last updated March 23, 2019
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.
The top ten articles on When You Work for the Church are:
This round-up of articles is regularly consulted by ministry students so there’s a spike in views each semester.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An interview with Pastor Leonard Klassen on what happened after he experienced a panic attack at his church and his journey of recovery.
Reprinted with permission from Alban at Duke Divinity School, originally published as “Seven Ways for Clergy to Keep Sabbath” by Donna Schaper.
My growing conviction to complete my pastoral ministry to invest more deeply in my writing, and how I shared this with my congregation.
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.
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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