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Office Furnishings & Layout

January 25, 2007

© 2006 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Leadership Handbooks of Practical Theology

Some church offices are more often a collective progression of necessary solutions than a well-executed plan.  Additional work areas are often carved out of classrooms, basements, and closets as ministries grow, but an efficient office suite is rarely the result.  Churches that analyze and strategize their office needs can come up with some surprising solutions.

Location, Location, Location
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.  For that reason, we recommend keeping 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 with their secretaries, and music staff near rehearsal rooms.

Helpful Hint:  There may be some businesses in your area that are downsizing to trim costs, resulting in used-furniture bargains.

Some churches are moving most of their offices offsite, leaving only school and maintenance personnel on the church grounds during the week.  This option has some significant advantages:

  • Leased office space is often more flexible and may cost less than new construction and maintenance.  In areas with low occupancy rates, significant rent reductions can be negotiated, especially for a church.
  • Offsite offices also reduce the number of interruptions by well-meaning members who stop by to chat.  Locating offices offsite can result in dramatic increases in staff productivity.

A Quieter, Gentler Office
While church offices are to be friendly places, work requires a degree of quiet and privacy.

  • Traffic Control.  Try to control the traffic flow of visitors within your church office.  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.  When designing your church’s office layout, the fewer people in one room, the better.  When many people share an office, visitor and phone conversations become distractions.  Modular furniture, while costly, allows more usable workstations in a room.  Modular furniture is a combination of upholstered panels, desk space, drawers, and cabinets, that combine to maximize space and minimize noise. 
  • Effective Lighting.  Studies show that lighting makes a big difference in office morale and productivity.  We recommend plenty of fluorescent lighting with bulbs that have a minimum color rendering index of 92%.

Equipped for Effectiveness

  • Phone System.  VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the current direction in telephone technology.  While VoIP has some great benefits, there are two things to be cautious about:
  • VoIP should not share the same network cables as computers because VoIP telephones communicate at a fraction of the speed at which computer networks communicate.  If both share the same cable, the slower one will dictate the speed of both, potentially slowing down the computer system significantly.
  • VoIP for internal communications makes great sense.  However, if a church changes their external communications to VoIP it may be surprised to learn just how intermittent the Internet really is!  This is one area that takes serious research before making a decision.
  • Email & Website Browsers.  Today everyone on a church’s staff should be connected to the church’s email system to facilitate the quick and easy communication of the team.  Many on the team may also need access to the Internet for research.  One caution is that many have gotten hurt because of the Internet’s dark side.  Establishing solid protections for the team, such as Covenant Eyes accounts ( is an important investment in them that could also help save a church’s community reputation.
  • Facsimile (FAX) Machine.  Though FAX technology has not progressed like other communication methods, having a FAX machine is still a necessity.
  • Mailing Equipment.  Labeling systems or computer programs that add the postal bar code to addresses can save significant dollars in postage and speed up delivery.  But postage meters, while convenient, can cost $1,000 or more per year.  We recommend buying postage stamps instead.

Church Databases
Most churches use computers today to automate or simplify many office tasks.  While many programs (like word processors) are fairly easy to choose, some (like church databases) require more research to ensure a good fit.  And because changing databases is also a change in business practices, shortcuts should be avoided.

  • Identify & Prioritize Your Needs.  In what ways do you hope a church database will help you?  The answers will probably fall into categories of member information (addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, anniversaries, contributions and attendance tracking, etc) and accounting (general ledger, check writing, payroll, etc).  After you’ve compiled your list, then prioritize it.
  • Find the Best Software to Meet Your Highest Priority.  If a church decides its highest priority is fund accounting or children’s ministry security / attendance, that will help them objectively identify the right database.  It will also help ensure that all facets of the ministry were examined so that all bases are covered.

If updating a church office increases staff morale and productivity, dollars wisely spent in this area are a good investment in the future of your church’s ministry.

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