When I first accepted my congregation’s call to pastoral ministry, a friend from another church said, “I don’t know whether to say congratulations or condolences.” He was familiar with the stress that can come with any ministry and knew that my congregation’s previous pastor had a tough departure. “I’m worried for you,” he said. He didn’t want me to become another church casualty.
As it turns out, congratulations were definitely in order, since I’ve now been thriving in ministry for over 23 years in the same congregation! At the same time, I can well understand my friend’s concern as I’m all too aware of the employment-related difficulties that many experience in the church and other Christian organizations.
Like the office worker employed by a Christian institution who didn’t even realize that her job was ending and her replacement already hired–until it was announced at the annual staff Christmas party. Or the pastor who was literally in the pulpit one Sunday and gone the next, who either abruptly resigned or was forced out, depending on who you talked to. Or my own husband who was abruptly told his employment was being terminated for financial reasons–after 26 years of teaching at the same Christian college, with a new and younger professor already hired for the following semester.
Is it just happenstance that I’m becoming more and more aware of such stories? Or is employment-related pain as wide-spread in the church as it seems? Not just when it comes to terminations, but around hiring, handling grievances, doing staff reviews, and other employment situations.
Without pointing fingers at any one church or institution, why do churches and other Christian organizations seem to handle employee relationships so poorly? Or is it that Christian employees have unreasonable expectations of their employers? Why do apparently good, well-meaning, Christian people seem to struggle on both sides of the employer-employee relationship?
I decided to start this website not because I’m an expert, but because I want to share what I’m learning and to keep learning from others. Not because I’ve always handled employment situations perfectly, but because I think we need to do better. I think we want to do better as brothers and sisters in Christ, in keeping with God’s call to live with integrity and justice, loving God and loving one another.
When You Work for the Church looks at the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly in church employment with a view to doing better, whether you’re in the role of church employer or employee.
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