This first ran here three years ago, but on the weekend I was reminded that this crazy policy still exists in some denominations…
Darlene Kirk smiled at the greeter at the church’s west doors, but with a 3-month old in one hand and a bag of diapers in another, taking a church bulletin was physically impossible, so she simply walked by. Fortunately, her husband Tom had taken the other three children when he left early for the worship team sound check.
Arriving at the nursery check-in station she met Cynthia, who was in her small group.
“Have you heard?” asked Cynthia; and then without waiting for a reply, continued, “The entire church staff has resigned. Everybody including the janitor.”
Darlene just stared at her, then finally got out the words, “There are 14 people on full-time staff here.”
“It’s a policy;” continued Cynthia, “from before we all started coming here. When the senior pastor resigns the other staff are expected to tender their resignations. It’s supposed to be a courtesy thing, but the new pastor has the option to accept or reject their letters, and the new minister has chosen to accept all their resignations.”
Darlene was non-plussed. “You mean Melissa’s not the Children’s Director?”
“No. And Derek is not the youth pastor, and Maggie is no longer the secretary.”
“So who is going to do those jobs?”
“Right now, it’s up to the new pastor, but he’s not from here, so I don’t know how he’s going to do that before he gets here.”
“This is just wrong.”
“Apparently it’s church policy and it’s a fairly common thing in churches.”
Common or not, I have to agree with Darlene. This is just wrong. Under whatever conditions it was instituted, it seems to reflect another time, another place, another set of conditions.
It also describes a world in which the pastor is all-powerful, all-authoritative. A world where the pastor is a God.
To go along with this, a pastor has to be determined to miss out on what God might have for his own personal, professional and spiritual development; the benefits that come when, over a lifetime, you get to interact with people from a broad range of backgrounds and interests.
It is, if anything, the first step to denying the uniqueness of the town or city in which you are called/sent to minister. It’s an attempt to plug in a ministry module — in this case, the man himself and those who think and act like him — into what is believed to be a “one size fits all” ministry situation.
It turns local church ministry into a revival roadshow where the traveling carnival team pulls into town not for a few weeks of meetings, but for several years. Stories of men who bring their own secretary with them are not unheard of, but given the interaction that a church administrative assistant has with the congregation; it becomes difficult to do this in a location that is completely foreign.
It disrupts the lives and stability of people like Darlene who are trusting Melissa, the Children’s pastor for the oversight and care of her four children, including that 3-month newborn. It changes the dynamic for her husband Tom, a respected worship leader who has been given much latitude by the present Music Director that allows him a freedom in worship that the congregation recognizes and embraces.
It’s also an admission by the incoming pastor that maybe there are people out there with whom he can’t work; with whom he can’t get along.
Or it may be a giant power play.
It shatters the careers of eight of the 14 people in Darlene’s church who are in full-time vocational ministry and moved to this community to further their calling in visitation, discipleship, music, youth (2), Christian education, seniors ministry and urban outreach; all of whom must now circulate resumés and prepare to re-settle, one of whom just arrived six months ago from the other side of the country.
No exceptions. No compassion. No face-to-face meetings with the people just dismissed.
This is standard operating procedure in many U.S. denominations and at least one in Canada. It’s a policy that needs to be repented of.
Darlene opened the door to let Cynthia in.
“Good timing, Cynth; the kids are all settled down.”
“You sounded like it was important.”
“Yeah,” Darlene continued; “We’ve decided to leave Central Church.”
“Is it because of the staff thing?” quizzed Cynthia.
“Yes and no. I can get to know new people, and I’m sure they’ll be qualified; but it bothers us that a system exists that allows this to happen; that everybody accepts that this is how it’s done. Tom found about a fairly new church about five miles further that’s desperate for some help in their music department, and the kids will fit in right away because they use the same curriculum and they know some of the kids from school. I’m sorry….”
“No, it’s not your fault. We’ve been wondering about all this ourselves… Maybe we’ll come to visit on Tom’s first Sunday leading the worship.”