So what are the pros and cons of the hire/fire system of the church of America?
- It allows a church to filter out candidates that “don’t fit.” The rationale is that some guys wouldn’t be a good fit for the church that is hiring. For example, a guy from New York City who is used to urban ministry is probably not a great fit for a rural church in the deep south. While this sounds good, this is a pretty lame pro. For now, this “pro” exposes one of the main problems with this system: bringing someone from the outside in. More on that Friday.
That’s the only pro I can really think of. What about the cons?
- Church leadership is based on a business model. Businesses hire and fire people based upon performance and how much profit they make. If the church’s main goal was nickels and noses, this may be a pro. But it isn’t (well, it shouldn’t be). We’re talking about guys with families depending on their salaries to make ends meet.
- Many churches don’t give their guys a contract. In many churches, especially in rural areas, staff and leadership agree to a salary verbally, with nothing on paper. That should be good enough, but unfortunately it is not. Many staff people’s jobs are at the whim of church leaders, many of whom may not be qualified to lead. If they don’t like someone, they simply fire them immediately with no severance pay. Guys get their pink slip with no back up for the next 60 or 90 days until they can find a new church. They’re unprotected.
- Guys get disillusioned with the church. I have a friend who preached at eight different churches in the span of about twelve years. Granted, it likely wasn’t just each church’s fault, but still. The system is broken. This guy now has turned his back on Jesus and is into Native American spirituality. His decision? Yes. But a string of churches giving him the boot probably didn’t help. Not only that, but what do wives and children of guys getting hired and fired eventually think of the church? Undoubtedly, many get fed up with the politics.
- It prohibits mentoring leaders from within the church. Imagine if a church and it’s leadership took mentoring and coaching seriously. Imagine a kid being mentored and trained by the leadership of a church through his middle, high school, and college years. He could learn leadership, preaching, teaching, etc., from those guys with the goal of coming on board staff. But with the system the way it is now, this almost never happens (unless “Junior” takes over for Dad).
- It promotes consumerism. If you don’t like the way a staff member is doing his job, then “make a change.” If several members of a congregation don’t like the staff guy for whatever reason, just “make a change.” The problem with this is that it feeds the consumer mentality, and people begin to think that church is about them. “We give the money, and therefore we should decide who gets it.”
- The attrition rate. I don’t know the current stats, but several years ago, the average guy lasted seven years in ministry. In those seven years, he stayed at one particular church eighteen to twenty-four months on average. So, the average staff person graduated from Bible college/seminary with a lot of debut, went to three or four churches and was out of ministry by the time he was thirty wondering what his theology degree would let him do besides preach.
- Staffers are shackled by the “golden handcuffs.” Preachers feel the pressure of keeping their salary. They know that just a few words could cost them their job. Many will simply avoid saying something, whether from the pulpit or not, that needs to be said in order to maintain their livelihood. It shouldn’t be this way.
- Fallen people are exiled. I know way too many people who’ve been fired from their ministry job because of moral indiscretions. They were fired immediately and told to leave the church and go elsewhere in the name of “damage control.” What does that tell the fallen person who really wants to repent? It tells them that everyone else finds grace and restoration for their sins except me. It also punishes their families, who were likely innocent of any sin. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have stepped down. What I am saying is that there has to be a better way.
I’ll start looking at what the better way could look like tomorrow. In the meantime, share your thoughts.