Why Secular Workplaces treat their employees better than churches

Eric Hoke
August 19, 2023
5 min read
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Why are secular environments better places to work than most churches?

If you are a pastor that is "on the fence" about making the switch to a marketplace role, read this e-mail carefully. It may surprise you.

In May, I had a "career conversation" with my manager.

We have 2-3 of these conversations a year.

They're on the calendar and we spend up to 90 minutes focused on my career goals outside my day-to-day function.

My manager just listens, ask questions, provides feedback and makes suggestions.

I can share what I am dreaming for professionally and imagining "big picture goals" for my career in terms of what I want to do more of, less of and how I want to be stretched professionally.

After our conversation, I was able to write a job description of what I wanted my core job responsibilities to be, a job title that I wanted for my next role and ready for this, a salary that I would like and with the support of my team, we created a roadmap to get me there!

This document was shared with my senior director and VP and now the four of us are working together to help me get this new job, which looks like it will pan out in the Q1 of 2023!

I am pretty excited about the potential here.

Here's the best part: my manager has told me, "I hope your next promotion is here but even if your next job is not with our company, I am here to support you."

I share this story because corporate America is not the ruthless, cutthroat, scary place TV and movies back it out to be!

Let's hop back over to church world.

Imagine a pastor who tells her youth director, "I want to make sure you're more things around here that you enjoy, let's make a plan to make that happen!"

Imagine a church board that says that to their pastor, "We know you're a talented preacher and lots of churches would be lucky to have you. We want to keep you here as long as God has you here and what can we do to make you stay?"

Seems far-fetched, huh?

In the corporate world, we call it, "Staying Interviews"

Now, here's the thing with most churches I've worked in full time.

This would NEVER happen and let me tell you why:

I never had "career conversations" with the lead pastor or board.

I never was asked if I was happy in my role of wanted to move things around.

I certainly NEVER felt comfortable to share that I was looking for other jobs outside of my current one.

And the more pastors that I meet in this IHPGJ journey, the more I realize pastors have to be secretive, sheepish and scared when it comes to this simple fact of all of our lives... jobs change, they come and they go, yes, even church jobs aren't forever.

Yet churches like to pretend that we're different.

Why is that?

Here are a few reasons that I spent some time reflecting over it these past few weeks, would love to hear your thoughts too:

1. Churches tend to be a few years (or decades) behind mainstream culture and this includes working environments and culture. For example, both of my parents (boomers) worked in the same jobs their whole careers, my father in a factory and my mom in a non-profit. I have been in the workforce full time for 14 years and the longest job I have kept so far is 4 years, which tracks with people in my generation (millennials) where 75% of them will leave their job within 5 years. When churches begin to accept that in the modern world, pastors have more agency and freedom to move, expectations will be reset and churches will work harder to retain staff, including being open to Bivo leaders.

2. My career is also my calling. To me, this was and is the biggest one. Though I like my current job and am grateful to work there, I can't say I sense that I am deeply "called" to be there and haven't experienced intense bonding experiences with anyone that makes me want to stay. When pastors and churches put the "mystical" in things as practical as where you work, how much you earn, and your job expectations, things can get... weird. So for example, if a pastor tells their board, 'I think my time here is winding down, can we make a plan for the next pastor of this church' it's viewed as "our pastor is abandoning us! Off with his head" It should be viewed as "our pastor is caring for us by making a plan to transition in health" When pastors have the trust in their leadership team that their honesty is not met with criticism but openness, transparency can thrive.

3. Most pastors and church staff should not be full time. Here where is my most extreme views rear its ugly head but hear me out: what if the problem is less the people and more the systemwide? An honest question we all should ask ourselves as ministers is, "Would I still be doing this ministry if I weren't being paid?" Imagine the freedom, joy, simplicity, fidelity that pastors and church staff could carry if they said, "I do this either as a volunteer or on a very time basis because I love it and enjoy it!" For me, it's the best part about being a BiVo Pastor: I can serve on my own terms and do more of what I love and lose the expectation of doing much else. When pastors can serve on their own terms and a team of leaders are deployed around them, there is a case to be made for sustainable, healthy churches.

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