That indispensible, irreplaceable person

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1436932667489Today I’m saying farewell to my PA.

Loyal, efficient, intelligent, discreet – she is everything I’ve ever wanted from a personal assistant.  And today she’s finishing working with me, and starting a new chapter of service. I’m thrilled for her, even as I count the cost for me.

As the team said our goodbyes to her over lunch yesterday, we all thought the same thing – how on earth are we going to replace her?  Because the reality is that she has been a key part of all our lives, and made us work well, both individually and together.

And the eyes all look to me with the unasked question, so what do we do now?

Well, of course, we are recruiting – we’ve advertised, we’ll shortlist, interview and – if the right person is there – appoint.  Otherwise we advertise again.

But here’s the thing – and this is true whether you’re dealing with staff or volunteers, a committee, a task group or a ministry area – if a team is properly functioning as a team, when you change one member, you change the whole team.

If a team is properly functioning as a team, when you change one member, you change the whole team.

If we are functioning in some way as a body, then we are inter-dependent, each bringing our gifts and abilities, quirks and weaknesses.  And we get used to each other, and the way work with and around each other.

When you change one member of that team, you have to realise that we are not independent and interchangeable Lego bricks.  I mean, if we were a supermarket then one cashier is as good as another, and shelf stackers aren’t noted for their unique flair and style.

But elders, small groups, subgroups and staff aren’t like supermarket staff. We have our roles because of our uniqueness.

No wonder there was nervousness as the team looked around the room, and then at me.

So as we say farewell to my brilliant PA we need to remember three truths:

Everyone is irreplaceable.  We simply cannot find a clone, and nor should we.

But no-one is indispensable.  God has a plan for her replacement, and it’s a plan that means both my old PA, my new PA, and everyone else involved will be blessed in the process.  That’s a key principle for Christian ministry: if God has good works stored up for us to do, that means that any change of roles should produce more of the good works he has ready, not less. We can afford to embrace the change.

So if it effects the team, involve the team.  I won’t shortlist or interview on my own – in fact, our practice is to involve as many on the effected team as possible, so that we all have a stake in filtering out the wrong-uns, and cheering in the one we want.  I mean, the person will be my PA, so I get to decide and appoint, but I have to consider the knock-on for the rest of the team.

If you want to think more about how to interview, I’ve blogged about it here.

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