Monday, August 27, 2012


The Quiet Tyranny of a Church With A Large Staff

Let's forget megachurches for a minute - when you have thousands for worship, you need a big staff. Let's talk about the average church - 300-500.

When I was young the average church of 300-500 got by with a pastor, an associate pastor, a secretary, and facilities staff. In this day and age the staff may be a large as the ruling board. Sure lots of them are part timers, but the numbers are amazing. "Director of Spiritual Formation" - "Children's Minister" - "Youth Minister" - "Communications Director" - "Financial Officer" - Director of Worship" - "Sound Producer" - I could go on, but you get the idea.

There is a chicken-and-egg question when it comes to why staff have burgeoned so in recent decades. Most point to the advent of the two-income household and a subsequent decrease n the available volunteer pool. I think it is far more complex than that, but that;s not where I want to be - I want to simply talk about where we are in regards to this matter and some of the ramifications.

There are two tendencies with large staffs. One, the average volunteer or non-paid leader is going to defer to the judgement of the paid staff because they should be, by virtue of their professional status, "experts." (I can think of countless incidents where such is questionable, but it is a reasonable assumption.) Secondly, when you have that many around getting paid to do stuff, it will be harder to attract volunteers becasue most will assume we are "paying someone to do that." These tendencies produce a result - those that do volunteer never really get to become "leaders" - they are reduced to role fillers in an greater organization defined by the staff.

There is something wrong with this picture. The purpose of the church is not to build itself, but to build up those within it. In a perfect world people would come to a church for a period and then leave it ready to lead their own church - that's evangelism. Instead they come to a church and are placed in a system designed to help them remain infantile in their faith.

I have known parents so absorbed with their parenting that they forget to help their children grow up. The they are baffled when their kids never become productive members of society and are "still int he basement" at 30.

Interesting parallel, isn't it?

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