Some of my time this week has been replying to the first response to our advertisements for a new Children and Families' Pastor. It's encouraging to have a good inquiry. But why do we need to have paid staff in a church? It's worth asking the question.
All Christians are a part of God's mission, serving in a whole range of ways. Paid ministers or church staff can't and shouldn't do it all. We need everyone in the game. The Holy Spirit gives different gifts to people, so everyone has a contribution to make. In fact, those who aren't paid for their Christian service have an advantage when it comes to telling others about Jesus. Writing back in 1927, Roland Allen said, “If he is a paid agent both speaker and hearer are affected by that fact.” There is strength in voluntary, unrehearsed witnessing - even if there are many things the Christian just doesn't know. No one can say, "She is just saying that because it's her job."
It's also true that a Christian's whole life is an act of worship or service to God, not just the time spent on church ministries. We are living for God in our working hours, in the school day, and while caring for our families.
Having said that, staff make a special contribution to God's mission at East Taieri. Life today is busy and having paid staff increases the ministry hours available to a church. This means a church with paid staff can take new mission inititatives that churches without such staff simply couldn't manage. Staff give us that extra capacity and help get us out of maintance mode into mission mode. Staff help us make a bigger kingdom impact and grow as a church. A Children and Families' Pastor is a good example. Could we run Kidzown (our Sunday children's ministry) without a paid staff person? Provided we have very capable volunteer leaders, the answer is probably, "Yes." But, would we have the capacity to really grow and develop Kidzown, reaching new families from the communities around us? Probably not!
Staff bring resources of specialist training and experience. This can help us develop and lead effective ministries, provided it doesn't discourage other Christians from contributing because they don't feel "qualified".
As growth comes, we need more volunteer leaders and not less, so staff have a crucial role in recruiting, training, inspiring and coordinating volunteers. Volunteer hours are becoming more and more precious as families increasingly have both parents working and there are so many commitments and expectations that use up our time. While I believe Jesus calls us to a simpler lifestyle that allows more time for serving others, our hours as volunteers are always limited.
In the Bible we see Paul making tents while he is preaching so that he was not a financial burden for the new churches he started. This wasn't necessarily a long term approach though as Paul himself wrote “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Tim 5:18
So, while there is a significant cost to having church staff, they enable us to take steps forward, provided they don't try to do all the ministry themselves but instead stay faithful to their Ephesians 4 role of "preparing God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."
I'm so glad I get to serve alongside such a great bunch of paid and unpaid "ministers"