6.07.2007

A Church Full of Ministers

I have personally never attended one of those churches that have an
array of full-time staffers for every ministry: a full-time youth
pastor, a full-time music minister, and one or more senior pastors,
for example. A lot of people like such places, and why not - you get
all your needs met, and by competent people who are good at what they
do and get to focus solely on it.

The church my family attend does not have such a luxury. Oh sure, we
have competent staff who are good at what they do, but our budget
constrains us to using ten hours of one person's time here, 25 hours
of another person there, and so on. There are three reasons for this
cobbled together approach, which I'll list from least important to
most important:

1. We don't have a lot of rich people in our congregation. We are a
generous church in every sense, including financially: I don't doubt
that most people give a tenth of their income if not more. But a
tenth of $30,000 is still less than a fifth of $120,000, which means
we just have less money coming in from tithes and offerings.

2. We have an old building to maintain. Our physical plant costs
more than the typical church's to heat, cool, and keep in one piece.
It's a wonderful resource - in addition to our congregation, we host
an Ethiopian church and a Chinese church, as well as scores of other
one-off gatherings - but it takes away money that might otherwise be
spent on personnel.

3. We believe in the priesthood of believers. The dangerous thing
about a full complement of competent staff is that congregants can
forget that the job of paid ministers is not to minister as much as to
help us all be ministers. What better way than to put all the saints
into motion, as volunteer helpers in Vacation Bible School and
landscaping and visitation?

This all reminds me of a leadership class I took, in which the
professor urged us to consider how to pretend as if our staff were all
volunteers, to impel us into thinking about non-monetary ways to
motivate and inspire them. I laughed, raised my hand, and replied
that at my job at the non-profit I was working with at the time, most
of my staff were volunteers.

But it occurred to me that our financial limitations, while I might've
cursed them every day, were blessings in disguise, because they did
force me to be a better leader, in terms of working hard to help my
staff find fulfillment in their jobs and in their work environment.
And it occurs to me that our church's financial limitations are
similarly a blessing in disguise, for they open the opportunity for
the whole congregation to play the role of minister.

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