Employment and ministry

by Richard on May 25, 2011

I’m a bit behind, so I’ve only just caught up with Dave Faulkner’s very helpful The Employment status of Methodist Ministers. I very much agree with David that this is not so simple as some have tried to present it. While I can see some advantages in the changing the status of ministers from ‘office holder’ to ‘employee’, I suspect that it is a change that we would come to regret.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Dave Faulkner 05.25.11 at 10:24 am

Thanks for the link, Richard. I am glad to find someone else who realises this is a complex issue.

2

Kim 05.25.11 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Dave. Your post is immensely helpful for understanding the situation and the issues. Two points.

For the interest of all Methodists, the Ministries Committee of the United Reformed Church (URC) submitted to our 2010 General Assembly a 1,500 word report on “the ministerial working week”. The Committee’s remit was “a concern for the central care and conditions of service of ministers”, their “health and well being”, including “a recognition of the need for ministers to be encouraged and allowed to establish and work within a proper relationship between living and working, doing and being” (whatever the hell that means, though I know what it’s getting at). The report observes that “An essential part of the minister’s work is reflection, prayer and study,” and that “This is not additional to, but an integral part of, the working time.” It further observes that “Ministry also has a creative quality about it and the creative process is notoriously difficult to quanitfy.” And it finally observes that “A clear working time will not prevent the majority of those in ministry being ‘on call’. But it may enable them to decide how to respond to any request and to feel able to take time off after a particularly difficult or stressful period.” But the arithemetical upshot is this: “the working week, translated into hours in a four week period, should not be less than 160 hours and not more than 192.” That’s a 40-48 hours working week! My jaw has still not recovered from the rictus induced when I first read this report last year!

Second, on a theological note, I can certainly understand why ministers might come under the legal designation “office holders”, but the grounds “because we are deemed to be engaged by God, not the Church” surely relies on a quite spurious, pernicious, and rather hilarious dichotomy, don’t you think?

3

PamBG 05.25.11 at 12:53 pm

I’m not really worried about the working week but rather about the sorts of issues Dave brought up in his post.

I ended up using a time recording system when I was a circuit minister and I worked between 60 and 65 hours a week (I feel free to say that now because it won’t sound like whining now that I’m not doing it.) I now work about 45 to 50 hours a week and no one calls me at 7 am with non-emergency points of business that could have waited until 9:00. I also have a separation between my home life and working life and no one tries to manipulate me into being enmeshed in their life as a surrogate mother or daughter. I say this as pointing out the downsides of congregational ministry, which I actually loved. But it burns me when people talk about ministers being lazy.

4

Bob Gilston 05.25.11 at 4:20 pm

Pam, I’m astonished that anyone would talk about ministers being lazy. I know that a minister might be lazy but ministers certainly not. Whoever says that cannot have any concept of a minister’s role. I remember a vicar who used to light the fire for an elderly lady at 7.00am. No-one in the village knew that he even did it and there is the rub. It’s not what people know that ministers do, it’s what they don’t know. I hope as Richard states that changes are not made that the church will live to regret.

5

Elaine 05.25.11 at 8:28 pm

I am about to retire - early! 2 years over state retirement age but with a possible 3+ more years i could have given. And I am so sad about that. I have loved my churches and the individual ministry tasks, priveledges of pastoral care and leadership and the helping others to find otr deepen their faith
But……
I have just been burned out by the isolation, overwork, lack of recreation and space for personal developement let alone a family life!
I knew what hard work was and the cost of a calling……….
As a teacher i worked long hours but still had the energy to preached at least once most Sundays. i had a full family life including the opportunity and funds for holidays and visits to family and friends. I was able to go on retreat from time to time and took care to keep up todate with reading crafts and exercise.

As a Minister these have all been even more necessary and yet were almost impossible.

I have found myself having to deal with the sort of bullying from colleagues such as I had to deal with in the playground but never in the Staff room and certainly of such a level that I would have taken industrial action had I done! A lack of collegialiality which has prevented the work of God. Stress and exhaustion caused by unrealistic expectations. The feelings of failure and hipocracy over not giving sufficient time to attend to ones own disciplship. No possitive supervission.

No Employee would have put up with this. They would move on or formally complain. But as a Methodist Minister that is not so easy.
Having made the desission to retire, rather than face the stress of moving, I then have to stay in post for more than a year .

I am not sure I am comfortable with the change to employee status. But I am sure that being in an ‘office’ in a ‘covenant relationship’ has been very uncomfortable!

Perhaps the the Minister from Redruth has fought a battle many more of us should have been brave enough to fight.

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