a virtual assistant. I am blessed to have an incredibly capable assistant who works 50+ hours a week and has a productivity of 80 hours a week. This article is based on the experiences of some people I know personally, and others about whom I have only read. I will mention a couple in this article. For now, let’s look at seven reasons a pastor or other church staff member may benefit from a virtual assistant.

  1. Pastors need to be able to focus on their major roles of ministry. I have sadly seen pastors become so inundated with routine tasks that they neglect major functions of ministry and their families. A virtual assistant can take much of that burden away. There is almost no limit to the type of virtual assistant one can engage. They can take care of email, answer the phone, do your calendar, book travel, notify you of urgent ministry matters, conduct research, handle projects, respond to salespersons, produce prayer lists, work on the church’s website, and so many more possibilities. Granted, it is unlikely to find one virtual assistant who can do everything, but you can find one to meet your greatest needs.
  2. The classic secretarial role is fading. Those who serve leaders in offices must become more like assistants than secretaries. The traditional secretary typed letters, took dictation, and often worked as a receptionist as well. Advances in technology and changes in efficiency practices demand a new role with new responsibilities. Most pastors need an employee assistant or a virtual assistant.
  3. Church budgets are tight. A virtual assistant can be retained to work only a few hours a week, typically as few as ten to fifteen, or to be a fulltime assistant. In other words, the virtual assistant can fit most budgets. Also, the church is not responsible for all the headaches and costs of salary and benefits administration.
  4. You can easily fire a virtual assistant. If the virtual assistant is not meeting expectations, or if the church chooses not to continue to pay for the service, all you have to do is notify the company that provides the services. You can also request another virtual assistant if the current person is not satisfactory. It is so much easier to “fire” a virtual assistant than a person on the church’s payroll.
  5. A virtual assistant position can be adjusted to meet the nontraditional schedule of a pastor. Almost every pastor or church staff member has a schedule that does not fit the template of 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. The pastor can thus contract for a fixed number of hours per week with a virtual assistant that best fits a more nontraditional schedule.
  6. You can hire virtual assistants for ongoing work or for fixed periods for special projects. Many virtual assistant organizations offer persons for short-term needs, not just ongoing responsibilities. This approach can fit most any church budget to best help the pastor and the congregation.
  7. A virtual assistant takes stress off the pastor. This person is able to accomplish the tasks the pastor should not do, does not want to do, or is unable to do. The result is a pastor with less stress and more energy to do ministry that really makes a difference.

A recent book on the topic is Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker. It is written for the entrepreneur, but it can easily be adapted for the pastor.

Have you ever tried a virtual assistant? What has been your experience? What are the resources on this topic that you can recommend?

Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife, Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at postwas adapted from an article that first appeared at on April 12, 2014.

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