30 November 2010

So you want to be a church worker

Hey, that's great. So did I once.

But I remember a professor back at CUNE backing up a student who took umbrage to the term "church worker." She was majoring in business or something like that and was involved at her church, but since she wasn't a DC[vowel] or LTD student, she wasn't a church worker. No, she was just a person who would be tithing on a real wage and serving her local parish not on the clock but with her free time. Think of it! Furthermore, she wasn't receiving a "church work" scholarship she'd feel obligated to work off even if she married and had children soon after graduation.

It is understandable for pious people to want to make a career of piety. But I wonder if career-ifying the service of lay people is best either for them or for the church. Lutheran school teachers, DC[vowel]s, deaconesses, and all the rest are, it is no secret, very poorly compensated (much worse than pastors). Placement is a constant problem, especially in the current economic climate. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who knows numerous Ministers of Religion-Commissioned who have been treated absolutely shamefully by church employers who ask far too much of them in the name of "ministry."

What would happen if all the good-hearted Concordia students of the world chose majors which gave them reliable prospects for a comfortable (might I even venture "fair"?) wage, supported their families thereby, and made church service a regular family extracurricular? How many families like this would it take to do the work of one full-time staff person, and what would those families gain from spending more time together at church? How might it benefit the unbelieving world to have more skilled Christian laborers, businessmen, and professionals rather than an ill-defined class of church-employed persons busying themselves in that sequestered environment with needs that have always existed in the church but only recently began requiring full time staff people? How might this affect perceptions of the doctrine of vocation? How might the church be affected by having fewer people on payroll and more people tithing off greater incomes?

I'm not saying the "church workers" are bad. I'm saying the opposite. They are devout, good-hearted people, as they have exhibited by being willing to make less money and take jobs which the world does not respect. But just imagine if all those people didn't go into full time "church work." They'd make enough money for their families to have more than soup and muffins for supper all winter. They'd have ongoing relationships with coworkers outside the church. They'd show up at church more often than Sunday morning because the life of the church is a priority for them. They'd be at evening Bible classes asking good questions. They'd be demonstrating to their kids that the best use of their free time is in the service of God and His people.

I wonder how pastors would answer if given the choice between one full time "church worker," or five active celibates or families who showed up every Cleanup Day and Wednesday night and at the homes of the sick and lonely; who salted the world and bore witness to Christ every day in their places of work; who sought pastoral counsel in matters of life and theology; who (in the case of families) grew and blessed the parish with well-catechized, church-loving children.

7 comments:

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

nicely put.

Anonymous said...

The first time I agree with you.

ex-CUNE LTD

Wing It Mom said...

Well said! Definately an issue I have been pondering personally of late...

Rebekah said...

Rev. Deacon, thank you, although I do struggle with run-ons.

Anon, the only reasonable explanation I can think of for one such as yourself being here is that you are related to me, which likely makes you one of the very real people who inspired this missive. This being the case, let me tell you again how sorry I am that we couldn't make it on Saturday. XXOO Becky PS--I have to say, I thought pretty much everybody could get behind the "Food regret" post.

WIM, hi. :)

Elizabeth said...

I LOVED this post. Thank you! I got an LTD and then married a man whose vocation did not allow me to be a "called church worker". So I got to be an overworked, underpaid "contracted" teacher for a few years (in the name of ministry, of course). Somehow I lived through it all. At any rate, I agree that in our synodical colleges and in our congregations, there is a great misunderstanding and misuse of "church workers" - the term and the people. I think what you propose sounds EXCELLENT! (so does my husband, by the way, who is so thankful to have his real wife back, he'll never let me be a Lutheran school teacher again.)

Leah said...

Very wise.

K said...

So you are saying that instead of delaying childbirth and marriage so they can pursue a lucrative career in the church that these same people could possibly be productive members of ALL three estates?