In fact New Balance is the only athletic shoe company still manufacturing shoes in the United States. Other companies make their shoes in China, and increasingly in Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, and other nations where workers make about $4 a day in some cases.
Of course we want good deals, but at what cost? Would we spend a little more money on food, clothing, and other goods if it meant that people were paid fairly? Would we buy cute clothes from our favorite store even if we found out they were made by children in sweat shops?
It costs more to do the right thing.
Institutional churches are generally struggling financially, but even before this was the case – or maybe it was always the case – some congregations have historically not done the right thing when it comes to paying their staffs fairly. I can’t tell you how often I hear my Christian sisters and brothers say things like this:
- If we hire a clergy couple for a single position, we’ll get two for the price of one.
- Why does our pastor deserve a sabbatical? I don’t get a sabbatical in my job.
- She can buy her own computer.
- Why would we help pay his cell phone bill?
- Do we have to reimburse our pastor for highways tolls, or just mileage?
- Why can’t our music minister find a cheaper conference to attend?
- Do we have to pay for that conference and his room and board?
- The manse doesn’t really need air conditioning.
- We can’t afford to give our staff a Christmas bonus.
As I help search committees ponder the Terms of Call for their new pastors, the focus is often on “what we can get away with” rather than “what we can do to support and honor our pastors.” And this is perhaps a bigger issue for church musicians, educators, sextons, office managers, and financial secretaries.
I found in parish ministry that church staff members serve sacrificially. No matter how hard they work, they rarely receive raises and there might be years when there’s not even a cost of living increase. It makes my heart sink when someone says – during contract negotiations – “In the business world . . .
- we don’t pay this kind of severance package.”
- we don’t recognize staff for beyond-the-call-of duty work.”
- we don’t give extra time off for family emergencies.”
Remember that Jesus said we are to make earth as it is in heaven. We in the church are supposed to emulate the Kingdom of Heaven, not the business world. I want my church to be Christ-shaped, not world-shaped.
So, as you – wonderful congregations – ponder your church staffs’ salary and benefits for 2013, please do not take advantage of those who serve your congregation professionally. Be as generous as you can be for deserving staffers. Do the right thing.
It will cost more, but it’s wrong to take advantage of people.