I rearranged the furniture in my office a few years ago. I had the typical setup: desk in the middle of the office with cabinets and shelves behind me and a couple of chairs on the other side of the desk for guests to sit in. When people visited me, there was always a desk between us. When I handed papers across the desk, it was perceived as impersonal and by some even imperial. If I wanted to explain a document, I had to come around the desk and sit in one of the chairs – it was sometimes awkward but it did lend a sense of control and power on my part.
A church administrator, by definition, already has a lot of authority in a church. He or she doesn’t need to have an office that reinforces that. The work the administrator does should demonstrate his or her position in the church, not the office. Many people are intimidated when they go to the administrator’s office just because of the position – some people are even quite fearful. I believe the layout of administrator’s office should help put people at ease. Here’s what I did to my office:
I moved my desk to a corner of the office in a position such that I could see anyone who was at my door (which always remains open).
- I even downsized my desk because I keep most files electronically and don’t need a big desk to hold files (a lateral file cabinet holds most files).
- I put a small round table in my office with four chairs. I like round tables because they have no “head” so all chairs are equal.
My office was now set – the round table was the centerpiece (not the desk) and all other furniture was pushed to the sides. Whenever anyone came to my door, I invited them to sit at the table. Most of the time people refused and just asked their question but about once a day, someone did sit and we had a conversation about whatever they needed (I got about 10-15 visitors a day). A couple of times I came to my office only to see others using it because they liked the set up; I took that as a compliment.
Whatever your position in the church, if you have a private office, I encourage you to physically structure your office to eliminate barriers between you and the people you serve. Instead, have a meeting place such as a round table as the main feature which will make your place inviting and less threatening.