The Advantage: Reinforce Clarity, Part 4 (Compensation)

We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.

Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.


Lencioni explains,

At the core of any of these systems must lie the answers to the six critical questions. For instance, when employees are given a raise, they need to understand that they are being rewarded for behaving or performing in a way that is consistent with the organization’s reason for existing, core values, strategic anchors, or thematic goal. And when employees are denied a raise or a bonus, they need to understand that it is because they did not behave or perform in a way that is consistent with all those things. These are great moments of truth for leaders to demonstrate that they are really committed to what they say is important. To fail to make the connection between compensation and rewards and one or more of the six big questions is to waste one of the best opportunities for motivation and management.

I believe in raises designed to reflect inflation in the cost of living. To fail to keep up with inflation is to cut someone’s pay. You’d better have a really good reason.

But I don’t believe in seniority raises. Longevity is worth nothing in and of itself. Raises reflect increases in value. Nothing else is fair to the church or the Lord. It is, after all, his money.

Therefore, you have to have some way to evaluate the contribution of the minister, and the way you do that is based on the values of the congregation, its vision, and its culture. Does the minister’s work reflect the congregation’s values? He may be doing really good things, but are they the good things you hired him to do?

Of course, it would be grossly unfair to mark him down for not meeting standards you never explained to him. But if he’s been told that you want the teens involved in short-term missions led by adults, and he instead takes them to an inner city mission, he’s insubordinate, even if the kids learned great life lessons.

Just so, if he’s a great guy who loves Jesus dearly but who cannot connect with teens, he might be in the wrong ministry. Don’t give him a raise for being such great company. Help him find a place where his gifts will best serve the kingdom.

This will sound harsh to some, but it’s not fair to the church or the minister to give substantial raises for years of service that haven’t produced a harvest for the Lord.  If the church’s goal is to develop a heart for the needy in the community, and if the preacher does nothing to support this goal, why does he get a raise? Housekeeping and the “same ol’ same ol'” doesn’t merit a raise. (It doesn’t even merit existence as a congregation.)

However, if the minister and the elders work together to set a vision for change that really needs to be made, and if the minister helps actually bring those changes about, so that the church has truly grown in Jesus, well now, that deserves a reward.

You see, sometimes we reward too quickly and too easily because our expectations are too low. Just preaching sermons that keep the pews filled is often all we ask. We don’t set goals, and so we can’t reward accomplishing goals. But a church that’s actually led as a shepherd leads sheep will have clear, well-understood path they want to follow — and having goals will make compensation decisions easy.


But it’s not just about money.

I like to explain to clients that when leaders fail to tell employees that they’re doing a great job, they might as well be taking money out of their pockets and throwing it into a fire, because they are wasting opportunities to give people the recognition they crave more than anything else. Direct, personal feedback really is the simplest and most effective form of motivation.

This is an area I’ve had to work on. I’m something of a perfectionist (surprised?), and so my internal voice rarely compliments me. I’m rarely satisfied with my own performance. As a result, I don’t need that much recognition and don’t naturally give it.

However, I’m getting better at it. In part, it’s because I’ve seen so much bad ministerial work that I’ve learned how valuable it really is. I’m working at it. I really am getting better.

I think a lot of elders are the same way. We’re guys, and guys are often just terrible at expressing their feelings. It’s the American way. Worse yet, some of us are cheap — and we’re afraid that if we compliment the preacher, he’ll expect a raise. Of course, the reality is that he deserves to be rewarded for his good work.

Some of us grew up in households or work in businesses where praise is really hard to come by. We struggle to praise others because we actually feel jealous — since we have unmet needs for praise.

Moreover, in many churches, even excellent elders are rarely thanked for their work. And we elders don’t get paid. Praise and seeing good things happen is all the reward we get in this world. And if we feel under-appreciated, it’s hard to give to others what we so desperately miss.

Church members, if you want your elders to work hard and lead well, express your gratitude often. And crazily enough, if you praise your elders, they’ll find it easier to praise the ministers and the ministry leaders and even the entire church. What goes around …  You see, your encouragement of discouraged elders will start a resonating process that just might energize the entire congregation!

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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4 Responses to The Advantage: Reinforce Clarity, Part 4 (Compensation)

  1. eric says:

    Great post, encouragement is difficult for some reason. I guess it has to do with the fact that we should all be giving our all. That is the standard set by Christ after all. It is easy for me to overlook all the encouragement God gives to those that do just that, what is expected. After all if we turn and follow Him He gives us eternal Life. He really loves us more than we can imagine. I hope despite my introverted ways people know how much I appreciate them.

  2. Appreciation is knowing the worth of something.

    It is important that encouragement be REAL and SPECIFIC appreciation, not just general glad-handing for the purpose of making someone feel better. I once took over managing a business, and soon had to review a solid, long-term employee. After we had reviewed his strong job performance, he shook my hand and smiled and said, “I’ve had a lot of good annual reviews, but I think you are the first boss who actually knows what I do around here.” It made a big difference to him.

    The key to positive feedback and encouragement is to catch people doing well and to let them know they have been caught. And to show ’em the evidence. We can go a long way on a little encouragement that is both sincere and insightful.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    I notice in this lesson the assurance that Elders don’t get paid. In all my studies of scripture I never have found a restriction placed on the Elders that they should not be paid. As I recollect weren’t several of the Apostles Elders also and they also preached the word. These men dedicated their lives to the church. Paul mentioned that he was not a burden to some brethren but in order to serve them he had accepted support from other churches. Yes, I do know that there some preachers teaching that Paul was not qualified to be an Elder because he did not have a wife and family. In their communication it would have been impossible for him to serve as an Elder. I guess that would be the reason that he could have received support from the church. As I see the Eldership, we search out the very best and most dedicated Christians in our congregations that have shown abilities for leadership, family management, counseling and teaching abilities, and require them to be self supported either by secular jobs, their own business, or retirement incomes. We then give them the greatest responsibility possible in the church, next to the Lord himself, and expect them to fulfill all of the guidance needs of the church using their spare time plus many times the necessity of transferring some of their support earning time into their obligations for the church. All of this is accomplished without compensation? I would surely hope that when one of these Elders have to fill in for the paid preacher, that the church is compensating them for their duties above and beyond the basic duties of an Elder.
    Does the Bible support paying an Elder?
    (1 Tim 5:17 KJV) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.
    (1 Tim 5:17 NIV) The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”

    We take men from within the congregation and have them oversee our total service to God and refuse to pay them for their service. I guess that the church has decided that these noble men could not avoid falling into the sin that is described in the following verses, without the church removing all temptation of the money.
    (1 Pet 5:2 NIV) Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve;
    (1 Pet 5:2 NRSV) to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it –not for sordid gain but eagerly.

    I believe that we would have men more eager to serve the church if there was compensation to the appointment that could allow them to serve as full time Elders rather than part time. I also wonder how our Lord would look upon a congregation that used these men almost as slaves, without the compensation for a slave.

    Which of you have ever worked for a business that the Owner, CEO, or top management had to work at another job to support themselves while overseeing the organization that employed you?

  4. Hmm. If NFL referees can hold down real jobs, referee part-time and get paid, why can’t elders? Is it possible that there is a reluctance to devote the kind of time and energy it takes to be at least a half-time elder? That this might interfere with a man’s career track? Many of us can attest to the amount of time it takes to actually shepherd people and teach them. Most congregational elders only experience this when they are between preachers. What would happen if being an elder was compensated? Might we start expecting our elders to do more than sit in board meetings and issue rulings on the work of others? Might we start developing expectations of the work of an elder? And might the existing elders start feeling more of an obligation to do it?

    At this point, there is one simple reason that more elders are not paid. Most of their work has been sub-contracted out to the professional clergy, who ARE paid. You don’t pay the teacher AND his substitute…

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