Tim Stevens writes: Way back when I was first hired at Granger, my boss talked about the importance of attending the church where you work. At first I thought he was joking—I had never heard of anyone working at a church where he or she did not attend. He told me of several situations where that was unfortunately true.
I wrongly assumed it was a dying pattern. In fact, the number of churches I hear about who hire staff members to do jobs rather than ministry is increasing. Recently I learned of a large church that had a senior-level staff member who attended a different church. He sat on the leadership team, making decisions about starting and stopping ministry programs at a church he did not even attend. I learned of another church where staff members in the accounting department were prohibited from attending the church. I know of another church with a preschool where the teachers do not attend the church, and in fact, they are known to speak negatively to the parents about the church.
I think I know where this comes from. Pastors have been burned, and so they make policies to reduce potential conflict. Somewhere along the way they had to fire someone, and that person left the church in a huff with all his or her friends and family members. And so they said, “Never again.” They figured it would be easier to manage conflict if the individual didn’t get rooted in the church.
I get it. When I had to let employees go, they often left the church angry and confused. Which meant all their family members who attended left too. And their best friends. And a few people who just started attending who heard about the drama and decided they didn’t want to get involved. And honestly, on those dark days I wondered about changing my philosophy.
But I decided I would much rather deal with potential conflict than have staff members who were just doing a job. I wanted every person on staff to care about the people of the church as much as I did. I wanted to “do life” with those on staff, walking with them through the ups and downs of life, knowing there were people around them to love them, challenge them, and encourage them. I wanted staff members who handled the money, took care of the facility, led the kids, and made the decisions to do so with high integrity because it was not only their employer, it was also the place where they worship.
It would be easy to slip on this conviction. Just before I left Granger, we opened an early learning center. It would have been an easy decision to let it run as a business within our walls. With about a dozen hires in the plan, the case could have been made to hire the best educators in town, regardless of their church affiliations or faith walks. But we made the decision for this to be a high-quality learning center that is faith based and highly integrated with the ministries of our church. We didn’t want it to be a business that shares space. We wanted teachers who are ministers and who love the church.
If you are trying to create a positive culture that is unified in vision and purpose, you want people on your team who are all in—100 percent. Nothing held back.
Tim Stevens is a team leader with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, an executive search firm that helps churches and ministries find great leaders.
Previously he was the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. During his twenty years there, he helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and saw a worldwide impact.
Learn more about his new book, Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace.