The Local Church Who Works For Whom?
One of the most difficult and perplexing tasks for many pastors is confronting a volunteer or parttime worker. The worker may be doing a poor job, but happens to be a church member. The pastor is not sure which way the lines of accountability run. Do these people work for him? Or does he work for them?
I know of a church which employs members on a part-time basis for typing, printing, cleaning, and visitation. The office area is crowded and poorly arranged. Several years ago the board gave the pastor permission to make necessary changes. He went to work on the problem by hiring an architect to design a new office arrangement. Yet to date, no changes have been made. The workers continue to labor in cramped and inefficient conditions. The reason? The architect's design called for moving the printing room from one location to another. However, the part-time printer, a member of the church, declared he would quit the job and withdraw his membership if the change were made. So the printing machine continues to clack away a few feet from the secretary's desk, and visitors continue to step around and over boxes on their way to the pastor's study.
The pastor allows this to continue because he is not sure of his authority when it involves a part-time employee who is also a church member. Is the pastor accountable to the employee as a member, or is it the reverse?
As a young pastor I served a small church in which the Sunday school superintendent was the wife of the board chairman. The Sunday school hour was the first event of the day and this family was consistently fifteen minutes late. Sunday after Sunday I would do a "slow burn" while the congregation impatiently waited for her to arrive to conduct the opening exercises. On several occasions I tried to move the starting time back fifteen minutes, but the board, led by the chairman, consistently refused. This situation continued for about two and a half years until finally in desperation I stood up at the exact minute Sunday school was scheduled to begin and asked the people to go immediately to their classrooms. I waited in the auditorium. True to form, fifteen minutes later the Sunday school superintendent and her husband arrived. There were angry words. The Sunday school superintendent resigned. I survived the ordeal.
Why had I allowed this one person to frustrate an entire Sunday school operation so long before taking action? I was never sure of my authority to correct the situation. I knew I was somehow responsible for the Sunday school program, yet this woman and her husband were church members. They had voted on my coming to the church. They helped pay my salary by their contributions. She had been elected to her position at a congregational meeting.
These scenarios are not unique. As a consultant for church organizations I talk almost every week with at least one pastor who is having problems with a volunteer or a paid worker, and who feels helpless to correct the situation.
Authority-accountability issues ...