Some faith-based organizations will go broke or be downsized, succumbing to economic forces that cut off credit and squeeze contributors. Hard ministry decisions will be made as budget shortfalls loom. The local church will pass along this economic reordering to denominations and parachurch ministries which will also cut staff and programs to the bare essentials.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Chuck's excellent post on the impact of the recession on churches, denominations and parachurch ministries has had me thinking. There's lots of good stuff there, go read it. But here's one thing to consider:
Churches are, or should be, different than businesses, I think. A business is about profit, period. But churches are about relationships. People. Including the people that work there. I wonder how many will consider layoffs vs. offering temporary cut backs on hours and pay? If a person was hired for a reason - in a church's case, a mission - then presumably that reason doesn't cease to exist simply because they're laid off. Isn't it better to keep them on half time and try to fulfill at least part of their mission rather than simply to throw in the towel and lay them off completely?
Because here's the deal - while most church workers don't get paid much and probably can't survive on half pay, at least not forever, it would still be better than unemployment benefits, and it would be much better better than no pay. If I were offered the choice by my employer between being laid off or working half-time for half-pay until some objective, measurable profitability goal was reached by the organization, I would choose the half-time/half-pay scenario in a heartbeat. Wouldn't you?
Now some will argue, "Yeah, but they'll just leave anyway, because they have to make ends meet." And that might be correct, especially if we were talking about for-profit business jobs. But if you were going to lay them off instead, then they would be gone anyway, and immediately - so what's the difference? Isn't it better to continue to get their education, experience and effort for a while anyway? Also, I bet many (most) church workers are actually dedicated to their jobs and their church and do see it as mission, and as long as there is some reason to believe that when times get good again they will be restored to full-time and full pay many would tough it out for the good of the church. Finally, in this economy it may be hard for them to find another job, and if you care about them as human beings it is better to show that by continuing to employ them part-time until they can find something to replace it.
I fear Chuck is right about this point (I hope he is right about some of his other predictions), and yet I pray, in line with the rest of his post, that churches use this time to think creatively and not just respond as the world responds to hard times, with layoffs, treating people as expendible.