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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Feelin' Fortunate to be LCMS Right About Now.

So in the course of my blog-scanning I come across a link to this blog whose author is pointing out "Ten Big Church Staffing Mistakes" (The post I've linked to has the first 5). What he has listed and his attitude towards ministry drives me absolutely nuts. He for real sees the church as a results-oriented "corporation" (and here I thought people like that were just figments of an overactive Lutheran imagination), rather than a ministry. I guess it depends on what "results" you want. Many churches are obsessed with numbers these days -- the amount of heads that come through the door. I don't know why that is, to be honest with you. I mean, I obviously know why they think more people coming to church is good -- I just don't know why they would view that as a "result" to be quantified and put in a pie chart for employee-badgering purposes. Let's unpack this a bit, shall we?

The five "mistakes" in that post all assume that churches should be in the business of hiring and firing and paying workers according to these unspecified "results"*. It's really super easy to justify this sort of attitude as a church, since there are a finite amount of resources available with which to get as many results as possible. The leaders in the congregation can always say, "You're not doing the job the way we want it done, so God is clearly not calling you to be in this position for us right now," and fire the employee. On the other hand, if the employee is doing everything the church wants and more, he might get a raise. Pay for performance is the corporate principle involved here. After all, they say, if this can apply to a business that makes unimportant things like widgets, why shouldn't it apply to an important endeavor like saving souls? See how easy that was to justify? Who can argue with getting results for God?

Well, for one, God.

The Bible is positively peppered with ineffective people doing things that didn't make sense to them at the time but paid great dividends later. Don't believe me? Read Jeremiah, who was told flat out by God, "They're not going to listen, but that's ok." Read Hosea, who married a prostitute in an elaborate object lesson. Heck, read all the O.T. prophets. And you want exemples from the New Testament? How many churches today would have hired, say, the Apostle Paul (formerly known as "Saul the Christian Killa"). When God came to Saul on the road, did He tell him, "I'd like to make you an Apostle, but you don't have the requisite experience of previously being my disciple, and I'm not going to lower my standards because that's not good business"? We are the Church. Lowering standards to accomodate people is what we do, because we are God's messengers to the world, and God wants to reach all of them. If God hadn't lowered his standards (ok, not exectly "lowered", but the point is we couldn't meet them) in the first place, we'd all be toast. Foot's on the other hand, now, isn't it?

I know there's a difference between congregation members and church staff -- the staff gets paid. That's it. The staff is still a member of the church. Let's not overthink this hiring process. If the person is able to do the job, and wants to do the job, and has the same heart as the church leadership, what's the problem? If that said person is hired as a Youth Pastor, and doesn't bring in the numbers the church wants, should the church really let that person go? After God has presented this person to them and led them to hire him? How does that work? "Oh, I'm sorry, but we can't keep you on if you're not going to do what we expect from you. We know God led you to us and led you in your job, but things just aren't working out according to an arbitrary human standard we've set up." Maybe God doesn't want your church to have greater youth numbers right now, did you ever think of that? Of course not, because like all corporate entities you have adopted a culture of presumptuousness and food-chain-itis. Maybe the Youth Pastor has been correcting the poor Theology of the past Youth Pastor, who told all the youth that if they didn't go to church and Sunday School God would send them to hell. Maybe God has a specific message to deliver to a specific youth on a specific day by a specific person. Have some fricking faith and love, for God's sake. Literally.

God doesn't work the corporate way, so stop pretending he does. I'm not saying never fire anybody, I'm just saying treat your staff like a God-fueled ministry and not a bottom-line-fueled business. And when you do call somebody to be a member of your staff, take that call very seriously. That person is there for a reason, and not just to do the job you've given them. If you're open to God's leading, the results will be what God wants. And isn't that all that matters anyway?

Contrast the situation described on that blog with the processes of the LC-MS, who have the "call system". In short, this means that once you have called a worker to your congregation, you cannot just "uncall" them at your whim. Now, in extreme cases controversial measures have been taken to get rid of people (most often writing them out of the budget because you have no money), so it's not totally binding. But it does prevent, for example, a new pastor coming in and firing everyone and bringing in all new people, as often happens in churches. The call system isn't perfect, but it's way more Biblical than being able to hire and fire people based upon a power structure within a congregation. That's why today I'm thankful to be Lutheran and not involved in the cutthroat corporate world of Church Ministry.

Oh, and to show you what a fair-minded person I am, I present to you the second 5 of these "staffing mistakes", most of which I agree with.

* And it must be said that some concentration on results can be good, if the results are things like "The Gospel is preached" or "People got more committed to prayer" as opposed to straight numbers.


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