Monday, September 14, 2009

Shepherd's Staff

A church that lovingly and generously takes care of its staff is generally a happier, healthier, more productive congregation.

It's important to be a blessing in the lives of those whom God gives to us to lead us and assist us in the work of ministry.

The Apostle Paul apparently believed that. In 1 Corinthians 16:10-11 he encourages the believers to receive Timothy, to treat him well, and to back him up in his Christian labors. In Ephesians 4 Paul seems to suggest that pastors and staffers are gifts provided to local assemblies to strengthen them in their efforts at maturing and multiplying. A church that lavishly bestows hospitality and graciousness and provision on those in kingdom work will usually find favor and good things coming back to it.

A strong, grace-filled fellowship will see to it that its staff is well-compensated. When full-time Christian servants don't have to worry and struggle financially they usually are freer to joyfully work harder and more effectively in the Lord's vineyard. A wise and caring congregation will thus take the time to study to see if its salary packages are competitive and fair and keeping pace. To call upon Paul again, it's interesting that he discusses pay issues for church leaders in passages like I Timothy 5:17-18 and Galatians 6:6 and I Corinthians 9. Local assemblies that put lots of funds into facilities or send much money overseas but keep co-workers in anxiety about making ends meet may not be practicing good stewardship or careful obedience to Christ.

Loving churches will also see the value in appropriately recognizing and honoring faithful staff members from time to time, especially on their anniversaries of service. Doing so gives a fellowship the chance to celebrate what that person's ministry has meant. It gives a church the opportunity to express thanks for a job well done. Notes or letters of encouragement, taking staffers out for a meal, and even occasional small gifts convey appreciation and respect and affection. Once more Paul offers guidance, this time in I Thessalonians 5:12-13. To ignore this counsel is sin. Actually when a local assembly heaps kindness and delights on a loyal worker it ends up awash in those blessings itself, as Romans 12:15 indicates. Congregational health is fostered, unity is enhanced, and joy blossoms.

Are ministers and staffers in some churches overpaid? Sure. Are there professional workers in some fellowships who are arrogant and proud or lazy or mean-spirited? Absolutely. Is it possible that pastors and staff members serving in congregations where there is ample remuneration and abundant, tangible honor and love shown can grow calloused and comfortable and apathetic? You bet. But many, many of the church laborers across our land are vastly overworked and underpaid. Little appreciated. Lots of them feel beat up and often depressed and discouraged. The numbers are staggering of the pastors and music ministers and youth workers and even secretaries who eventually give up, quit, and never return to church work again. Most regrettably, some of them are so burned out and turned off that they don't even attend church anymore. Ever. A lot of fellowships have "blood on their hands" that they'll answer to God for.

It seems that congregations have it in their power to so love and cherish and protect their staff that the outlook and perspective of these workers can be healthy and sound for the whole course of their ministerial career, even if there are some bumps along the way. Speaking up for these folks, nipping silly rumors in the bud, supporting their initiatives, and adequately providing for them financially can enhance and extend their ministries exponentially.'ll be harder to keep good, quality staffers if we don't. They'll constantly be polishing up their resumes, looking for some new field where maybe they'll receive kinder treatment. And mark it down--it'll probably be tougher and a lot more expensive to secure their replacements!