Apr 24, 2013

From Office Administrator to Family Manager

I remember rolling a cart through the office superstore and piling it full of pens, file folders, printer cartridges, staples, a box of coffee creamers, reams of copy paper and a stack of pink message pads.

My work as Administrative Coordinator for a start-up church—my first job out of college—included restocking the supply cabinet at the end of the hall. I’d swipe the church charge card to pay and load everything into the trunk of my junky Olds Cutlass to drive back to the office.

After reloading staplers and slipping folders into the cabinet, I’d sit at the front desk to answer the phone. I did this with a smile in my voice, following the recommendation of an elder who ran a successful business. “I tell all my secretaries to smile when they answer the phone. Callers can hear it through the phone,” he insisted. “They can hear your smile. Try it.”

People loved it. I realized I conveyed the first impression of the church, and I wanted our church to genuinely beam with delight at each precious person who called. So I kept smiling.

I’d scribble phone messages on pink pages from the message pads and drop them into the inbox. After a few months, one of the pastors came to the desk and thanked me for my work. Then he gently asked if, in the future, I could possibly print the words, as he couldn’t make out my cursive.

Eager to serve well, I did my best to adapt, printing as clearly as possible from then on.

I performed other administrative tasks, scheduling and organizing everything from telephone repairmen and cleaning crews to the people who would give announcements on a Sunday morning.

The job required communication and organizational skills, attentiveness to detail and a servant attitude to ensure the ministry carried on smoothly, efficiently, and effectively. I wasn’t a perfect fit—my gifts were more creative than administrative—but someone had to complete those tasks, and they hired me to do it. I worked hard to do it well.

After a few years, I left the job to launch a freelance writing career from my home and start a family. From then on, I’ve held a key position: administration coordinator for home and family. Or to borrow the job title Kathy Peel recommends: I'm the Family Manager.

To ensure our household functions well and each family member has what he or she needs for work or school, I organize, attend to details, and quietly serve in love. Still more creative than administrative by nature, I’m not a perfect fit—but someone has to do it. I do my best.

Years ago, I bought a pack of pink message pads for home use. I keep one by my desk. When a caller asks for my husband or one of my daughters, I tear off pink sheets, scribble out the caller’s note, and set the message on the end of the kitchen counter.

One time my eldest daughter walked into my office area holding a pink paper in her hand—a message I’d taken down for her earlier that day. She asked me to interpret what it said. You see, she couldn’t read my cursive. I read it back to her and then apologized for my illegible handwriting. She grinned back.

“It’s okay,” she assured me, adding, “thanks for taking the message!”

As she walked away, I thought of her beautiful handwriting, her common sense, her knack for organization, her gifts in service, and her pleasant demeanor. She’s heading off to college this fall with plans to minor in business, and if she takes an administrative position in a few years, I can easily imagine her shopping at the office supply store, restocking the cabinet, coordinating tasks using management software, and answering phones, recording detailed messages that all of her colleagues can read.

Unlike me, she has natural administrative tendencies. I didn’t pass along those genes, but I did pass along one thing. The other day, I overheard her answering the home phone. “Good afternoon,” she began, “this is the Kroeker residence. How may I help you?” Without even looking, I could tell she was smiling. I heard it in her voice.

Today is Administrative Professionals Day in the United States. Who could you thank at work or home for all the things they do behind-the-scenes?

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Image by Jason Jones. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Ann Kroeker, author of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families.

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