In a previous post I talked about how we train our leaders seems to follow a Western model for education and how this is an incomplete approach to training Christian leaders. This led me to one of the other ways we run the Church patterned after secular organizations: how we hire and staff our church.
When a pastoral spot opens up at a Church, most often someone with no previous affiliation with the local congregation is sought after to come in and lead with preference often going to those who have finished some sort of theological education. To put it in extreme language this boils down to churches seeking to hire qualified religious experts to perform a task in our congregation, many of whom have no real connection to the local church.
If you doubt this is how we approach hiring in the church…Exhibit A: http://www.youthspecialties.com/jobs and Exhibit B:http://www.churchstaffing.com/. At either of these sites (and there are many more) I can post my resume, apply for ministry job and be hired to work at a church that I have had zero connection with before and be trusted to run a ministry and disciple people.
This approach to hiring and staffing seems to be yet another way we have transplanted something from culture into the church. It is the culture that says we should train people to be compentent in their field through education and it is culture that says organizations should seek to hire the most qualified people to fulfill their needs. In countless secular organizations prospective applicants are enticed by payment and benefits, encouraged to apply, and then the organization runs them through an interview process picking their top choices. This approach to staffing, while arguably appropriate for businesses and companies, may not be the best approach for the church and I think it causes a number of problems of which I will just highlight two.
First, this approach represents a huge failure to disciple and train those gifted by the Spirit for administration, leadership and teaching already present in our own congregations. I truly believe the Church should seek to above all raise up its own leaders from within its own congregation. In any given congregation (regardless of if you have fifty people or 5,000) there are bound to be some people who have indeed received the Holy Spirit and some who have received spiritual gifts for leadership in the Church. To ignore the gifts in our own congregation is to be unfaithful to steward those gifts in our own congregation as well as unwise. Raising up our own also means the local congregation has an relationship with the pastor to be. This relationship avoids a lot of problems caused by my next point.
Second, regardless of what is presented on a resume, an application, or a degree, a church cannot be sure that those hired are truly equipped, called or fit to do the task that they are being hired to do. When a church hires an outsiders it hires a strangers. Being sure of an applicants character, calling, or giftedness can be murky even when dealing with someone within the congregation, much less someone who is from another state or city. Hiring outsiders is a huge gamble and the influence of pastoral positions in the Church means that this is a very high stakes gamble.
In my experience of church, the current approach to hiring and staffing of church has led to many problems. It has lead to poor hiring decisions that has resulted in the pastor being fired or leaving. In my four years in youth group I had three youth pastors and this is a fairly typical experience as the average tenure of youth pastors is infamously short. This undoubtedly contributed to my lack of disipleship growing up, my general disillusionment with Christianity, frustration and disappointment. Who knows how it affected the wider church or the pastors involved. How many of those pastors were fired or left based on conflicts that could have been avoided had the Church raised up its own? More personally after college I twice turned to my home congregation for training in Christian leadership and was twice turned away. I recieved an invitation to “hang-out” in the Youth ministry and later was told more direclty “I do not have anything for you to do.” My church is more structured around its programs than it is discipleship. I eventually had to go outside of my home congregation for ministry training. While I think I ended up exactly where God wanted me to learn (under Rev. Marvin Jacobo and with the Tapestry youth ministry) I think it is an obvious tension that I could not get trained at my home congregation.
To their credit, I think BVG has really recognized this tension and is moving to change its culture. Our current youth pastor is one of our own, he is the son of another Pastor and has been at the church for years, and things are going great from everything that I hear. More importantly BVG is attempting to implement a discipleship program for men who feel called to ministry similar to one that was raging at First Baptist Church that producest some amazing long-serving pastors in Modesto, including my mentor and certain pastors at BVG.
For my last point I want to look at how the Church runs its finances and what that says about us.