Several ministers have responded to my last post “Can A Minister Have Close Friends?” commenting on the difficulties created by being a paid minister for a church. In general, their comments run something like, “When people think of you as their employee, it is hard for either one of you to be close friends!” Or they say, “When people think they are paying you to do what they don’t have time or desire to do, they are generally not in a position to be a friend.”
Let’s think together about why these ministers feel this way. See if you agree with these statements:
- The “power” of an employer to hire or fire a minister makes close friendship almost impossible.
- The “class distinction” between the ministers who are hired and the members who do the hiring makes a close friendship of equals almost impossible.
- The financial dependency on the congregants to approve of a minister and his/her work never allows the minister to be authentic enough to form truly close friendships.
- The common notion that a minister should be financially sacrificial, but the leaders and/or the members are free for unrestrained financial gain creates a tension that precludes true friendship.
- The requirement in many churches of semi- or fully public disclosure of the minister’s salary creates both jealousies from those with less and/or condescension from those with more rather than close friendships.
Certainly there are exceptions, but isn’t there enough truth in every one of these statements to demand that we pause and reconsider why our churches are entrenched in a financial system that creates deep inequities, social liabilities, and fosters anything but a spirit of love?
I continue to believe that using a business/corporate organizational model —whether intentionally or by cultural default—is highly detrimental to our churches. I’m talking about the elders being either the owners or the board of directors, the ministers/staff being the employees, and the congregation usually being the customers, with some exceptional churches seeing the members as unpaid volunteers.
Just limiting ourselves to the question of finances and friendships, I believe our churches would be better served and our ministers would not live without loving friendships if we used a family model for church instead of a corporate model?
Tomorrow we will look at the differences between a corporate model for church and a familial model.