I’m actually not a real big safety fan…but my wife is. I remember the first time driving with her in the mountains of Montana, and she was kind of freaking out because there are a lot of dangerous curves in the road without any guard rails. I didn’t see the big deal. After all, you only need guard rails if you’re planning on going off the road. Of course my thinking is flawed, if you drive long enough, chances are you’re going to go off the road and wish there was a guard rail.
It’s easy for churches to see personnel policies as unnecessary, too. If we only hire good church people, we should never have any issue with our employees, right? If you have employees long enough…even good church people…you’re going to have problems. Our whole ministry model assumes that people are broken and prone to hurting themselves and others. A church pay check doesn’t change that.
The two places were I see the most hurt happening are:
Different Expectations: You need something in writing that helps the employee or pastor and the church agree on what success looks like (aka Job Description). Otherwise the pastor will feel unappreciated and the church will feel like their pastor is a dud.
Different Rules: It can sometimes be difficult to stay in compliance with written rules. Well, most church policies are unwritten, and it’s impossible to stay in compliance with unwritten and often shifting rules.
I hate spending money. On the topic of insurance, my tendency would be to by the cheapest coverage I can get away with because I know insurance isn’t a charity. They are in the business to make money. Being too cheap on insurance is dumb. Guess what. Spending too much on insurance is also dumb.
Compare insurance to a shield. If I’m going out to battle against an enemy that is shooting arrows, I had better not have gone cheap and bought a shield the size of a dinner plate. I might get lucky for a while but eventually my luck will run out. Also, it wouldn’t work well to buy 100lb metal shield because it’ll make it really difficult to fight the battle AND protect yourself. When your church is under covered, eventually a disaster will hit that isn’t covered. It’s only a matter of time. When you’re church is over covered, money that should be going to ministry is instead going towards somebody else’s bonus check.
Insurance is there transfer the risk from the church to the insurance company for large and unexpected expenses that could destroy your church’s finances. What are risks that are in the realm of possibility that could wreck the church’s finances? A chip in the church van’s windshield probably won’t wreck you. The driver of the church van accidentally running over someone, that would wreck you. Keep that in mind as you discern the insurance needs of your church.
A lot of pastors are put in an awkward position. They need a raise or work on the parsonage or time off for renewal. If they ask for they need directly, it can open the pastor up for criticism. They can sound selfish or ungrateful or lazy. “The previous pastor never needed time off and was fine with the pay and parsonage. I guess the new pastor just isn’t that committed.” So pastors may hint about it and grow resentful when no one picks up on the hints.
This is where the Staff/Pastor Relations Committee needs to step in. When it comes to the needs of the pastor and the needs of the congregation, there is often a communication barrier or problem. Here’s what the committee needs to consider:
How are we advocating for our pastor? Look for how you can lead the change in areas that are negatively affecting your pastor but are awkward for your pastor to address head on.
How are you advising your pastor? Don’t bring complaints to your pastor veiled in anonymity. This is a horrible thing to do. Instead, use your filter to bring real needs and concerns to your pastor.
How are you training your pastor and the congregation to respect boundaries? This is an issue on both sides. Define what healthy boundaries look like and work on communicating this to the congregation.
About eight months ago, I called into the Dave Ramsey Show and got through. After I quit gushing over Dave, I asked him, “What would be the Baby Steps for a church?” This was not just a passing fancy of mine. I’ve been thinking and reading and visiting with people about this subject for many years. In this quarter’s webinar, Sheri Meister and I discuss the seven areas that church’s need to give attention if they want financial freedom to follow Jesus Christ.
Here’s the short version of the areas. I encourage you to watch/listen to this webinar to get the long version. Plus, there is a link to the assessment below that you can take for your church:
Invested Leaders: Church leaders should be raised up from the top 20% of givers. Leaders that don’t give worry about what others might think. Leaders that give worry about the mission.
A Focused Team: Now that you have Invested Leaders, the next step is to help them take responsibility for Overseeing Spending, Growing Giving, and Managing Reserve Funds.
Stewardship Teaching: Money can be either a great obstacle to living for Jesus or a great tool. If you help people manage their money and teach on the benefits of giving, church income will go up.
Budget Accuracy: With a growing income, now is the time to be honest about your budget. How will you plan to spend the income…not what you wish the income was.
Debt Aversion: Debt is a weight on the ministry of a church. It will affect how you lead and make decisions. The sooner you can rid yourself of the debt, the better.
Capital Reserve: With the Debt gone, a Growing Income, and an Accurate Budget, it’s time to build up reserves to care for the property. This helps you avoid always raising funds for the building so that people begin to think the building IS the ministry.
Operating Reserve: At the same time, building up an Emergency/Opportunity Fund will help you take risks and weather storms.
The Bible says that the Law and the Ten Commandments were like a tutor or guardian. They helped keep us out of trouble and helped us live well. Financial Policies are similar. If you don’t set the rules for how the church manages money, everyone will setup their own rules. Everyone that touches money or keeps financial records will just do what they think is best. Often this is going to work out fine…until it doesn’t.
No matter the size of church you have, you need to decide, and put it in writing, the following:
How we care for donation? Do you count money right away after the service or do you lock it up? What about all those donations dropped off at the office or received through the mail? How should it counted?
How do we approve expenses? If the treasurer gets a bill, how does the treasurer know if it’s okay to pay or not? Also problems come up around payroll and church credit cards.
Those are the main things to think through although there are some other things most churches will need to consider as well. I have some templates below.
Think about the best boss or teacher or coach you’ve ever had. What were they like? I’m betting they brought the best out of you. I’m betting they were honest yet optimistic about your performance and potential. That is the type of Staff-Pastor Relations Committee your pastor needs. Here’s the secret: Everyone wins when the pastor is at his or her best. The strength and vitality of your ministry will be limited by the overall health of your pastor.
What can you do to build up your pastor?
Be trustworthy: If you are on the Staff-Pastor Relations Committee, never ever break confidentiality. Even if you justify it as a “prayer concern,” it’s gossip and will tear your pastor down.
Do go there: Don’t just dwell church business. Prepare yourself to have the conversation about what your pastor’s biggest concern is apart from church work. Be willing to share your own struggles.
Take action: If it all possible, help the church take some sort of action to help your pastor with that area of concern. If the pastor needs better boundaries between work and family, help define that. Then have the Committee share this with the church…repeatedly.
In the video, I have a bunch of other practical examples of how to build up your pastor.
When my kids were little, they used to watch a lot of Bob the Builder and eventually Handy Manny. The more stuff broke down, the happier Bob seemed to be. Do you know why Bob was so happy? He lived in a world where you didn’t have pay for anything! In the real world…and especially in the church…there is more that needs to fixed than we can afford to take care of. And if we have the money, do we have the volunteers and other labor?
Part of why the job can be overwhelming is that we often just fly by the seat of our pants and just fix the squeakiest wheels. Instead of having others plan our work for us, why not plan your own work. Come up with your own To-Do list and set your own priorities. This should also give some comfort to those squeaky wheels knowing that they’re on your list…and what’s on your list eventually gets done.