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 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.
My all-time top article is this one on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (aka Why I Decided to Start this Website)—it started out as my home page, but I’ve since moved my articles up front, and decided this deserved a page of its own.
My next most popular articles are all related to Terminations:
- What Do You Do When Your Job is Terminated?
- How to Get Over a Painful Termination–Or Can You?
- On Not Agreeing to Disagree: Supporting Gay Marriage and Losing Your Job
- Is There a Better Way to Terminate an Employee?
- Life in the Fishbowl and Why Your Pastor Left
- The Most Hilarious Job Description and How to Update Yours
- Do You Have a Toxic Skill and What Can You Do About It?
- Is Self-Care Part of Your Paid Employment and Should It Be?
You can read the latest here, and for future articles related to church employment, please sign up for my free email updates by clicking the button below.