How Not to Have to Fire Your Preacher: Keeping the Right Guy, Part 1

If you made a good hire, then you should feel sufficiently invested in the man that you will do what it takes to keep him.

Now, ask yourself, as traumatic as leaving is on a family, why would a preacher leave your church? Then think about how you can take away the temptation.

a. Money

Preachers leave for lots of reasons. Money is not usually the biggest reason unless the poor guy just can’t make it on the salary you’re paying.

I know money isn’t the number one driver because I’ve seen elders try to tempt happy men away from jobs with a raise, and they nearly always stay. Good men — men you want to hire — are more principled than that. Surprised? I was.

But a man who can’t support his family will leave. Pay a fair wage. And keep up! I don’t care what was fair in 1970 — and don’t let your fellow elders talk about what they wish were fair! It’s irrelevant.

At least take the trouble to download the ACU salary survey to see what other churches of your size are paying. Trust me, the preacher will have called around to see what’s fair, and you don’t want to be too off base.

Obviously, you can only pay what you can afford. And some preachers, desperate for a job, may actually take a lowball offer. But it’s wrong to take advantage of someone’s distress. Be fair, or he’ll have no choice but to take the first offer that comes his way after you hire him.

b. Fringe benefits

Preachers and their families get sick, too. If you possibly can do so, provide group health insurance for your staff. It’s very, very expensive, but they deserve it. And if you don’t, a preacher with a child or wife who develops a chronic condition will have to take a job that offers group health — even if means greeting people at Wal-Mart.

One option to consider is the CLBA program put together through ACU for church leaders.

c. Vacation, hours, and such like

Preachers should receive vacation at least comparable to similarly paid people in your community. It’s emotionally draining, 24/7 work, and they need to take a break now and again. In fact, many younger people would rather take vacation than have a pay raise.

And don’t demand more hours than are reasonable, taking into account the fact that your ministers will spend many nights in hospitals, on overnight trips with the teens, etc.

Be fair. Maybe even be more than fair.

Ultimately, your staff need to be so on fire for Jesus and his mission that hours and such are no problem.

d. Get adequate office help

As a rule, secretaries are cheaper than ministers. If you force your ministers to do their own typing and filing, you’ll be paying minister pay for secretarial work. Hiring adequate office staff will free up minister hours to do ministry — at secretarial prices!

And the minister will be frustrated if you don’t. He signed on as a minister, not a graphics artist and typesetter.

e. Be a team!

One of the biggest problems I see in Churches of Christ is the chronic insistence of elders being only the bosses of the ministers — rather than teammates also. You see, it’s quite possible to be both.

Step One — buy the elders and ministers a copy of Patrick Lencioni’s The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and study it together. It’s a business book but the principles are quite Biblical. And it’s an easy read. It should be mandatory for all elders and ministers.

Step Two — I heard a great lesson from John Siburt at the 2008 Atlanta ElderLink on how elders and ministers should work together. (Buy the CD if you can find it, but I can’t find a link to buy CDs on Google.)

His suggestion was simple — work together as peers. After all, you both pray for the church, manage church ministries, shepherd the flock, counsel, teach, and otherwise have heavily overlapping job descriptions. A hierarchical structure isn’t really adequate.

Now, I know that we’ve been taught the preachers are below the elders on the organizational chart, and they are. The elders can fire the preacher. But that doesn’t prevent them working side by side, arm in arm.

Therefore, as is true in many Churches already, unless there’s a reason to exclude the minister, meet as a team. Plan and vision as a team. Work as a team.

f. Don’t let the minister be friendless

I can’t really explain this, but in many churches, the preacher has no close friends. Maybe the members are intimidated by him. Or maybe, like the pretty girl with no dates, they assume he already has lots of friends and has no time for more.

Ask around. You can’t force a solution, but you can be sensitive to the situation and help out as you can. Maybe you can encourage some compatible couples to extend an offer.

Part of the problem is that, in many churches, friendships are formed in the Sunday school classes, and the preacher is always teaching, often a group that’s of a different age. And his wife is likely busy teaching or volunteering in the children’s department.

Help as you can.

g. Look for other areas of emotional need — and help

Shepherd the preacher and other ministers. Shepherd them before you shepherd anyone else. They get overlooked, you know.

Keep an eye open for marital stress, depression, or the like. Notice if he never takes a vacation or looks to be burning out. Notice if his wife seems to resent his time in study or at church. Pay attention to their relationship.

Take him to lunch and ask how things are going. Ask if the kids are struggling in school, are making friends, etc.

Look for signs of financial problems. Look for signs of temptation to sexual sin.

I don’t mean that you should be the minister police. I just mean that you should care.

h. Help your ministers stay sexually pure

20% or more of ministers commit adultery at some point. At least, that’s been my experience. I think it’s a conservative number. Everyone had an attractive wife, often very attractive. You see, at least in my experience, it’s mainly about the minister’s ego or need for affirmation.

Take seriously the advice about how to help your ministers avoid sexual sin.

Don’t be naive. The ministers who get away with adultery are those you don’t suspect of adultery.

More importantly, they need your encouragement and support to avoid the sin. Ignoring the possibility is playing Russian Roulette with your minister’s family — and someone else’s family, too. Sexual sin by ministers is devastating to a church. Prevention is the only sensible approach.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to How Not to Have to Fire Your Preacher: Keeping the Right Guy, Part 1

  1. Jon Shelton says:

    Jay,

    Along with the ACU benefits service, Harding University also offers one that is based on retirement benefits – it is made available to churches to provide retirement for preachers, staff, or missionaries. It is a great way to provide that retirement to them – especially being able to provide it for missionaries – which most will never see with the way we do that part of church business. http://www.harding.edu/icf/retirement.html is the site to see what they offer.

    Jon

  2. Alan Bell says:

    I would add:
    f. Don't let the ministers wife/family be friendless. Sounds the same but its not. The old saying goes "if momma ain't happy, nobody's happy".
    g. At least one or two individuals should take it upon themselves to personally have informal time with the minister(s). If there's an eldership, they should take the lead. Done properly f & g are taken care of.

  3. thanks for the write up. but I want to ask, does the bible Teach that ministers are below elders? the hierarchy we are using, has it Apostolic approval or theological accent?
    If it is true, who created the class distinction,? or is there a service Distinction?
    help
    Uchenna F. Bekee
    Minister in Nigeria
    Note: that is one more thing that makes ministers quit. when they are treated as employee of elders.and thereby receive carnal treatments and unjust approaches from them.

  4. Jay Guin says:

    The Bible gives the elders the general oversight of the church. They are shepherds, overseers, and elders.

    The preacher may be an elder or may be employed by the elders. Both models are Biblical.

    Of course, a young church may well have no elders at all, in which case the minister will have to fill many of the roles the elders typically take on. One of the minister's tasks will be to train men who could later serve as elders.

    I'm a strong believer in elder-led churches, but I also believe that elders must be well trained for the job. It's a tough job, and one essential requirement is humility — enough humility to be willing to study and learn how to do the work of an elder better and better.

    Elders are strictly prohibited from "lording it over" the church or the church's employees. Elders aren't lords. They are shepherds who tend the sheep with loving care. Lynn Anderson's book "They Smell Like Sheep" is very good on this point.

    Therefore, the wise eldership includes the minister as part of the team — not necessarily as an elder but certainly as a respected adviser and fellow worker, working together with the elders, side by side.

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