2 Lies of Church Employment


Each week I encounter a new story of a church worker that angers me. These are stories from youth workers who have been wronged by the people they trusted with their lives… their church employer. Churches who fire them because they didn’t reach the right kids. Churches who fire a staff member because their spouse got pregnant. Churches who fire because a senior leader wants to hire a younger youth worker.

If not for a deep love of God and His bride I don’t think these people could go on. Know right now that I have a deep love for the church. This is not an attack. This post acknowledges that there are churches who are good employers and bad employers. (There’s my first disclaimer)

It sickens me that things routinely happen in the church, a place that represents Christ the king of Justice, that would be illegal in a business. It sickens me that I routinely encounter people who are wronged, been discriminated against, treated unfairly, not paid according to their contracts… and all of these people have a deep love for the church that just takes it.

I want to share with you two lies of church employment. These are lies that are so commonly believe that it will shock you when I address them.

1. The church is exempt from all employment laws. I’ve heard this lie so many times that I was SHOCKED to discover it is not true. A church is an employer in the United States. All employment is governed by the Department of Labor. There are very few places where the church is allowed to be exempt, your church better talk to a lawyer. But, in total, the church is not exempt from the basic provisions the government outlines. The biggest violations I see over and over involve the minimum wage laws. Unless you are a “professional” (e.g. ordained and/or certified somehow as a professional by an organization) your work is covered by the minimum wage law. So a church cannot tell you, “we’ll pay you the first 30 hours per week, but you are required to work 10 more as ministry hours.” If it is required, and you are hourly, they must pay you for that work time as well as overtime. Nor can a church have unpaid interns. Churches do this so often that you think its OK, it’s not. You can have all the volunteers you want. But if you call someone an intern and they have set work hours, you have to pay them. (Cash payment can be offset by living expenses, but its taxable income too!) This stuff goes on and on. The church, outside of “professionals” is not exempt from discrimination laws. (Age, sex, religious background, ethnicity, you know the routine) Nor can a church make your spouse and/or childrens attendance required as a term of your employment. Nor can they fire you because you are too old. Nor can they pass you over because of your gender or ethnicity. In short, the church is not exempt from federal employment laws in all areas! There is an assumption that the church can do whatever they want… they can’t.

2. You can’t take legal action against a church when you are wronged. This is a cultural stigma, isn’t it?  In the last 5 years I’ve repeatedly encouraged those wronged [I term this “left for dead”] to hire an attorney and pursue legal action. I don’t know of a single case where a person did that. Why? The stigma of suing a church is so strong. People always toss out a Bible verse and say, “it’s wrong to sue Christians.” I would agree with you if that’s what the Bible actually said! If you think its wrong to ever sue a church or an individual, please go read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 right now. Paul is not saying you can’t ever sue. He’s saying people within the church shouldn’t sue one another over trivial things.

A family bankrupted and left for dead by their employer is hardly trivial! What about the pastor fired because the board wants someone younger? Not trivial. What about the salaried staff member who has wages garnished because he left 30 minutes early on a Sunday after putting in 60+ hours the rest of the week? Not trivial. What about the church worker who has a church completely violate his privacy and discloses medical information to the congregation? Not trivial! What about the church worker who has his contract changed whimsically by the board… he’s the youth pastor one day, the childrens pastor the next, and maybe not employed the third day. Trivial? These things are happening RIGHT NOW, like this week. Shouldn’t those people do something about it?

Simply by working at a church these people have not given up their rights to be treated fairly. Our legal system provides avenues of correction for both employee and employer. We all know 99% of these cases would never make it to a trial, but church workers need to feel the freedom to protect themselves. And churches need to know that they can’t mistreat workers.

When I hear these stories I know that most churches do what they do to their staff because they feel like they are exempt from employment laws and that no one will ever sue them. The sad reality is that nothing will change until we educate ourselves about our rights and make it known that church staff will take legal action against villanous churches who wrong workers.

I smell a guest post from an employment lawyer coming. If you want exact information about a situation, please consult an attorney. Just so everyone realizes this… I’m not giving legal advice! (There’s my second disclaimer)





52 responses to “2 Lies of Church Employment”

  1. Kara Avatar

    thank you so much for tackling the tough topics on your blog that no one ever wants to talk about. i appreciate it a lot, and i’m glad you posted this.

  2. Joel Diaz Avatar

    i have seen so many of these situations occur around me. i have seen friends marriages and families almost destroyed. all because they wanted to take a “different” direction after only 9 months of employment. the church forced them info signing a letter turning down any legal action for a severance package.

    i would be interested to learn what the law is concerning such letters.

    1. Karen Avatar

      This just happened at the church I work for. So many especially unethical things going on there. One in particular that is so unethical. But I have no idea what to do. Had a restructuring this fall to cut expenses. The wife of the chairman of personnel committee is on staff and was given a promotion. Now these coordinators (she is one) are being given big raises. I’m not even being paid the budgeted amount and I’ve been there two years. I’m being accused of using this inside info in order to get a raise. I do HR/payroll. What do I do?

  3. jess Avatar

    cant tell you how many times ive been looked over for a ministry position because i was female. i was even asked (in “nice” terms) to leave because the church wanted a male to fill the position i was in. awesome. thanks for posting this…

    1. Pat Avatar

      But Jess, you’re trusting humans for your desire. Have you serious sort after God’s will & desire? Is God calling you to ministry and to what position? Ministry is about what God wills not what we want. Seek,desire, and follow His command. It’s always the best. Don’t get caught up in peoples opinion. Study scripture for God’s true, wisdom, & direction for your life. Peace 🙂 https://www.gotquestions.org/women-pastors.html

      1. Evelyn Rogers Avatar
        Evelyn Rogers

        I’ve always liked gotquestions.org but didn’t realize it was so biased until this moment. You should check out the book the Blue Parakeet, it’s an excellent book on Hermeneutics and explains this much better!

    2. Mercy Ministry Avatar
      Mercy Ministry

      The real church of Jesus Christ is limited to those who obey the Lord and His commands. John 3:36
      Women are not to usurp authority over a man.They are not allowed to be pastors. Only someone who has the holy spirit of God living inside them would agree with this teaching because it comes from the bible. The Lord is the creator of the Heavens, the earth and the sea and all that is in them. I can assure you that when we breath our last breath, everyone will get God’s “justice “. Christians in this country need to repent and stop trying to double dip. You can’t be a friend of God and a friend of the world. The word of God says whoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God. Read what Jesus says in Matthew chapter 7:15-23. The person that wrote this lie about lawsuits being okay in the Bible is lying to you, but the word of God tells us that it pleases the Lord to crush those who did not love the truth. May God have mercy on these who are believing a lie.
      Read 1 and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2.
      Only those who agree with God and desire to do His will, will enter into His home (Heaven).
      I pray that God would reveal His truth to you.

    3. Evelyn Rogers Avatar
      Evelyn Rogers

      That’s terrible! It seems that uneducated men keep taking Scripture out of context and do not realize that the passage is actually talking about them! You need to be educated before you teach! It’s not about gender. “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.” Which means, in this case, men keep using this certain passages out of context to prove something the Bible never says!

  4. adam mclane Avatar

    @jess- I’m sorry that the church discriminated against you based on your gender. This should change.

  5. christy Avatar

    Awesome article! I am a white woman married to a black man–2 stikes against me. I am currently the youth director in a small town. The chair of the SPRC told my husband that we couldn’t hold hands in church! I told my Senior Pastor that if we heard one more word of “advice” from that woman, or him, we would be seeking legal advise. In the meantime, we are looking to leave this place!

  6. Bradley Buhro Avatar

    I hope you know I appreciate you and the work you do encouraging ministers, especially youth workers. Thank you for all of it – your blog, your twitter feed, your work at YS. And I think the church needs to hear these things. Thanks for speaking to the church on these issues. And thanks for being there for your friends.
    Like yesterday though, I’m afraid that youth pastors and other staff members might need to hear something else. I’d challenge your assumption that Paul is only speaking about not taking fellow Christians to trial over “trivial issues.” Instead he’s challenging those who tend toward litigation that compared to the kingdom all such issues are trivial. And I realize I speak as one of the lucky ones who hasn’t been as deeply hurt as others by the church. However, the principle Paul is articulating here is that while you have every right to sue, Christianity is about laying down rights in order to become a servant to others. To cite another of Paul’s themes from 1 Corinthians, it might be permissible, but it may not be beneficial either to you or for the church. Setting aside the damage that can be done to the kingdom by litigation – because let’s be honest, the church has already done this damage by treating you unjustly – fighting back cheats you. Suffering innocently without seeking retribution is the one aspect of Christ’s life that we can share in. It is our one opportunity to be like Jesus. Isn’t it better not only for the kingdom, but also for you to be wronged? Doesn’t 1 Peter 2:20 say that the one thing commendable before God is to suffer for doing right?
    One should probably point out that Paul himself was not above appealing to the legal authorities to avoid mistreatment, however. Once again, I don’t think you are forbidden to resort to law. But it may not be in your best interest. Permissible yes. Beneficial, maybe not.
    Anyway, thanks again for speaking to the church on behalf of their staff. And thanks for letting me speak to fellow pastors. I think both of these messages need to be heard.

    1. Bruce Avatar

      I don’t agree Bradley. Jesus doesn’t just love the pastors and upper staff but He loves the Church. People that support the staff in so many ways. The pastoral staff are the leaders and they have a responsibility to there support staff to treat them with more love and respect than they them selves. To be a Christ one Jesus has given us plenty of examples of this in the Gospels. To many to quote. As a teacher he holds teachers to a higher standard and if you take on that role one needs to be ready for sacrifice and to show accountability for HIS or HER actions.

      Most employees of a Church will come to serve for a low wage or salary because the truly want to use there talents for the lord. Yet some Hollywood syndrome comes over the pastors and the elders thinking they are worth so much more and believe the deserve more or they are so much better. At least in Hollywood the get credited at the end of the movie. This is what discredits The Lord not the law suit. So here is the rub, That you don’t understand Jesus really loves the sacrifice that all is contributing. Pastors and business staffers need to be on there knees everyday for direction in this as to not discredit our lord. In my eyes they need to be the first respondents to problems and be ready to turn the other cheek to make things right. not just to say your sorry with now meat on it either. This goes for all that are in positions above another in chain of employment in the Church business plan.

      Over the years I have seen it over and over how pastors and managers of staff in big churches look down on the person that is doing the most work.
      If you are a pastor or in a business pastoral position you need to really put yourself aside and take a hard look at the labors of the workers supporting you. Be sure they are being taken care of and praise the Lord for there service publicly.
      To many times I have seen large Churches that have extravagant buildings and possibly even a corporate jet and yet they have personnel that are struggling financially barely being able to have a good meal daily.
      The responsibility doesn’t just go for the pastors and business supporters also it is the responsibility of the congregation to serve in there financial worship to provide for the church and the people that work there. Be in touch with those who serve and know there needs willing to help.
      Something that I have always wondered is this why do so many Christians that want something or they need someone else to do What they can’t but need go to another christian asking a lower price when they were willing to pay the non christian the same or higher price?

      I don’t mean to offend you by any of my thoughts but there is labor abuse in churches and it should not be ignored. Churches need to step up to resolve this before it happens and if it is take care of it immediately.The leaders of the church the responsible one and are held to a higher standard in Gods eyes. In fact as Christian business owners as well.
      I pray that the Lord will use these words in the hearts of those who read them.
      God Bless you

    2. John Wilson III Avatar
      John Wilson III

      Bradley read your comments, I agree with the author in that Christians should not make it a practice to sue one another It is not a good testimony of unity. However, please know when a church has a pastor sign a contract this is creating a potential lawsuit. You stated you have not been severely hurt or mistreated by church leadership as it related to employment, if you had you would understand that passage better practically as opposed to theologically. Pastors have famlies, needs and expenses, and they are counting on that contract to be honored. It is very difficult for a pastor to find another job in ministry when he is fired. Thx!

      1. Mercy Ministry Avatar
        Mercy Ministry

        Can you please cite the scripture verse that says God’s pastor’s are hired and are to sign contracts? Last I checked pastors are “called” by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to Shepherd the flock “called out”. Born again believers who have repented of their sin, surrendered their life to Jesus. There’s a reason why Jesus says, whoever does not hate his own life is not worthy to be my disciple. You must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”. Pastors have needs and expenses and the real pastors called by God, put their faith and trust in God to provide their basic needs and put their faith into action by praying for those who have persecuted/ wronged them. Not file lawsuits. A real christian knows and believes God’s word, that when people hate us for the sake of Jesus Christ, they really hate Jesus. Real christians bring their petitions to the Lord, when you have been wronged and love their enemies. Paul appealed to Cesar because an action was brought against him. God’s word doesn’t say we can’t defend ourselves in a suit, but we are not to initiate lawsuits.

        1. Rev. Angel Christ Avatar
          Rev. Angel Christ

          Mercy Ministry, I am always leery of a ministry that takes its name from an attribute of God. My experience is that ministry often does not reflect the very attribute to which it aligns. Your overall responses to this blog don’t sound very merciful. Your arguments are the same arguments that have been used down through the centuries, primarily by white males, to create horrific systems of injustice in the name of Christ. It seems that control of others through the use of scripture is your goal, not a cultivation of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, mercy, justice or righteousness

          The Bible has a great deal to say about the importance practicing justice and confronting injustices. Taking one verse from the Bible (even if you interpret it differently) and isolating it from all the others, creates a distorted understanding of God and his mission in Christ. This is called “proof-texting” and no legitimate voice utilizes it.

  7. adam mclane Avatar

    @bradley- I hear you. If it weren’t for the fact that there is systemic abuse of that principle than my second point wouldn’t be needed. Precisely because churches know they can appeal to the “let’s cover this up for the sake of the body of Christ” many lives of people giving their careers to church are being destroyed.

    I seem to remember Paul appealing to Rome. Is that not true?

  8. Bradley Buhro Avatar

    @adam That’s precisely what I had in mind when I said Paul was not above appealing to legal authorities. There were some differences though – most notably, the mistreatment he was appealing was suffered not at the hands of the church, but at the hands of the local authorities.

    So it seems like it’s not a hard and fast rule: “Never sue.” But it’s also not “You ought to sue.” It’s probably somewhere in a messy middle. Churches need to know they aren’t above the law. And ministers need to know they don’t have to stoop to resorting to the law.

    Thanks again!

  9. julie Avatar

    well said, adam.

    @bradley, there should be no one more interested in justice than a church – including for their employees.

    1. Julia Avatar

      What can I do if the Pastors wife slaps me 3 times pushes me out of jeoulousy and force the deacons to fire me without a valid reason.

      1. Adam McLane Avatar

        File a police report for battery and get an employment attorney?

  10. Steve Avatar

    I love the approach Andy Stanley describes. He wants the church to be the greatest job his staff people have ever had. Like Jesus (and Boaz in the OT), the church should seek to go beyond the requirements of the law and offer grace to it’s staff people. Besides, the church staff people I know aren’t in it for the $$, they give their lives to the work of Jesus in the church. The least the church could do is honor them in return.

  11. Jonas Knudsen Avatar

    @adam, Thank you and AMEN!

  12. Tiffany Nichols Avatar
    Tiffany Nichols

    I have been the organist at my church for the past six years. I am single and now pregnant. I have been advised by some of the church officials to resign because of my “situation”. I feel that the church should be there for me when I am “down and out”. Our church is full of alcoholics, drug addicts, adulterers, etc. and I feel that they are not in the position to judge me. I am going to step down quietly but I will not be returning after my baby is born. These are my Christian brothers and sisters who say they love me in Christ. They are all hypocrites.

    1. Slippy Richard Avatar
      Slippy Richard

      Are they all hypocrites? Or just the 1 or 2 who approached you privately with their own concerns?

    2. Mercy Ministry Avatar
      Mercy Ministry

      1 corinthians 5:9-13
      If you had any love for your brothers and sisters in Christ you wouldn’t be making them choose between loving you or loving Jesus. After all, Jesus is the one who suffered a brutal death to save them from God’s wrath. Romans 5:8-9. Not you.
      Romans 1: 28-32 God will hold every person accountable who approves or turns a blind eye to sin and holds a person as guilty as the person who committed the sin. It’s similar to “guilty by association.” Its a biblical principle used by our justice department. I pray that you would repent and be healed from your bitterness. I really do

  13. […] Adam shares 2 interesting posts about church employment: 3 Musketeers of Church Staff & 2 Lies of Church Employment […]

  14. Gman Avatar

    Just heard this week of 2 youthworkers with great youth ministry websites and free resources being let go from their churches …when will the mess end?

  15. College admissions Avatar
    College admissions

    Great article. I agree with everything you read here. I would like to congratulate the writer and encouraged him to continue writing such valuable

    materials. Good luck for the next.

    More Details:
    Church Jobs

  16. Church Jobs Avatar
    Church Jobs

    Great article. I agree with everything you read here. I would like to congratulate the writer and encouraged him to continue writing such valuable materials. Good luck for the next.

    More Details:
    Church Jobs

  17. […] churches regularly break various federal employment laws, claiming to be exempt of all federal employment laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The church is not exempt […]

  18. Joe Avatar

    a friend of mine she teaches at a church they are laying her off. and told her she is not be eligable for unemployment benefits.is this true?

    1. adam mclane Avatar

      This might be true. It depends on the state and how they had her classified. Was she a regular employee?

  19. Rob Canavan Avatar

    What about forcing the resignation of one pastor because He is engaged to a staff member that has resigned..just curious if that is considered improper firing.

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Was there a policy in place prior to this occurring? If not, sounds unethical to me. Worth noting that there’s a difference between unethical and illegal. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years the Supreme Court has deferred employment matters on any religious institution… and now “closely held” for-profit back to the leadership.

      So, working at a church has become, “Buyer Beware.”

      1. Rob Canavan Avatar

        No there was/ is no policy. He used the line that God told him my season was done as well as my fiancé. When in asked about severance he/they were offended..but reluctantly gave a small love offering on my last sunday. It amounted to 2 pay ckecks..great full for nothing..but felt unfairly fired and therfore unfairly compensated. Thanks for your quick reply! I appreciated your info.

        1. Adam McLane Avatar

          My advice is to get it all in writing. Ask for the notes from the meeting. If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, make an appointment with an employment attorney to see if there’s anything that can be done. Every state is different and the legal climate is different everywhere.

          I used to think that being quiet and letting yourself get bought off was just part of the game in ministry. But that’s not what I think anymore. Transparency and accountability are what’s needed. The church should be the best place in town to work, above EOE regulations instead of hiding below them.

      2. Mercy Ministry Avatar
        Mercy Ministry

        “Working at a church” is a contradiction God’s church is a group of people that God has called, saved, and set apart for accomplishing His will on earth as it is in heaven. The advice you are giving is contrary to the teachings of Jesus and I can assure you that you will give an account to the Creator of the Heavens the earth and the sea and all that is in them, when you breathe your last. God’s people serve the body (church), and trust the Lord for their provisions. I can understand why you would encourage a lawsuit, it totally absolves one from obeying the commands of God in 1 John 3:17-18, Which is a sin to ignore. Jesus taught, when you give, give expecting nothing in return. Not even a thank you. Nothing means just that, nothing. This is what sets the sheep apart from the goats. You might be talking to a church in your article, but you’re not talking to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
        Paul made an appeal to Cesar , but Paul didn’t bring a lawsuit. God’s word doesn’t say that we can’t defend ourselves in a lawsuit , we are not to initiate a lawsuit.

  20. Amanda Avatar

    Do you have advice on where our church can find information regarding how we should compensate our youth ministry coordinator (who is an hourly employee) when they travel with the students to overnight events such as church camp. (Sometimes the coordinator drives the students to events, sometimes they are a passenger in the church van while someone else drives. These events typically require that we send a certain number of adults to stay overnight with the students.)

    1. Grant Avatar

      Answering years later, but you can call the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Dept. in your state and ask your question about compensation for the youth ministry coordinator who travels with students to overnight events. There will be a website and phone for the Dept of Labor Wage and Hour Division. My understanding is that the law says hourly employees must be paid for every hour they work.

  21. Gabe Avatar

    So our staff just recently received this email from our HR department:

    Attendance policy
    The intent of this communication is to further clarify the existing “Church Service and Activity Attendance” policy. (See page 38 of the Employee handbook.)
    Employees are required to attend one service weekly. That service can be either Saturday or Sunday at any of the available service times.
    Compliance will be measured on a monthly basis using a “rolling twelve (12) month view and any missed services will be disciplined as outlined below. However, each step of the progressive disciplines must occur in separate months within the rolling twelve month period. I.E. It would take a minimum of four months to progress from a verbal warning to possible termination.
    (1) One missed service within a rolling twelve month period will result in a verbal warning.
    (2) The second missed service that occurs in a month following the month of the initial verbal warning but within the rolling twelve month period; will result in a written warning.
    (3) The third missed service that occurs in a month following the month of the written warning but within the rolling twelve month period; will result in suspension without pay.
    (4) The fourth missed service that occurs in a month following the month of the suspension without pay but within the rolling twelve month period; may result in termination.
    In the event that you are sick, you are still required to attend one service in any given week. However, you can be excused from a full week of service attendance with an appropriate note from your doctor.
    In a given year you can also be excused based on the number of vacation weeks you used. For example, if you have two weeks of vacation you can miss two weekly services without penalty.

    From my understanding, I have to now take a vacation day to miss a weekend service without receiving a warning of some kind? I already work Monday through Friday, and unless I have some available vacation time for an “off day,” I can’t miss a service for whatever reason (visiting family, emergency, etc.). Doesn’t seem right.

  22. Greg Cauble Avatar
    Greg Cauble

    My wife is working for a church part time that believes she gets paid her hourly wage for her work schedule and outside of her work schedule she is a volunteer. She never agreed to such terms. She expects to get paid anytime she is on campus in a work related capacity.
    I’m certain we are correct. If they fire her for pointing this out, are we correct to take legal action?

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      Yes, you’d be absolutely correct to take legal action if her volunteer work were considered part of her duties. Obviously, it’s a little bit of a grey area… but you can’t be expected volunteer for your employer. An hourly employee, even for a church, is like any other employee.

  23. Wendy Crowe Avatar
    Wendy Crowe

    Thank you for this post. After 20 years in ministry, my husband and I ( he’s a music/worship minister) are finding ourselves in a similar situation to those you described. Your post reminds me that we are not alone.

  24. Jennifer Avatar

    I’m curious what stance I have. I was commissioned as the youth and worship pastor (not ordained) and when I wanted to get married I was told to choose marriage or my job. Is this legal? I had been with this ministry for ten years. There was no biblical grounds for why I couldn’t marry other than the pasto felt this wasn’t the person for me.

  25. Chyrlle Fontain Avatar
    Chyrlle Fontain

    I worked for a church for 11 years. The 1st 5 years they did not pay me fo sundays even when I put in 18 hr shifts doing baptisms and setting up staking down tables for Sunday eve dinners and doing funerals and concerts and so on. They put so much work on me I was working starting at 5am and getting done at 12am or more. It’s a 80+ room church and I did every thing. Later a school moved in and I worked getting the school ready as well but did not get the 800 they were paying me because the church made me work over time to get it and with all the work I was already doing I could only get $200 or 300 a month from it doing 17hr shifts. They said they did not want me double dipping so I had to do overtime to get any of it. The rest I found out was used to buy Cleanning supplies for the church. This went on for 3years. They would not buy vacuums for me after a while, so I had to buy them. I had to buy dust cloths for 5 years because they would not supply them. When I hurt my back 3 times real bad they did not tell me they had workers Comp but offered it to a youth minister who only twisted his knee a bit. What should I do?

  26. Cori Smelker Avatar

    I have a question – I work directly for my pastor. He is head of an international ministry and is a good man. He recently got involved in an MLM, which is taking time away from the ministry. He hosts meetings for this in his home and expects me or the maintenance man from our church to set up for the meetings. Last night after church service he asked me to scan and send documents to the MLM organisation on his behalf. He also writes books. The profits from the books are paid into a personal account. The first year I helped him write the books he paid me from the account and it was on top of my regular salary. But the second year he told the church office manager that writing books was part of my job as his admin person and he was not going to pay me. However I am paid by the church, but the books do not benefit the church finances. Is this legal? I want to approach him about these issues however have all my ducks in a row before talking to him.

  27. Sedalia Avatar

    I have been working at 2 churches part time for the past year and I have noticed the same issue at both places. Despite my being a paid hourly-part time office assistant, some church leaders think it’s appropriate to contact me personally outside of office hours about work related issues. I’m not salary, nor am I full time so I’m not sure why there is this gray area of to some people? I’m definitely setting firm boundaries now, but I’m wondering if this is a trend among churches since this is my first year employed by them.

  28. Kay Avatar

    The last position my husband was in, the Sr. Pastor cornered him and threatened to find a way to fire him. He then required he meet with him bi-weekly, in addition to the other days he worked. When my husband asked for a third neutral party to be present, due to the aggressive nature in which the Pastor spoke to him previously, the Pastor refused and told him he would be meeting with the personnel committee in regards to forcing my husband to move on. In the same meeting, he told my husband he was like God to these people and could do whatever he wanted. Whatever he wanted, they would do. When my husband did meet with the personnel committee (on which the Sr. Pastor also served), he was told that he had to do whatever the Sr Pastor requested and that employment laws did not apply to them and they did not view the Sr.Pastors actions of threatening my husband with losing his job, as aggressive behavior. They said he had to meet one-on-one, regardless of how aggressive my husband found the work environment. My husband resigned immediately. Oh, he was bi-vocational at the time.

  29. Helen Avatar

    I’ve worked on staff at my church for several years now and have always been told to just take time off for hours worked over my 25 hours weekly requirement. I’ve NEVER been able to do that and NEVER been paid anything for additional hours (and I’ve worked tons of extra hours) now I’m finding out that advice/practice is against the law per FLSA. I’m paid by the hour. So now I’m more aware and asking my boss about it. Am I due back wages? Any advice for me in this area?

    Thanks for this article!!

  30. Greg Avatar

    I’ve been in full-time pastoral ministry for 30 years. In that time, I’ve served in three ministry assignments– assistant pastor at a church of 2000 (8 years), church planter/pastor (12 years), lead pastor at church of 100 (10 years). In none of these scenarios have I seen myself primarily as an employee, but rather as the Lord’s servant being obedient to His calling. I have never once asked or felt entitled to any certain compensation. I have gratefully lived on whatever the church paid me and trusted God. I entered the ministry not with the attitude, “How much can I get?”, but “How much can I give?” I am now being paid less than I was when I began in ministry in a staff position 30 years ago. That is partly by choice. In each of the ten years I have served here, I have turned down a third of my salary so that we could put it back into the church ministry, including hiring other staff. When I was released from my first position on a large church staff because of a new senior pastor coming in, I didn’t complain, but got permission from my denomination to go 25 miles away and start a new church. Those were a very lean 12 years, but invaluable as I learned to walk by faith and trust God to meet my needs. I wasn’t resentful but joyful (most of the time), to have the opportunity to fulfill God’s call and to learn how He wants to meet our needs– although not our greeds. Yes, it is right for churches to honor (with pay) those who diligently labor on their behalf. But it is not a guarantee or a right. The apostle Paul’s needs were sometimes taken care of by those he ministered to, and on other occasions he was bi-vocational. When you are a servant, and not a mere hireling, you will do what you have to do to serve the Lord without complaining or a sense of entitlement. One day we will stand before the Lord to give account for our faithfulness. On that day we are promised full repayment for anything we have endured or sacrificed for the sake of Christ here on earth. “In everything give thanks.”

    1. Jane Avatar

      Ryan, Is there any cases where employees have been able to hold churches accountable for these actions? I am in a similar situation, and would love to know if there are any cases that could be cited.

  31. Dan Avatar

    Better research the first “lie” a little more…

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