How to Hire Church Staff without paying them
Back in December I wrote a post that included some of the Megachurch Trends for 2012. One of the trends that is gaining momentum is to “equip the saints” for the work of the ministry, rather than just hiring a position. In the past, megachurches were able to simply hire for every need that arose. While most large churches did not show a decline in giving in 2011 (source: Leadnet report on megachurches) they are seeking wiser stewardship of their resources. This means that it will be critical for these churches to develop a well-rounded strategy for engaging non-paid staff (aka volunteers). To both realize better results, as well as provide a better experience for our key leaders, we must improve the processes behind volunteer management. To understand exactly how to do that I went to the national expert on the subject, Don Simmons, founder of Creative Potential consulting.
me: Why is it important that the Church learns to say “unpaid staff” instead of “volunteers”?
Don: What we “name” people always matters–Jesus made a big deal of changing what he called people, from “slaves” to “friends,” so, to follow His lead, we need to always be sure that our language reflects the Biblical model. “Volunteers” are traditionally and typically referred to as a workforce that shows up out of the goodness of their heart to do work that most folks don’t really want to do, and there is a perception of the “little old lady with free time.” Some churches have viewed these servants as “necessary evils,” thinking that it would be much easier to “manage” them if they could “hire ‘em and fire ‘em. Well, there is absolutely no research that would indicate that folks who receive a paycheck are any more motivated, responsible, reliable or skilled than people who do their work without pay. In fact, in Some Do Care, the research states that unpaid servants are often MORE reliable, MORE motivated (since $ is not a real motivation–see Managing with Carrots), and often get MORE done with less. It’s far from an Eph. 4:11 mindset, where pay never enters the equation. The Saints need to be equipped, not paid!
me: What is required to make this shift?
Don: All staff, paid and unpaid, need clear, specific direction: position descriptions, equipping, training, space to do work, accountability, responsibility, Authority (spiritual and otherwise), evaluation, feedback. In the case of personnel management, the Church has tried to be more like IBM than like the Community Benefit Organization (aka, nonprofit) that they are. All people serving in the Church need to be afforded with everything they need to be successful in ministry. If an unpaid person has agreed to an 8-5 daily schedule, then, that unpaid person should be afforded the same responsibilities and benefits that paid persons are provided. Breaks, lunch hours, sign-in, sign out, safety/sexual harassment training, parking space, vacation, business cards, “name on the door,” and other benefits that other staff people are typically provided. It’s a simple function: if we treat people as professionals, they will most likely perform as professionals.
me: Can you provide some real-world examples?
Don: At one large church in Illinois, there are several part time paid staff persons who are provided with office space, administrative assistants, cell phones and designated parking spaces. That’s all great, but, there are unpaid servants who work in the same ministry at the same church who serve full-time (45-60 hours per week) who crowd into a “work room” at tables with no chairs, no phones, park in whatever space they can find…you get the picture. These unpaid folks have more ministry experience than the paid staff, and, in many ways, are better qualified and more skilled than the paid folks. The inequity is stark: but, that’s not my issue–these unpaid folks aren’t complaining, yet, how much more effective could this ministry be if they were provided the space, resources, tools, etc. that they paid people have (in half the time?) By contrast, at a large church in the Bay area an unpaid staff member is provided a full-time PAID administrative assistant who supports them, it multiplies their ministry many times. They have successfully navigated the personnel process, but, it took a long time to communicate that “pay/no pay” is not the greatest measure of value or authority. That unpaid staff person has the same access to the Sr. Pastor, is expected to participate in Sr. staff meetings, has a voice in planning and even works with seminary interns.
me: What will the benefits be?
Don: Ministry can be multiplied, the “clergy/laity” divide can be diminished, more persons can see themselves as ministers, as called, as gifted; more ministry can be provided for the congregation; but, most of all, it can provide a great sense of humility for all who lead, who may be tempted to see themselves as more important because they are paid. Sadly, the more some staff are paid, the less they understand the unpaid (money will do that, I guess).
Don: Summing it up: The term “volunteers” has too much baggage for most church leaders–they are often viewed as second class, worker class, “less than” and not given the authority, resources, support, equipping, space and tools to do their given tasks in the same way that “paid staff” are. By making a shift to “unpaid staff,” it begins to reshape our thinking to more of a level playing field–that we ALL are called to be ministers, all are saints, all are called, and in some ways, all are “ordained” by virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
If a church begins to identify their “volunteers” as “unpaid staff,” it can begin to open the door to more people being actively engaged in the work of the Church, because the every-man in the pew can begin to see him/herself AS a minister–a pastor, and evangelist, a missionary–in their everyday live/work/play life. I am ON STAFF at my church, but, I am not PAID by my church (I’m paid by another entity that God also resources–Fresno State.) Once we shift our thinking about money and resources, the thinking about paid and unpaid staff makes more sense.