Dan (not his real name) had been one of the senior pastoral staff at his church for over 20 years. He had served well and was greatly
loved. But he was experiencing
burnout and depression, and asked
for a short health leave. The rumour
mill kicked into overdrive. Unfounded stories circulated that Dan had a
drinking problem, rumours which
were untrue and which the church
board did nothing to quell. Dan was
fired without warning. Adding to the
pain was a complete lack of acknowledgement of his years of service.
There was no farewell dinner. Five
years later Dan remains in a severe
depression. He is unable to work.
Sadly, this story is not unique in
Christian circles. Stories of Christians fired unceremoniously from
Christian organizations are not hard
to find. At the hands of often
well-meaning church or ministry
boards, some Christian leaders face
high stress, low pay and sometimes
undue process in how they are terminated from their place of ministry.
According to John Pellowe, CEO
of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities (CCCC), good human resources practices are good
everywhere – they are not different in the secular or Christian
work world. Ironically, secular
businesses may hold to a higher
standard of respectful, ethical
treatment of employees (and take
more seriously best practices and
labour laws) than many Christian
churches and ministries.
“What I feel acutely is that someday, as leader of a Christian organization, I will be called into account
not just for how I led the organization, but also how I stewarded the
people,” says Pellowe.
Last fall he and his team criss-
crossed Canada, leading seminars
in eight cities for CCCC members
(CCCC serves 3,200 Christian
organizations) on human resources
“While you usually only hear the
bad stories, through the workshops
we found that we heard about a lot
of ministries that are doing a good
job in human resources,” says Pel-
lowe. “I have also seen how employ-
ees in ministries can become the
victims of either benign neglect or
malicious actions from power brok-
ers who assume, ‘We can overwork
you and underpay you,’ ” he says.
“This is a form of spiritual abuse and
misuse of the sense of call that min-
istry employees have to their work.”
So, how do we all get better?
For church ministries interested
in becoming healthier and more
Christlike in their employee practices, here are six key issues to address.
1 | HIRE WELL
Interview questions in the hiring
process are crucial. Asking the
right questions in the right way can
help employers determine if the
person they are hiring is really a
good fit. The questions also need to
be legal. Christian places of work
need to consider how provincial
labour laws impact how they interview candidates for positions.
Good interview questions arise
out of a clearly defined job description and explore core competencies, skills, as well as intangibles
like fit with the current ministry
team. Skilled managers understand
that if you hire the right people in
the first place, you have fewer personnel issues down the road.
2 | EVALUATE WELL
An informal survey of several major
churches in large evangelical de-
nominations conducted by enCom-
passing Visions (see sidebar) re-
vealed that many Christian
ministries conduct job reviews in a
haphazard or highly generalized
way. Robust and thorough evalua-
tions are crucial for the employee,
the manager and the organization.
Job evaluations done well are an
in-depth review, not only of the
employee’s performance in achiev-
ing goals, but in their alignment with
the ministry’s goals, in their engage-
ment with their job. It is a place to
identify where things are going
sideways and address them early.
According to Chris Hall, manager of human resources at CCCC,
a manager who truly cares will have
the managerial courage to address
issues with employees long before
termination is considered. Termination is an easy way out for a manager who doesn’t want to deal with
interpersonal and performance
issues, says Hall.
3 | COMPENSATE WELL
Christian ministries, like all nonprofits, usually can’t compete with
the private sector on wages. However, even in the nonprofit sector,
there are compensation guidelines
for employers to access to ensure
they are paying fair compensation.
ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE
CAN MAKE THINGS EVEN TOUGHER
Most evangelical churches follow congregational polity,
which means denominational offices may have very little
say over how their churches deal with their employees.
There may be a lack of resources provided to churches on
how to hire, compensate, nurture and fire staff.
“Our involvement as a district is almost exclusively in
assisting church boards in the search process for a new
senior pastor, with some input on the hiring practice
of that pastor,” says Phil Doroshuk, director of finance
and administration for The Pentecostal Assemblies of
Canada – Alberta and NWT District. His office provides
resources on building healthy staff teams, and there is
a national salary survey for PAOC churches to provide
guidelines for compensation.
Because congregations have their own local church
constitutions with by-laws, their internal human
resources policies practices in dealing with pastoral and
administrative staff are independent of other churches.
These policies and practices may be developed without the
assistance and advice of human resources professionals.
NUMBER OF CHRISTIAN
SERVED BY THE
OF CHRIS TIAN
CHARI TIES (CCCC)