One of the fascinating aspects of senior church leaders blogging is that you get an opportunity to see inside their minds a little. Sometimes it is encouraging and sometimes it is not. Recently, I’ve been disappointed by some comments and principles that would be considered unethical or illegal in the professional world in relation to their non-executive staff.
It got me thinking about how churches treat their staff. Wouldn’t it be logical to think that a place which represent Jesus, the King of Justice and Mercy, would be generous to their staff? One would hope so yet we see over and over again that churches abuse the provisions of their charity status to avoid labor laws.
Instead what I see is that non-executive staff are seen as expendable commodities. They are asked to have absolute dedication. They are asked to do their jobs plus “other duties as assigned.” They are asked to work long hours for less than market value. They are told that if they aren’t 10,000% sold out, they should quit. Worse yet, they are hired at low levels and told that higher education is a waste of time and money, thus locking them into that role until the leader tires of them. If they question leadership they are fired. If they try to move up in the world they are fired. If they do anything except what the leaders say, they are fired.
Here’s why I am repulsed by this concept. This represents the very worst of business culture exemplified by the church as a best practice. This is aimed at short term gain instead of what studies consistently say… long term relationships matter in ministry. This leadership style says, “We have the right to hire and fire you at will, but you… as a low level employee… have no power to chose what you want.” This leadership style is confusing and hurtful to staff members and I can provide examples of hundreds of people who have been threatened, mistreated, fired, and manipulated into following a pastor’s will above God’s will.
I promise you this. Mark my words.
- The churches who will endure and endear this generation will be great places to work.
- The churches who prevail into the next generation will invest in staff members through thick and thin.
- They will pay for them to get higher education.
- They will create opportunities for advancement.
- They will constantly remind staff that the most important people are not the up-front speakers and performers but the front line servants.
- They will give staff members time to find freedom from the grind and encourage staff members to love their families above all else.
- They will work less that 50 hours consistently.
- They will reward for things other than numeric growth.
- They will facilitate innovation outside of the executive leaders.
- They will be known in their communities as great employers.
- They will pay a living wage and encourage staff to live within walking distance of the church.
What do you think? Where do you see injustices as a staff member? What do you think churches of the future will do with the staff that they have? Will they even need staff?