Monday, March 5, 2012

Church People or Christians?

A small local church is searching for a new pastor. They are an aging congregation with few, if any, families with children. After their previous pastor of six years retired, they are looking for a younger minister with a wife and children, who "can attract young people." Their written requirements are that their pastor will work a minimum of 40 hours a week, leading three worship services a week (Sunday morning and evening, plus Wednesday evening); keep the office operating during "normal hours;" visit the sick and the elderly. Their unwritten expectations are that he will actually put in 60 or more hours a week; be in the church office from 8 to 4, including lunch hour; be reachable 24/7; visit every member in their homes at least twice a year, preferably in the evening; know about every event in every member's life, even when not notified; always deliver life-altering, inspiring messages; and always maintain an appearance that will make the members proud, which includes sharp clothing and a nearly new, well-maintained car.

When a member who is not on the search committee objected about these expectations, and suggested that the church members themselves should be active in the church's ministry, the response in so many words was, "That's what we pay the pastor for."

The compensation package they are offering is $2000 per month plus $600 per month housing allowance. That's $24,000 per year salary. No health insurance. No pension plan. In that area, a house to rent or buy starts about $800 per month for an old cracker box, plus utilities and insurance. Their previous pastor was able to live on $1600 a month and $500 housing, by supplementing with his and his wife's Social Security and previous retirement funds.

Just to step aside for a second, the Church in general wonders why young people are no longer attracted to the ministry. Let's see, it's not uncommon for a newly ordained minister to owe $100,000 or more in education loans. You may find it hard to believe, but this not not an unusual compensation package from a typical small church that a newly ordained minister would serve.

How do I put this? Uh... duh!

When that same member I mentioned above asked about their compensation package, and how a pastor could live on that, the general answer was, "Well, his wife can get a job." Which brings up another set of unwritten expectations. His wife will make up for the lack of compensation, and her job will provide their health insurance. In that area, unless she's a school teacher (and if the school will hire her), the job prospects include local office secretary and... well, that's about it. That means just a little over minimum wage plus (hopefully) health insurance. Oh! And let's not forget that she will participate in all women's activities and possibly teach a Sunday School class. (She'll be heavily criticized for working instead of coming to the women's group that meets after lunch on a weekday.)

By the way, I'm not writing to stir up anything about women's rights and equal opportunity. So please, no comments on that for this posting. But I might as well confirm that even though this church will consider women as candidates, it's highly unlikely any will actually be considered. Not that they have anything against a woman as pastor. They just aren't... well... comfortable with the idea.

In his "Sermon on the Mount," Jesus said, "Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7.20-23)

Put another way: Many will say, "Didn't we do this and that in your name?" And his answer will come back, "Well... no." Sure, they did this and that. But in Jesus' name, as truly representing him? Hardly.

This church just interviewd a promising young man who has a wife and child. He gave a really inspiring message. But after the interview, he withdrew himself from consideration. The church people couldn't figure out why he backed out. Amazingly, it wasn't the compensation package that ultimately turned him away. The reason he backed out? Too many church people. Not enough Christians.

No comments:

Post a Comment