Ministry work hours 6: Contracts vs tenure

For senior ministry positions I’m in favour of tenure, rather than contracts.

For apprentices, support staff and junior staff I think contracts have their advantages, but I think there are some important reasons why employing staff on contracts that require renewal in keeping with job performance is problematic:

  1. It weights performance too heavily. Those who preach and teach need to build ministry over the long haul and not be measured to closely by their performance.

  2. It puts a major responsibility on the assessing body (the elders? a committee? the senior staff leader?) on assessing the performance of the staff rather than sitting under their spiritual oversight.

  3. It doesn’t protect the leader in enabling them to teach unpopular truths and lead through unpopular changes.

  4. It can produce a mercenary mindset in the staff themselves: ‘I’m just here for 3 years, after that is anyone’s guess’.

  5. It establishes the relationship between the leader and the congregation as someone who is here only temporarily to do a task, rather than someone who is here for the relationship.

  6. It is generally in the best interest of the church to have leaders there over a long period.

All of this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t review our senior staff and consider performance. It doesn’t mean we can’t think seriously about getting to a point where we might take steps towards encouraging a staff member to move on. It doesn’t mean staff themselves can’t resolve to move on after a season. But I just believe the emphasis shouldn’t be put on these factors. They should be hard to do, they should be done against the grain. But good leaders should still have the conviction to help unsuited leaders move on if need be.

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