I did a fairly good job yesterday of taking a day off from all the
anger thoughts crowding my mind. Cut down and cleared out four large beds of dead ornamental grass, and have the cuts on my hands and forearms to prove it. Cleaned the winter’s worth of grime off the front porch, and have the broken-off artificial nail to prove that. Took a walk in the sunshine and had a lovely, healing nap. Grilled steaks on the patio – aromatherapy that led to a delicious dinner. Can’t beat it.
So, having rested a bit, I feel the need to get a thing out by writing about it. It’s only one of many things that are seriously pissing me off about the stuff going on at work, but it’s a big one.
I work for a church. Consequently, my paycheck is crap (and so is my health insurance plan). Let me qualify that statement just a bit. If you were to compare the salary my church pays me to what other churches pay for a similar position, my salary comes off looking really good – if you could even find a church that pays someone full-time to direct ministry to young children and families. Most churches either don’t value that work enough to pay adequately for it, or they’re too small to pay for it – they rely on volunteers. Volunteers can be great, but in general you get what you pay for.
Hah! Please note the irony in that statement. You get what you pay for. My congregation is getting WAY more than they pay for. I have a degree. I’ve published three books. I have certification in youth and family ministry. I have significant training in leadership and use that experience to train others. I co-lead a support group in our wider community for people who live with a person with mental illness.
Every single one of my co-workers has a fully-stocked resume, as well. Our market values are well above what we’re being paid. The constant growth sustained over years in our congregation is, quite honestly, mostly down to this amazing staff. (The pastors are stellar, too, but for the purposes of the difficult situation we’re currently in they don’t count as staff).
So…with all that said, you might be able to imagine how infuriating it was to hear the following argument earlier this week, from a (very well-off financially) volunteer who has a position of leadership in the congregation and who came to hear the staff’s recent concerns:
“You knew what you were getting into when you chose to work in ministry.”
In other words, you made your bed, now lie in it.
The same argument is used to underpay and undervalue teachers, child care providers, and many others whose life work makes the world a better place, as opposed to those who work for Big Business.
I totally get that a church will never be flush with cash. If we were, I would be the first in line to insist that any excess be largely funnelled to those in need.
On the other hand, I believe the church has a responsibility to do better than they are required to do. Churches should be first in line to offer dignity and respect by paying well for the work their employees do. Especially when they are located in an extrememly affluent community, where almost every family in the congregation has an income well into the triple digits. (And yes, obviously we’re bound by what members are willing to give. But there’s no concentrated effort to tell the true story that they’re not giving enough to pay a decent salary to the staff.)
I’m not talking out of school here. I said the same thing (as did my coworkers) directly to the volunteer who insulted us earlier this week. I’ll be making the same argument (and many, many more – this situation has more layers than an onion) next week with our lead pastor – who has been almost entirely silent throughout this two-month-long issue.
My concern is far greater than compensation and appreciation. The greater issue is attitude and sense of privilege.
Something’s gotta give.