Believe it or not, this is my fourth article for Technologies for Worship Magazine. It will be the third one written during a plane flight. The irony of that is, I really don’t travel that much. I just happen to be tripping around the country when the article due date approaches.
My last article dealt with transition. This article is a continuation of that theme with a slightly different twist. Having dealt with transition from the side of a staff person seeking a position, I thought I would try to give perspective from the side of the search team pulled together to seek qualified staff. I believe I can speak for both sides, since a good portion of my life has been involved in the business world and not safely within the sanctity of church walls.
I imagine a person, for example, who works in an office – whether in management or not – walking into a room for the first time to view or create a job description for a ministry staff position. This search committee person may work a nine to five job, may clock-in and clock-out, may have a well defined role and function as a cog in the company wheel of progress. Sometimes that person may be a big fish in a little pond, or perhaps a small fish in an ocean. Realistically, unless that person is in a decision making, visionary leadership role, chances are they will not fully understand what ministry is comprised of.
You see, many people in the business world (unless they are independent business owners) don’t bear the responsibility of their company’s overall success or failure. If that memo concerning an overabundance of paper clips in the inventory doesn’t reach Sam’s office down the hall by five o’clock, chances are the company will not grind to a screeching halt and collapse.
Sometimes, this is the type of person called to put together ministry staff job descriptions. They have the privilege of going home after work and leaving the job behind them. But, most ministry people never get to leave their work at the office. In the past twenty-five years, the only time I ever left work behind me was while working for General Motors Division, overseeing payroll and personnel for a contract firm. None of my engineers or designers ever called me at home. They wouldn’t think of imposing business upon my personal time. When I walked out of plant operations, my day of work was finished and my mind and heart belonged to my family.
Now, stop to think of the typical church and their pastoral staff. It is the norm in many churches for people to never think twice about calling a pastor to “discuss” an issue, confront a problem, pass on a complaint or dump an opinion. The apostle Paul put it well, when he referred to the “daily care of the saints” and the emotional wear it placed on him. Ironically, I haven’t seen that arise in any of the job descriptions I’ve seen this past year. Most list duties, chain of command issues, office hours and paper trail items. I’ve noticed few, if any, that recognize ministry as a life consuming responsibility and much more than a job. This is why it is often referred to as a “call”.
Now, imagine you are looking at a job description that does include the whole picture. It would most likely have a line in it which says, “Person must be on call 24 hours a day”, or “Expected to change personal plans immediately upon notice”. How about, “Will spend many hours in hospitals with grieving relatives”, or “Will be expected to walk on water, change rebellious teenagers’ lives and never lose patience with anyone.” Where’s the dotted line—sign me up quick!
So, here sits this person God has designated as a seeker of staff. This person will desperately try to find the right person, but can they possibly know from a resume who that person would be? Can a resume explain endless hours of prayer for people? Can a resume show the heart of an individual or the scars of battles they’ve survived? Will a college degree give you that? Can one determine so much from reading a person’s life condensed to one page?
If that’s possible, show me how. Again, if God has called you to be one of those searching for staff, look well beyond resumes. You cannot determine a person’s spiritual walk by what Bible College they may have attended. Nor can you understand God’s hand on a minister’s life until you look them in the eye and read their heart.
So, as you seek your staff, remember you are seeking for a minister and not an employee. The difference between the two is vast. An employee invests his/her time in doing work. In ministry, we invest our time in people.