last updated July 29, 2019
Why I Started This Website
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 turned out, congratulations were definitely in order, since I thrived in ministry for 25 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 professor husband who was abruptly told before Christmas that his employment at our denominational Bible college was being terminated for financial reasons, expected to teach until the end of the spring semester, with a new and younger professor already hired for fall—all this through no fault of his own and after 26 years of teaching and scholarly achievement.
Is it just happenstance that I’m becoming 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.
Most Popular Articles
The top ten articles on When You Work for the Church are:
1. The Best Articles on Self-Care in the Church
This round-up of articles is regularly consulted by ministry students so there’s a spike in views each semester.
2. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
This article explains the start of When You Work for the Church and used to be the home page, but when I moved the current articles up front, I felt it deserved a page of its own.
3. What Do You Do When Your Job is Terminated?
My husband’s sad story of receiving a termination letter just two and a half weeks before Christmas from the Bible college where he had taught for 26 years.
4. The Most Hilarious Job Description and How to Update Yours
A great video on how to explain what you do when you’re a pastor, followed by ten practical tips on updating your job description.
5. Healthy Ministry and the Pastor with Mental Illness
An interview with former pastor, Tony Roberts, followed by an excerpt from his book, Delight in Disorder: The Story of One Pastor’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder.
6. One Pastor’s Story of Recovery from Depression and Anxiety
An interview with Pastor Leonard Klassen on what happened after he experienced a panic attack at his church and his journey of recovery.
7. Seven Ways to Keep Sabbath When You Work on Sundays
Reprinted with permission from Alban at Duke Divinity School, originally published as “Seven Ways for Clergy to Keep Sabbath” by Donna Schaper.
8. God’s Spirit Blowing in a New Direction
My growing conviction to complete my pastoral ministry to invest more deeply in my writing, and how I shared this with my congregation.
9. How to Get Over a Painful Termination—Or Can You?
After I shared my husband’s painful job loss, I received many emails and private messages from others who had experienced difficult endings in their employment. In this article I share the best advice we received on how to grow beyond the pain.
10. Is There a Better Way to Terminate an Employee?
If you’re in a leadership role and responsible for other staff, instead of inflicting pain on others and damaging your own ministry credibility, please read this article. Love mercy, act justly, walk humbly (Micah 6:8).
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For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better: