SERIES: "Dear Pastor…"

This is a series of articles about real world problems that churches often find difficult to handle. They are presented in the form of emails for ease of conversation but can come in many different ways.

Disclaimer: All the names are made up and in no way identify actual people nor does the author assume responsibility for the opinion expressed in the response.Dear Pastor 2


This is another difficult situation that pastors encounter. A loyal and faithful member of the staff who works part time and has no benefits becomes ill and cannot perform the tasks that they are hired for and asks for forgiveness and financial continuance of salary.

It is certainly an argument for having disability insurance and sick leave policy even for part-time employees. Here an employee is going to be gone for 15 weeks and the church cannot just “get along without her” plus there is the very real possibility that she will not be able to come back at all.

It begs the question of when is a church different than a business. In business this is pretty easy. No work, no salary — when a part-time person is gone for an extended period of time they are replaced — pretty straight forward.

In church, however this person is usually a member and so is their family. They are often beloved members of the church and are surrounded by loyal and caring members.  To compound the situation the church rarely has reserves in place to hire a substitute for the time involved.

To say the least, no one wants to face a congregation and announce that we have had to let “Edna” go because she got sick.

So what do we do?

I have hinted at some viable solutions.

  1. Put in place personnel policies that deal with this kind of issue. When formulating policy put a face in front of decisions as to policy terms. It’s too easy to be tough about this when we don’t consider who we are talking about. Really hard to hold the line when we are dealing in the reality of our own people. This is one of those times when “tough love” fails.
  2. Seek disability insurance or at a minimum build a reserve fund or “rainy day” fund for this and other surprise events and hold on to it fiercely if the face of other budgetary pressures.
  3. Have a backup plan in place for every part-time position in the church. From church admin to custodian have someone trained and in place to take over. It’s too late in the middle of a crisis.
  4. The ringer is that this is true for volunteer jobs as well. Sans the money it’s the same problem. With volunteer jobs it begs for assistants or helpers or co-chairs that are already knowledgeable and have experience. The middle school level Church School teacher for the past 18 years puts the church at risk in many ways. Term limits for elected positions and service limits for others is vital to every church. No position should become a “life sentence without parole” for the sake of the volunteer and for the sake of the church.

Dear Pastor, What would you do?

(Content written by our new contributor, Rev. Paul Johnson, CCA)

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