- The church that hires members to serve as administrators, sextons, choir directors, educators.
- The church that loans money to their pastor to cover a home downpayment.
- The church that hires a church member’s firm to paint the sanctuary, re-roof, pave the parking lot, fix the boiler.
If everything goes perfectly well: the church staffer is excellent, the pastor pays her money back, the paving company does a stellar job – then all is well. But what if:
- The organist – who is also a church member – is not working out. It could be anything from addiction issues to tardiness issues to doesn’t-play-well-with-others issues. Maybe he just isn’t a strong organist?
- The pastor is in arrears in terms of paying back the loan. Some parishioners want to forgive the loan out right and others want the pastor to keep up with the payments.
- The paving job was botched and now it will be even more expensive to pave and correct the previous company’s work.
We can all be adults here and talk seriously about Making Changes. But too often feelings are hurt. Blame is declared. And people leave their church – either physically or emotionally, often causing congregational mayhem on the way out.
There are pros and cons to hiring members as staff or as business partners. But mostly there are cons. (I know these are fighting words for those who happily serve their own congregations and are compensated for it.)
There are pros and cons to serving as a bank for church staff. But mostly there are cons. (Yes, most pastors do not have 20% down payment for a home when they move into a new community. But neither do other people.)
Very few congregations do this well. If a church member is on staff, they lose their pastor to some extent. Their pastor becomes their boss.
What are your congregations’ experiences and best practices on this issue? The healthiest I’ve seen:
- Parishioners working for other congregations in their community. They might be active in their own congregations and so they know Church World, but share their knowledge with a church that is not their own.
- Parishioners working very PT for their own churches so that their primary salary is not from their congregation.
- Pastors borrowing money from banks rather than the church coffers.
What healthy processes have you experienced?