Edwards Deming, an American management theorist, developed a system he named Total Quality Management (TQM). He used this system to help war-torn Japan rebuild its economy in the 1950s. When in the 1980s the U.S. began to see its own world market share flagging in comparison to Japan, American businesses rediscovered Deming’s system.
Deming’s 13 TQM principles cluster around the goal of getting employees to work together to continually improve upon their product or service. Deming says, “Fostering interrelationships among departments encourages higher quality decision making.”
By trial and error, corporate America has learned that rugged individualism rarely succeeds in the output of a quality product. When energies are consumed with protecting individual egos, the precious fruit of cooperative effort rots on the vine.
Out in Front
Christians have an advantage over the corporate world. We can go directly to God for lessons that secularists may take years of trial and error to learn. The disciples’ “Who is the greatest?” debacle (Matt. 18:1) taught total quality many centuries before W. E. Deming was born. When left to their own devices, the disciples lost the vision of what teamwork could accomplish. They focused on their own individual accomplishments.
Ellen White identifies their core problem as the spirit that led Satan to puff himself and make a grab for God’s throne. “Lucifer desired God’s power, but not His character . . . and every being who is actuated by his spirit will do the same.” In that darkly selfish state of mind, “every individual regards every other as an obstacle in the way of his own advancement, or a steppingstone on which he himself may climb to a higher place” (The Desire of Ages, pp. 435, 436).
The disciples of today also need not waste their time striving for supremacy. Sabbath School secretaries are on vantage ground in helping avoid the pitfalls of pride. In their quest to be like Jesus, they work behind the scenes to bring others to their full potential. You, more than any other member of the Sabbath School staff, are in a position to build a team spirit, a synergy in which the whole output of the Sabbath School is greater than the sum of its individual parts. You have got the tools.
Communication Station: Sabbath School secretaries are the dispatch center of the entire Sabbath School program.
- Secretaries alert Sabbath School committee members of upcoming meetings.
- Secretaries encourage teachers to turn in their membership lists and offerings.
- Secretaries are supply central for quarterlies and other materials. They make sure everyone has the needed resources.
- Secretaries are ground zero for the conference church ministries department.
In all of these functions, secretaries set the tone for achieving efficient, productive communication in Sabbath School.
Have a little fun with all this responsibility. You’re the Lord’s liaison, His celestial ambassador, taking care of His business. You can bear your responsibility as a mere duty or as a pure delight.
Let the administrative routine become a school of its own:
- Each phone call is a chance to cheer a fellow servant. Use a musical, pleasant tone of voice and excellent phone manners.
- Each interaction at church is an opportunity to be sparked with a smile. Gain a blessing in doing God’s work. Pass the same spirit on to fellow workers.
When you have the floor at Sabbath School council meetings, use inclusive language to build a sense of solidarity. You may be required to report attendance. Form A-300 is the official form you will need to fill out. If your church tallies to affirm services rendered, you will need to tally those. These meetings also are a good time to distribute materials, to field and ask questions, and to listen to the needs of your team.
Master the art of forward-thinking when dealing with difficulties. This doesn’t mean you ignore problems, but that you are solution-oriented. Don’t wallow and fret! Praise God for the progress of the Sabbath School, however humble it may be, remembering that the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents.
Take Time to Party
Remove the squeaks in the machinery of church business with the fellowship of a well-planned, well-organized party. Church co-workers are not only spiritual siblings, they are—or must become—friends. Remember that the apostles who formed the very first Christian nonprofit corporation probably wore several hats each, but they still found time to “break bread from house to house” (see Acts 2:42, 46). These people knew how to enjoy one another’s company.
Perhaps, bimonthly, have a little gathering of your secretarial team, whether they are elected or volunteers, family members included. Spread the responsibilities around so that no one gets overburdened.
If people don’t know one another, gather them in a circle and have each tell who they are, where they’re from, and something they love about someone else in the room.
Then play! Charades, Scrabble, Twister, or whatever that group would enjoy. Or just chat. Nothing heavy, just simple, sanctified merrymaking.
Jennifer Jiff Schwirzer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists