Nepotism In The Church

Your church has a job opening. It could be any position, but let’s consider a part-time youth minister. The SOP (standard operating procedure) is for the youth committee to ask the nominating committee to recommend a search committee to find a youth minister who must be approved by the personnel committee and then the church. Sound complicated? It really isn’t. They’ll have someone to recommend in a week! You see, the new employee will just be the most logical choice from within the church membership.

Average size churches love to hire from within, because:

  • It helps out a needy church member—“The Jones family could really use the money. Since the father went to prison, they’ve asked for assistance almost every month.”
  • He/she will be a better worker—“You know, you just can’t trust outsiders. You never know what they’re really like.”
  • He/she will work for less—“As a church member, who loves our church, I know he/she’ll work for less than the going rate—even less than we paid the last youth minister.”
  • He/she will tithe back to the church—“So, actually, only 90% of the posted salary leaves the church.”
  • He/she (and/or the family) will be more involved in the church and faithful in attendance—”I’ve been praying that family would get serious about their walk with the Lord, and this will be an answer to that prayer!”

It all seems so perfect unless it becomes obvious the youth minister is totally unequipped. Few in the church know this because they aren’t involved in youth work. Personnel doesn’t know, because there’s no official evaluation process. Youth volunteers are divided. Half don’t think the youth minister can do any wrong. The youth minister comes from a family that is loved and respected. The other half of youth volunteers, and parents, are making the pastor’s life miserable by complaining. They’re threatening to leave the church if the youth minister is not replaced. Sure, the pastor tried to coach the youth minister. Yes, the pastor tried to help the youth minister with peer support and continuing education. Nevertheless, it’s clear the hiring decision was the wrong decision.

Removing any employee at any time can cause friction in a church. When the issue involves “family,” it gets even stickier. When the situation involves employees whose family members are LEADERS, the only thing showing in the rearview mirror is a big sign that says, “CONFLICT OF INTERESTS.”

If that youth minister, above, was the pastor’s son, think of the woundedness to the pastor and the pastor’s family, if conflict forces the youth minister out. If the church secretary is the wife of the chairman of the deacons, and she decides she doesn’t like the pastor and complains to her husband, who will the deacons side with when personality clashes start getting aired out? If the air conditioning repairman installs a new unit, and it goes out the day after the warranty expires, and he’s a regular member, what recourse does the church have without jeopardizing the fellowship of the church?

Sophisticated churches, significant institutions, and enlightened organizations routinely have a conflict of interest policies. Your church needs to consider it, too. If you’re the pastor, however, it’s not a hill to die on if the culture of the church is firmly invested in nepotism. Just wait patiently until the situation blows up, and then the church will be willing to add a new rule to the bylaws-of-knee-jerk-reactions. And hopefully, you’ll still be the pastor when the dust settles.

Published: Nov 1, 2018


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