Sack the Pastor!

On his website Shrink the Church, author Brian Kaufman says “I feel that the mega-church culture is beginning a shift towards simplicity. This shift can only come too soon as large and growing churches continue to hemorrhage, burn out leaders & volunteers, communicate poorly and lose sight of its vision & purpose.”

I posted this on my Facebook wall, and had a leader from a mega church ask if I had any literature on any mega churches that were simplifying according to Kaufman’s observation. But I hadn’t any… so thought I’d come up with one and try it out on you!

This one’s pretty radical: don’t pay anyone.

(overwhelming silence)

Yes, I mean it – don’t staff the church. I don’t see a biblical basis for staffing the church. Paul noted that a worker is worthy of his wages, but he refused to take a wage instead preferring to stay with tent-making. He doesn’t explain why, but I have a few guesses. Working in a secular vocation keeps you connected with people outside the church and rooted to reality by making an honest living. That’s not to say that current staff pastors aren’t earning an honest living. I should know, I worked myself into the ground. It’s just that working inside the church for 60 hours a week, eventually leaves you isolated and disconnected from the world of everyman – the very person you need to have a friendship with – because Jesus did. Does “Friend of sinners” ring any bells?

My solution means that maybe things won’t get done as quickly or efficiently as today’s staff-heavy church, but that will force us to rationalize what we are doing and focus on doing what’s really important, rather than doing what we can because we pay people to do it. The spin-off of not having staff, means that you need to be terribly strategic. You won’t be able to offer as many programs, services and events – which is actually a good thing in the long run. Sadly, in the short term, you’ll lose people, which will mean you’ll lose money and of course this is a dilemma we have gotten ourselves into when we sign up to big mortgages on buildings that lay vacant six days of the week.

Ultimately what it does mean, is that as leaders, we will actually have to do our biblical jobs. That is to equip people for the works of ministry and release them. When people are doing what they’re gifted for and passionate about, they will almost pay to do it. Have you noticed how many charities around the world are getting volunteers to pay to travel to remote parts of the world for the privilege of helping out for a couple of weeks? And these people aren’t christian! Why would people pay to serve? Because it gives their lives meaning and significance. They can’t get that by consuming all the time. Hell you can even pay to go to Thailand and help wash elephants at your own expense, and people are doing it!$440 per week will get you a mattress on the floor and food at an Elephant Nature Park as a volunteer pooper scooper.

Serving in your place in the body, using your gifting and unleashing your passion is a biblical idea and charities are proving that! Yes, I know volunteering is happening to a great extent in the church already, so lets just bite the bullet and go all the way. At least 60% of a churches’ budget is consumed by staff, so imagine what could be possible if there aren’t any.

There are a whole lot more benefits of not staffing the church. I can think of a heap more ramifications, but I’ll let you think about that for a bit and maybe comment. I wouldn’t want to steal all your fun.

Sack the Pastor part II

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2 Responses

  1. My tiny church from my hometown shrank too small to pay a pastor anymore several years ago. I was afraid it was on its way to vanishing. But a fairly broad group of members stepped up to lead it, and something good is happening. It’s grown a bit in umbers, and it feels more *alive*. I think people are taking it more seriously as their own church, not just the church they attend. And they’re no longer stressing out over how they can keep up enough income to keep the pastor paid, but instead thinking about what they can do for the community and for the world.

    It’s a big change, and I certainly don’t know everything about how to make it happen, but it seems promising.

    God bless.

    • wow! It sounds like you have a fantastic little experiment going on there catherine. I think the only danger is that there can’t be a “power vacuum” because great things can get hijacked. So having some sort of mature eldership that can make decisions in consultation with the congregation can help keep everyone “tracking” together. Your example illustrates the breaking of the clergy/laity paradigm and how people step up to fill the clergy role.

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