The Optimal Office

By Unknown Author

Some church offices are more a collective progression of necessary solutions than a wellexecuted plan. Additional work areas have been found as ministries have grown, but an efficient office suite was definitely not the result.

Better: Churches that analyze and strategize their office needs can come up with surprising solutions.

Worth considering: Facilities and personnel are the two greatest costs of doing the business of ministry. To the extent we utilize these key resources at peak efficiency, ministry and programs benefit.

Location, Location, Location

Initially a church may need only a pastor’s study, but growth necessitates office space for secretaries and other ministry staff. Thus, churches often carve offices out of classrooms, basements, and other available spaces. Result: Scattered, hard-to-locate staff in inadequate, poorly designed workspaces, which leads to inefficiency and poor morale.

Suggestion: Keep as many staff as possible in office groupings. If facility realities demand offices in multiple locations, try to group staff by function, such as pastors and secretaries together, and music staff near rehearsal rooms.

Leased office space may be lower in cost than new construction and maintenance.

Added considerations:

Make offices easily accessible to people with disabilities-both staff and visitors.

Locate reception areas close to an outside entrance to increase accessibility and cut down on traffic through the building.

Emerging trend: Some churches with established facilities have insufficient space to set up an efficient office suite. Solution: Moving most church offices off-site, leaving primarily school and maintenance personnel on the church grounds during a typical weekday.


Leased office space is more flexible and may be lower in cost than new construction and maintenance. Tip: In areas with low occupancy rates, significant rent reductions can be negotiated, especially when the tenant is a church.

Off-site offices reduce the number of interruptions by wellmeaning congregants who thought they’d “just drop by and shoot the breeze awhile.” Result: Dramatic increases in staff productivity.

A Quieter, Gentler Office

While church offices are to be friendly spaces, the completion of work requires a degree of quiet and privacy, provided by means such as:

Traffic control. Ideally, visitors coming to the office should enter a reception area with seating, a reception counter, and a simple gate to control office access.

Office layout. The fewer the workers in one room, the better. When many people share an office, visitor and phone conversations become distractions.

Suggestion: Modular furniture, while costly, allows more usable workstations in a room. Modular furniture is a combination of desk space, drawers, cabinets, and upholstered panels that combine to maximize space and minimize noise.

Tip: Many businesses are downsizing to trim costs, and this results in used-furniture bargains. Example: My office bought nearly new, top-of-the-line modular furniture for just nine cents on the dollar-about $500 per workstation. Also: Local stores and manufacturers may be willing to donate furniture (or part of the cost) for a tax write-off.

Effective lighting. Studies show that lighting makes a big difference in office morale and productivity. Recommended: Plenty of fluorescent lighting, and lamps should have a minimum color rendering index of 92 percent (your vendor should understand this specification).

Equipped for Effectiveness
As a church consultant, I have observed that:

Church office equipment typically is obsolete.

Church offices tend to be underequipped.

Suggestion: Sell the old equipment and turn the proceeds into upto-date, usable equipment, such as:

Phone system. Trend: Churches who had been purchasing systems are switching back to the phone company’s centrally located and maintained system. Benefit: A central system often proves less expensive and less problematic. Plus: A church benefits from the expertise of phone company employees, who probably won’t make a commission based on the church’s decisions.

Facsimile machine. Twenty-five years ago, only doctors had answering services and machines. Today, nearly everyone has one. Facsimile (fax) machines are in similar early stages of distribution. Suggestion: At a base price of less than $200, a fax machine will provide volunteer and paid team members convenience well worth the cost.

Answering machine. Today answering machines communicate that you care. Rather than an unanswered ring, callers learn that the office is closed for prayer, lunch, or a holiday. Plus: Callers can receive answers to common questions, such as worship-service times and church location. Tip: This may be a telephone-line service your phone company can add for a nominal fee.

Facilities and personnel are the two greatest costs of doing the business of ministry.

Photocopier and duplicator. Copiers are rated by the number of copies they can handle per month Suggestion: To determine what class of copier you need, calculate the number of copies your office makes in a month. Example: A church of 300 might produce 2,600 copies a month for a two-page bulletin (300 count x 2 pages x 52 weeks + 12 months). The copy count for newsletters, fliers, and other uses can likewise be calculated and added for a monthly estimate. Also: Poll the staff about options (reduction/enlargement, sorting, etc.) that will be used frequently.

Next: Invite three salespeople to show you what they offer in the class of copier you require, and have them present a proposal.

Note: The advantages in renting:

– You can upgrade easily when you outgrow existing equipment.

– The servicing company has a vested interest in keeping you in reliable equipment.

Caution: Buying used equipment will often cost a church more in downtime than they saved in price.

Worth considering: For print runs of at least 25 to 30 copies, digital duplicators (vastly improved mimeographs) offer excellent per-copy savings over copy machines plus ease of operation over offset printers.

Mailing equipment. Postage meters, while convenient, can cost $1,000 or more per year.

The above material was published by YOUR CHURCH, July/August, 1993. This material may be copyrighted and should be used for study and research purposes only.