I am going to take a few days to talk to you about your ministers. That is, the preachers, the staffers, the "lovers of your soul." We do not have enough to go around now. More and more are leaving the formal work to pursue another kind of ministry. Still others are pushed out to nothingness.
Please understand what happens to a Free Church minister when he or she is suddenly unemployed, for whatever reason. Do not sugarcoat your dismissal of this person. In so doing, you ruin his life.You do not do this thing for him or for his good. You simply ruin his life.
I have friends who are invited to be staffers at large churches. Large churches build in a clause in the employment agreement that says a staffer can be dismissed without reason on the action of his or her supervisor with one month's severance. My friends will not serve on a large church staff for this reason. They know such a dismissal will ruin their life.
Please do not tell me "God still knows their address." This is no excuse for wreaking destruction on the ministry of a human being and his family.
In fact, do not bother with any of the cliches usually applied to Free Church ministers. The fact is churches often do a poor job of vetting the minister before they call him or her. Their help to determine him is often provided by some outdated, ineffective form from the office of a denominational representative who knows little about what it takes to flourish in local parish ministry.
So, who takes care of the minister? Who protects the staff member from the ravages of the senior pastor who needs to sacrifice a staffer to protect his own place? Who defends the minister from the lunatic who would rather see the Old Building protected than the Kingdom advanced?
Let me suggest, since I will, anyway, the conventions are in bad shape because the healthy churches will have less and less to do with them. The unhealthy churches (their name is Legion) pile up asking for some miracle program to bring them back to their glory days. The churches suffer because the ministers suffer. As in football, where it all comes back to the quarterback, the health of the church comes back to the minister.
How can you help your minister(s)? I want to make some suggestions. You will not like most of them, which makes me think they are right.
- Throw money at him/her. His child needs some shoes for gym or a guitar for music class. He cannot afford them. She has not had a new dress in a year or so. Throw money at him or her.
- Give him a break. I mean a break and a real one. If he has a funeral a week and a wedding each weekend, you are watching him burn out in front of you. Give him a Wednesday away. You do the devotional that week (sermonette for Christianettes). After you get over swallowing your tongue, imagine giving a minimum three major speeches each week for a year. Then multiply by ten.
- Examine your holiday traditions. You do not plan to make all the holiday things at the worship place. He will make them and ignore his family in the process. What will be the result?
- Take the fear out of the work for him/her. He/she sees what needs to be done to make things better. If he/she dares speak out truth, he/she will suffer. So, a few lunatics, a few haters, rule the day. Naturally, the churches suffer because of the tyranny of the mentally and emotionally unstable.
In the next three days, I am going to examine the care of care-givers in ministry. I want to spend some time with community and its loss and with the death/rebirth of cooperative missionary activity. In the new year, some of us will organize a democracy of care-givers to provide for a ministry to ministers. There is just not enough done for these people.
My presupposition is simple. Conventions are dying because churches are dying. Churches are dying because ministers are not healthy. If we take care of the ministers we will go a long way toward taking care of the churches and healthy institutions will arise from the cooperative work of healthy ministers and churches.
One large state convention has put in place a committee (who woulda thunk it) to determine how to entice people to return to their events. I have to tell you, only the most faithful attend funerals. This thing will not get fixed on the convention level. Healthy ministers, who know their strengths and weaknesses, who work on their own health, who work at their calling, who continue education that counts, these ministers, men and women of all generations, will make a difference.
Tomorrow: The Sickness of the Church as a Loss of Community