How does your church view staff? I hate the word “staff” because it’s a rather mechanical, de-personified way to refer to those who feel called the serve the Lord and His Church in a special way. But, you know what I mean.
In my experience, churches (and each individual Christian) have a view of staff (a culture) that might be categorized as low-staff, mid-staff, or high-staff. Here are the definitions I’m using:
High-staff. Ministers are generally respected for their calling, training, experience, and competency. Salaries are toward the high end of the ministry pay scale and considerable freedom in ministry is given. Those serving in ministry are viewed as gifts to the church, but not gods or hirelings. Church leadership cares about the personal and spiritual well-being of all who serve, not only their “work product.” When staff transitions out, severance pay is sufficient and P.R. is gracious. Ministry tenure is longer, however, not in order to earn credibility. It’s longer because the church has a healthy work culture.
Mid-staff. Ministers are given a base level of respect–but not a whole lot more. Additional respect is usually based on tenure and earned over time. Some staff enjoy high respect, others are viewed with suspicion– based on tenure or certain unwritten congregational code. Salaries can be anywhere from poor to slightly above average–usually depending on tenure. Mid-staff churches might honor the minister’s milestones–ten years of service, etc. However, they rarely show appreciation at other times. Ministers get pay raises when they ask for them, but raises are not usually volunteered by the church. Freedom in ministry is sporadic–frequently depending on whether any elder/board member takes issue with things. Hiring the Senior Minister is done carefully. Other ministry positions are hired less carefully.
Low-staff. Ministers are hired to do what the congregation cannot do because they have “real jobs.” Low-staff churches embody the classic hireling culture. Things you are likely to hear around the building from time to time are, “What in the world are we paying him/her for?” “At my job, I have to…,” “I don’t understand why we have to pay someone to…” The underlying attitude here is that staff is generally unnecessary and works for the members of the church rather than God.
Salaries in “low-staff” churches are generally in the bottom 20%, turnover is fairly high, and people often hire family members or friends of people in the church. When such churches do hire from outside, the hiring process is not typically done carefully. Church staff rarely exceeds three in number. The reason is two-fold and chicken-or-egg: churches try to hire the absolute minimum amount of staff, and “low-staff” churches don’t usually grow large enough to need more than three.
Some questions to think about:
- Would Jesus be pleased with how we treat those serving His church?
- Which environment do you believe most ministers would choose to serve, if given the choice?
- Is there generally a correlation between congregational size and staff culture?
- Which environment best facilitates a minister’s maximum contribution to church health and growth?
- Which environment best facilitates staff continuity?
- Which environment best nurtures the spiritual and emotional well-being of those who serve the church?
Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
Note: This post was originally published in 2012.