Putting staff in charge without losing volunteer commitment

Boards that try to delegate authority to staff often worry that volunteers will lose commitment. It’s a realistic concern: volunteers who handled large responsibilities under the board do sometimes decide, when the board passes the management baton to the head of staff, that they are no longer needed. This used to surprise me. Why would … Read more

Whither interim ministry?

A file-drawer label popped out at me as I moved into my new office: “VACANT CHURCHES.” For a moment, I imagined empty buildings all across the continent. Then I opened up the drawer, flipped through folders, and realized the churches were not vacant. They were full of people—what they lacked was ministers. That’s where I … Read more

Becoming staff

“Is it wise to hire a member?” When hiring staff, congregation leaders often ask this question. Hiring members has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that members are apt to be familiar with the congregation, committed to its mission, and used to working hard without pay. The drawbacks are that a former lay leader … Read more

Life after Governance Change

by Dan Hotchkiss An anthropologist from Pluto might be forgiven for misclassifying “board and committee meetings” among the sacred rites of Earth religion. Meetings, with their arid liturgy of motions, seconds, minutes, and reports, give comfort and security to some, while driving others—particularly those who like results better than extended conversations about pros and cons … Read more

Special Privileges and Church Vitality

No sooner had the Puritans set foot on the shores of New England than they began to grapple with some of the same church-state questions we still deal with in our churches. Most of the early Puritans, for instance, believed that ministry should be supported by voluntary gifts, and shun dependence on the state. This … Read more

Authority or Leadership?

In olden times, we like to think, society accorded great authority to clergy. Whether or not this rosy generalization stands up to scrutiny (it does not), we mainstream clergy certainly have lost some of the cachet our counterparts enjoyed from 1945 to 1965 or so. Many people then believed attending and supporting congregations to be … Read more

Principles for Sound Staff Evaluation

Many people flinch at the mention of evaluation, and with reason. In congregations, staff evaluation often is conducted as a popularity poll with anonymous respondents rating staff performance on the basis of subjective impressions. In effect, the staff members answer to hundreds of semi-invisible bosses who can invent new things to blame them for at … Read more

Should a Staff Member Report to a Committee?

When board- and committee-centered congregations engage paid staff, they sometimes struggle to find language to describe how staff members should relate to one another and to the rest of the organization. Especially if the staff person leads a program area like education, music, or youth work, which is “owned” by a committee, it seems natural … Read more

Funding for Today and Tomorrow

Congregations almost always say they want to grow, but I’ve come to doubt that many really do. The more accurately people picture how a congregation changes when it grows from family-sized to pastoral, program, corporate and beyond, the more clearly they see that growth means losing the worshiping community they know and love and trading … Read more