Good Faith Promises Require Good Faith Keeping
When I have opportunity to talk with search committees for ministers or with church staff about the work of the personnel committee, I never fail to share my view and experiences with such a committee. A few years ago, I served as an ex-officio member of a church personnel committee. And in my current position, I have worked with the personnel committee of the association for nearly eighteen years. My experience here has confirmed my positive attitude and high expectation I have for personnel committees in relation to church staff. I have found the associational personnel committee to be supportive, encouraging and helpful to the ministry of our association. Often they have said, and always they have conveyed in attitude, “Tell us how we can help you and your staff do your best work in our association.” What a concept! It is wonderful! They are advocates. In good faith, they recommend to the association matters related to the care and feeding of the staff, and in good faith, they have kept those promises through the years.
But I am not convinced that many of our church staff members have the same affirming experience. So, who is the advocate for the church staff? A covenant agreement between the church and staff member is an excellent way to delineate guidelines for relationships, but many churches have not developed those. We are accustomed to such a document in the business world, but the church has been slow to move that direction. That being true, it appears to me that the congregation must accept the responsibility of being advocate on behalf of the minister and his family. Some of the questions that need to be addressed follow.
In relation to time at work and away, how much vacation is provided and does that increase with increased tenure? How many other days away from the local church are granted -- and for what reasons? What are the minister’s work hours and workweek? When does he get to enjoy a weekend off? What about holidays and which ones?
In relation to his compensation, is his compensation fair? Can he expect a cost of living raise annually? Is there a schedule of pay used? Is a retirement plan provided and is it adequate? Is health insurance provided for the minister and his family?
In supervisory matters, to whom does the pastor specifically answer? Are annual evaluations provided? Is there a provision for sabbatical leaves? Is continuing education a part of the plan?
Often promises are made to staff upon their call that may be forgotten and pushed aside as years go by. Promises may not be fulfilled by the church though promised by the search committee. Promises made in good faith need to be kept in good faith, also. The church’s being faithful to support and encourage the leadership of their God-called staff honors the Lord and enriches the fellowship.