Transforming Church Team Blog
resourcing leaders…reenvisioning the future

The Family/Business/Community Conundrum

jimWhat generally makes church life and functioning so very confusing is the fact that, like no other organization in society, it encompasses the congregant’s expectations of family, business, and community. Each of these elements must be held in tension, and each must be understood clearly, or else confusion will ensue.

As a family, the clergy are perceived as parents and congregants as siblings. The young are raised up and prepared for adulthood by instilling values through instruction and modeling. The needy are cared for. The sick are nurtured. The dead are buried. On the shadow side in coming to church, members feel as though they are coming home, and therefore have particular idealistic expectations as to what they will find, and how they will be treated.

As a business: Churches (and this becomes more prominent with those with multiple staffs) have organizational considerations that require the principles of business. People are hired to do particular types of work according to their individual skill set, performance standards are established and maintained, salaries are set, and work is accomplished and evaluated. This introduces the need for proper HR (finding, maintaining, and retaining people) functions to be properly managed.

As a faith community: Churches are also spiritual communities. Members manifest certain gifts, bear the burdens of one another, and generally become intentionally involved in one another’s lives to the betterment of the individual and the building up of the community (a.k.a. body life).

Unfortunately, as often happens, these three separate functions become confused. When business demands are handled with family patterns, problems arise. Likewise, if community and family aspects are treated as business it becomes institutionalized. Not that there are always clear demarcations between each of these areas. But a clear understanding as to how each works, and to which one should appeal when executing an initiative, would be helpful.

As an example, hiring of staff should normally fall within the business arena. Job positions are identified according to the overall mission of the church (We have identified that working with youth in this middle class, upwardly mobile area where there are ever more teens makes strategic sense, and is part of our vision for the future). People are then interviewed and hired according to skill set and alignment with organizational values. Job descriptions, lines of accountabilility, and schedules of performance of evaluations are clear. When the business aspects of this are ignored, and family aspects reign, then a person is hired because, “We know that Johnny needs a job, so why don’t we let him have the youth position.” Johnny is not held accountable to his position because we might destroy his already shaky self-esteem. However Johnny also exhibits no particular passion or expertise in the area of youth. Youth initiatives suffer, the entire body suffers, and Johnny suffers, as he realizes his services aren’t celebrated.

Expectations: Adjust them, don’t satisfy them: How can I as pastor deal effectively with my congregation, and especially those deeply wounded people who want, who demand, that I heal all of their wounds, defects, and deficiencies?

Quite simply, your task is not to meet unrealistic expectations. Your task is to adjust unrealistic expectations. It is absolutely absurd to attempt to meet all of the expectations of your congregation, and for two reasons: 1) You will run yourself ragged and destroy your own life and the lives of your family members; 2) You will send the absolutely wrong message to your congregation, and especially to those more “loosely wrapped” individuals who have a great deal of left over woundedness. That wrong message is, “Yes, I can do it all, I can heal those wounds, and I’m the right person for you”. That’s simply nonsense. You can’t take those wounded people back in time, infantilize them, parent them appropriately, and bring them to maturity. You don’t have the time, resources, or know-how to do it.

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