staff happens

one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a pastor is working with church staff. God uniquely gifts each of us, and a few of us use those gifts through vocational ministry-- what we do for a living. it is very difficult work, involving lots of sacrifice. sometimes people forget to appreciate staff members, who almost always are over-talented and underpaid. the corporate world would certainly pay at a much higher level-- but church staff serve the Lord first, not the bottom line.

sometimes it seems like staff issues is full-time work in itself, especially when we must say goodbye to folks because their needs change or the church's needs change. our children's minister, cassie payne, recently resigned her position in order to spend more time with family. she did great work in her position, and the church is better off with the children's ministry than before she started-- always the sign we look for. our search for a youth pastor is ongoing. there is no timetable to fill that position at this time.

sometimes God delivers individuals just at the right time, and that happened this week. samantha parson, a ministry candidate i am mentoring, will come on board the church staff august 1 in the role of Christian education director. samantha will assume cassie's responsibilities, plus add leadership to the entire sunday school, and small groups. as a seminary trained soon-to-be pastor, she'll also have an active role in worship, including preaching at times.

as thankful as i am for both cassie and samantha, as well as everyone i have ever served with on a church staff, the whole issue of staffing can be tricky. Jesus was not a senior pastor, supervising a large staff. he trained the original twelve disciples for ministry, sent them into the mission field, and they created new leaders. then those leaders multiplied the ministry. all individuals were encouraged to participate in ministry, not just the pros. too often today in churches with the resources to have paid staff the assumption is ministry is their work-- after all they are paid for it. this is an incorrect and unhealthy understanding of the church, and it must be corrected for the church to fulfill its mission according to its design (yes, i said this in last week's sermon; no, it had nothing to do with cassie or samantha!).

if you worship in a place where there is unpaid or under-paid staff, i hope you express your gratitude to them regularly. if they appear to struggle, offer to help. if they appear to have it all together and everything runs smoothly, offer to help. be quick to praise and slow to complain. be open when invited to participate. you would be shocked to learn how much a consistent "yes" will do to the ministry. take the initiative. don't wait to be asked.

church staff are not in the business of providing a service like the waiter at your favorite restaurant; they help us to develop our understanding of God's call on our lives. they should facilitate ministry more than they do it. if the staff person is constantly teaching, leading, scheduling, going, never taking time off, it's time to slow them down and step up your pace. it is in their best interest, as well as the church's-- but also yours.

think about this for a second: when was the last time you showed appreciation for a church staff member? or is that someone else's job? are you doing everything you can to make their ministry successful, including what you say about the person to others-- or how you respond when others talk about them? how could you reach out to someone in your church this week to say "you rock! thanks for being here!"?


It is amazing how God provides just the right person at just the right time! Praise be to God!