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Posts Tagged ‘pastors and staff’

What keeps you awake at night?

When I was a pastor, more often than not, I couldn’t sleep because of church staff members.

Why not?

Because dealing with staff is fraught with danger … real and imagined.

When a pastor hires a staff member, he looks for three primary qualifications: character, competency, and chemistry.

The pastor wants staff members to have character … to lead godly lives and be morally upright.

The pastor wants staff members to have competency … to do their job so well that he rarely has to address any concerns.

The pastor wants staff members to have chemistry … to get along well with him and the other staff.

If a staffer is falling short in any of these three areas, the pastor has to sit down and speak with him or her about his concerns as soon as possible.

And this is where the double bind for him occurs.

Let me offer up an example.

Suppose a board member tells the pastor that the youth pastor left the church campus a half hour early that Sunday morning.  The board member asks the pastor (a) if he knew about this, and (b) if the youth pastor had asked the pastor for permission to leave early.

If the pastor gave the youth pastor permission to leave early, he needs to make that clear to the board member.

If the pastor didn’t give the youth pastor permission to leave early, he needs to find out what’s going on.

Should the pastor call the youth pastor immediately or wait until they’re together on Monday morning?

Let’s say the pastor waits until the next day.  He gets hit with a lot of work when he enters the office and can’t walk down the hall to see the youth pastor until 11:30 that morning.

When he does, he finds the youth pastor is gone … and according to the office manager, won’t be back until Wednesday.

Now the pastor is really upset because the youth pastor reports to him … and the pastor did not give the youth pastor permission to cut out early on Monday or miss the staff meeting on Tuesday.

Should the pastor call the youth pastor immediately or wait until Wednesday?

The pastor decides to call the youth pastor … who doesn’t answer the phone.  The pastor tries again later in the day, but still … no answer.

The next day at the staff meeting, two staff members ask the pastor point-blank where the youth pastor is.  The pastor says he doesn’t know.

After the meeting, the pastor calls the youth pastor again … but nobody answers.

That night, the pastor can’t sleep.  See why?

When the youth pastor finally comes in the next morning, the pastor immediately walks down the hall to speak with him.

The pastor sits down and asks the youth pastor how he’s doing.

The pastor asks about his family and how his ministry went on Sunday.

Finally, the pastor mentions in a matter-of-fact way that (a) the youth pastor was seen leaving early on Sunday, (b) left early on Monday, and (c) didn’t come in at all on Tuesday.

The pastor asks the youth pastor – in a gentle but firm tone – what’s going on.

The youth pastor offers some lame excuses for missing work.  The pastor suspects he’s lying.

They speak awkwardly for a few minutes, and then the pastor – as staff supervisor – tells the youth pastor:

“If you are going to leave church early on a Sunday, you need to ask me first.  If you are going to leave early on a workday, you need to clear that with me first.  If you are going to take a day off during the week, you need to receive my permission first.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

The youth pastor stammers, “Well, I tried calling you, but I couldn’t get ahold of you … so I thought I’d just take the time off and get back to you later.”

When the pastor leaves the youth pastor’s office, he wonders what’s going on.

Is the youth pastor having marital problems?  Could he be addicted to alcohol or drugs?  Could he be working a second job?  Or is he just stressed out and needs to step away from work for a few days?

Here’s one double bind: some board members and staffers are watching how the pastor handles this situation.  If he does nothing, they will conclude the pastor is spineless.

But if the pastor is too hard on the youth pastor, then the youth pastor and his wife … and eventually their friends and many of the youth and possibly their parents … will be upset with the pastor for picking on someone they know and love.

The pastor is thinking, “I’d really like to help the youth pastor if he’s having a problem, but he’s not being honest with me, so all I have to go on is his behavior, which isn’t acceptable.  I need to keep an eye on him from now on.”

The youth pastor is thinking, “Who does the pastor think he is?  I go on camping trips and retreats with the kids without asking for overtime.  I answer their emails and phone calls at all hours.  If I want to take some time off, I’m entitled to it … and I’ve been here long enough that I don’t need to ask for permission.”

If things don’t change, there’s going to be a showdown … and soon.

What happens then?

I’ll deal with that in my next article.

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