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Ten Tips When Working With Female Assistants

Ten Tips When Working With Female Assistants

By Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29

Recently, another Mars Hill Church pastor came to me to ask for some advice. He needed an assistant, and the right hire was a young single gal. He wisely asked for some help in navigating a working relationship as a pastor, as my assistant is a single woman as well.

At Mars Hill Church, we have women who serve as deacons and many assist pastors. Much great ministry is done by these women in the capacities they serve – but with these kind of working relationships comes a great need for wisdom and careful boundaries to keep pastors and their assistants not only above reproach in the eyes of those watching, but also truly living with sexually and emotionally pure hearts before God.

Here are ten tips I shared with the young pastor:

1. Communicate to your assistant your extra security with this arrangement and ask her not to take it personally when you have to restrict your relationship—sometimes seeming cold or disinterested.

2. Never touch her, even casually on the hand as you exchange papers, etc. I occasionally high-five my assistant, but only when it is appropriate and around others. Seems small but every sin starts in the minutia. Compliment her work and never her appearance.

3. Be careful showing her a compassionate ear. Females are attracted more to a strong leader who is also sensitive than they are to big studly arms (like yours!).

4. Realize that age similarity may be a struggle. This is somewhat a non-issue for my assistant because, among other things, she could literally be my daughter chronologically.

5. Give her your wife’s email and phone number and urge her to call your wife if she ever feels disrespected in ANY way.

6. Arrange accountability for her with another female staff member.

7. Never be alone with her. Never give her a ride alone. Never be alone in an office where others cannot monitor at all times.

8. Keep it as professional as you can at all times. I care about my assistant and I have fun around her, but these are characteristics I have with my male friends as well. Your assistant has to see your consistency and not feel as though she is treated in a special way. Address anything that needs correction in her work and this has a way of bringing the professional goals to the forefront of your relationship.

9. Never talk to her about her dating life except as it negatively affects her work for you. Never talk to her about any difficulties you have in marriage. Only reiterate your commitment to your wife.

10. Review your commitment to these with her regularly and address your mutual commitments to stay above reproach.

Additionally, I asked my assistant, Adriel to reply to him as well, and the list she sent separately is almost amusingly (and reassuringly) similar.

Six Steps for Safely Serving a Supervisor

1. Scott had a conversation with me the first day I worked for him where he stated that, a), he loved his wife and his marriage and was not going to compromise them, and b), he wanted me to feel safe in working with him and asked what boundaries I needed enforced.

2. I don’t go anywhere with or meet Pastor Scott by myself. If I have to go to his house, I always make sure Jeannie is home.

3. I don’t close any doors to any rooms where I am with Pastor Scott by myself unless there are windows and anyone could look in at any time and see us.

4. I don’t go to Pastor Scott for pastoral help except on rare occasions. For me it’s a safety precaution, as I don’t want to form an emotional bond that is unhealthy. We work together a lot and get along well; I don’t need any more “connection.”

5. Early on, I wrote an awkward letter to Jeannie letting her know that I respected her and her marriage and would go out of my way to protect her husband’s reputation. I wanted to set that baseline immediately.

6. I also try to make sure Jeannie always knows what is going on with Pastor Scott’s work so she does not feel out of the loop on anything.



Kate Haggar

on Apr 28, 2010 :: 7:07 am

you mention that both of your assistants are single women and so its unclear to me if these are precautions that you recommend only when hire SINGLE women and not married women?

I would hope that its for both

[ST: The principles would apply to married women as well. The difference is that the husband should be brought into the relationship and promised that she will be honored at all times.]

Patrick Mitchell

on Apr 28, 2010 :: 10:10 am

Thanks for this. I work with a female assistant very close to my age, and these guidelines are worth the world when it comes to being above reproach.

Kirk Petersen

on Apr 28, 2010 :: 11:17 am

Great list of practical guidelines. One additional idea that I followed when it came to Secretaries Day, Birthdays, and Christmas was my wife selected any presents or cards and we gave them to her from us. She also joined us if we were going to show our appreciation by taking her out to lunch.

[ST: That is precisely how my wife and I do this. It comes from both of us and she picks out the gift.]

Maripat Hinders

on Apr 28, 2010 :: 2:25 pm

Excellent insights. One additional suggestion: be careful that work-related conversations aren't being shared among the guys when they are having 'guy time'. At our church the guys will go help each other do yardwork, etc. Unfortunately, church policy gets set/adjusted/revised during those times of male bonding that the female staff are (appropriately) not invited to. This leads to the female staff feeling that the 'real' work of visioning for the church happens over beers and cigars...

Anthony Jones

on Apr 28, 2011 :: 5:58 pm

Does this extend to whether or not you pray with them one on one also? Or if you invest any time in leadership training/team-building?How about after hours texting? Just curious...