Friday, May 11, 2007

Paid to Care

I've been reflecting this week on the nature of money and getting paid to care. Being a full-time church pastor paid by the people, for the people--that's where I think trouble lurks for many churches. While I see lots of downsides to paid church ministry, one of the key issues is how inversely proportional congregational involvement is to the amount of paid staff. In some ways it seems innocent enough: we (congregation) need to pay a professional to lead/run the church, and I (recently graduated seminary student with lots of loans) needs to feed family and live under a roof.

But what happens in almost any church is that the amount of ownership and participation decreases--the congregation becomes a passive recipient rather than an active participant. For example, if you look at most worship services, how many people are leading up front? In many contexts we're only talking about 2-3 voices, and if the paid guys aren't up there, I would wonder what we're paying them for (at the same time that I hope to hear a fresh voice). You've heard the jokes: pastors really only work on Sunday, so what do they do the rest of the week? But the only expectation for me as an ordinary schmo is just to show up (and for the leadership, to tithe). And in general we expect pastors to "care" for the flock with visitation, outreach, and a laundry list of competencies and responsibilities--all while the rest of us live our own lives and "volunteer" when we can (but if we can't, O well).

For me to take the "priesthood of all believers" seriously, I can't get paid to care because inevitably you end up robbing the body of Christ from expressing a wider set of its gifts. Once money is in the picture, all sorts of unspoken expectations and motives come into play that "volunteering" is largely free from. Volunteers want to be there.

I realize that in my job search in non-profits, the jobs are also ones where I'm paid to care. Perhaps a little ironic? To connect this with my bivocational journey, "I'm getting paid to care so I can care without getting paid." Perhaps there's a sort of inherent subversiveness in the bivocational mode. I think for missional pastors and leaders, we'll need to unhook ourselves off the life support system of full-time church ministry and see the body of Christ wake up to renewed life again.


EUNICE said...

slightly related...

when a congregational member works 40+ hours per week, he/she can still attend events, sunday school, fellowship and prayer meeting, as well as serve in various ministries, for an added 5-15 hours per week at church.

for a full-time paid church worker, where does the paid part end and the additional "volunteer" hours come into play? i.e. pastors at my church take wednesday mornings off because of prayer meeting at night (at least that's the reasoning i understand), but what about all us other schmos who can't take the morning off to go to prayer meeting. are we then considered more lazy?

Jess Man said...

I've only been on staff at two churches, so the only thing I can think of as "volunteer" for a full-time paid church worker is when they go to an event during their day(s) off. But measuring what constitutes "on the clock" is a tricky thing since every church will have its own work culture. Plus the nature of the work is also relational--does every meeting, conversation, phone call, and party count for "work" hours?

For me, I now understand what Paul means when he wrote on more than one occasion: "In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. But I have not used any of these rights...What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it" (1 Cor 9:14-18). I never want to give the impression that I'm only present because I'm "paid."

Philena said...

Good for people to know.