The Cost of Business

February 19, 2010 at 7:12 am (Leadership) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Shortly before I was terminated, we were in a regional staff meeting and were told that the denomination was bleeding $200k a month.  This would mean there would most likely need to be 10-12 FTEs cut from the budget.  A couple months later, my politically-motivated termination occurred.  One of my friends, who is skilled in the ways of the Church, explained it to me this way:  “You gave them a freebie,” he said.

In other words, because I’m a challenger of the status quo, they felt no emotional attachment to me, saw me as a threat to the organization, and had no qualms about pulling the plug.  The irony, of course, is that when things get tough, that is exactly when you want people who can see things differently and are passionate enough about the organization that they are willing to stand up to the establishment.

It isn’t hateful terrorism that motivates me.  It is passion to do the right thing – as opposed to doing (the wrong) things right.

Well, since last Spring, things have continued to get worse.  At a recent town hall meeting, the constituents were told that there would be approximately 25 additional FTEs cut.  Also, a $1,000,000 grant would not be paid to a local university – and some other budget cutting options, which include a 5% employee pay cut for.

(NOTE: Because pastors have not seen a cost-of-living pay raise in a couple of years, and now have had their pay cut by 5%, in effect they are making about 15% less than they were a few years ago.  However, the cost of living continued to increase during that same time.  This means that someone making $50k a few years ago, is essentially only making $43k now.)

During the course of this town hall meeting, it was made clear that the $1million grant obligation would be honored when the economy turned around.  This was probably due to the pressure put on the denomination by the president of the university, who upon receiving the news, immediately drove four hours to meet with the leadership and plead for that money.

One employee at the town hall meeting asked if the same salary obligations would be honored for employees?  In other words, would employees be reimbursed for the pay cuts they’ve endured over the past few years – including the recent 5% cut?  Though the president acknowledged the question, and though he didn’t actually answer the question, most were left with the impression that the answer was “no.”

Asked where the 25 FTEs would be cut, constituents were told that three or four would come from the approximately 50 administrative and support positions.  Five or six would be teachers.  The remaining 15 positions would be front-line pastoral positions.

If it’s true that “the resources are in the harvest (Matthew 17:27),” then one would wonder, “why cut front line personnel?”

Aren’t these pastors the very ones who will continue to grow the church?

Currently, 50-60% of operating budgets go to maintaining a parochial school system.  Teacher staffing levels are state-mandated – at least if the schools want to keep their accreditation.  Research has shown that there should be at least one FTE pastor for every 150 in attendance – and in order to grow the church, pastoral staff needs to be front-loaded and in place before the next 150 start attending.  Without excess pastoral capacity, the church is unlikely to grow.  Yet, in the past few years, most churches are not only not staffed for growth, they are understaffed for their current attendance levels.

I’m beginning to believe what George Barna, Frank Viola, Brian McLaren, and others have been saying for awhile.  We are witnessing the dismantling of the church.

I don’t believe this is an overt action on anyone’s part.  I don’t believe anyone has anything but the best of intentions.  It is merely a lack of courageous leadership and a willingness to do whatever it takes to push forward and not retreat into a state of irrelevance, impotence, and ineptitude.

What do you think?  Can the Church survive if we keep treating pastors like second-class employees (not only cutting their salaries and resources, but not taking their input when things get tough)?  What would you do if someone asked?

I’m asking…

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How Satisfied are you?

May 11, 2009 at 2:24 pm (Leadership, Social Networking) (, , , , , , , )

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The Other Shoe Dropped

February 10, 2009 at 11:42 pm (change, Feedback Received, Introspection, Leadership, Musings) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Last night, the other shoe dropped.  I sort of expected the first, but the second one came with more subtlety and finesse. It’s official, I am no longer the leader of this organization.

I never knew what this figure of speech meant until several years ago I lived on the bottom story of a two-story apartment complex.  Almost every night my upstairs neighbor came home after the bars closed.  I’d hear him walk through his bedroom to the bathroom.  When he was done there, he’d come back and sit on the edge of his bed.  First one shoe would hit the floor, then the other.  Finally, his bed would squeak as he settled into a drunken slumber.

Since arriving here, it has been my intent to streamline the systems, leadership, and organizational chart.  Being an earnest, energetic, and eager individual, I dove into my charge with reckless abandon.  Within six months, the board was pared down to a manageable size, an advisory team was stripped of it’s unofficial role as leaders, and we began to take baby steps towards better management and leadership of the organization.

Unfortunately, about every two months, we would rehash the conversations about systems, leadership, and growth.  It was as if the previous conversations had never taken place.  About three months ago, I asked the board, “Am I the leader of this organization, or not.”  They answered with assurance that I was indeed the leader of the organization.  Less than a week later, I received an email from three key leaders that sought to pull me back into a subordinate role.

The interesting thing about non-profit, faith-based organizations is that the leader is hired by the same people they are then charged to lead.  If those people chose to not let you lead them, then one is left impotent.  I haven’t felt impotent until last night.  Up until this point, I figured that I just couldn’t get traction.  It was like one step forward, one step back – every other month.

Sunday night I met with the group of people who, through consensus, have been “leading” for years.  Going into the meeting, I knew that this night would decide, more concretely, what my role is to be.  When they hired me, 16 months ago, I heard them say they wanted a leader who could help them change and grow.  That’s what I’m good at, so I said yes.  Sunday night, they stated, unanimously, that this group composed the true leaders – and the other body were just an administrative board.

While attending the board meeting last night, and reflecting on the conversation from the night before, it became obvious to me that I was no longer the leader of this organization.  The chair of the advisory group is now the leader.

I’ve reflected over this all day, trying to make sense of this.  I’ve figured out, I’m a non-potent force in this organization.

Don’t get me wrong, in this economy, I’m happy to have a job.  Also, I believe I can still make a difference, through a path of influence and relationship building.  But, basically, my hands are tied and I’m impotent.

I have much to learn.

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