How would you like to have this job?
Note: The salary is in 1996 dollars. Which still isn’t a lot.
Over the last few months I’ve had conversations with numerous people who used to work in either fundamentalist or evangelical ministries and just can’t afford to keep doing it. When you’re putting in a full week of work but eating from your own church’s food pantry because you can’t afford groceries that might be a problem.
There is a serious problem in American Christianity with “ministry” employees being underpaid, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Here are a few reasons why:
By the nature of being sacred instead of secular, many ministry employees are isolated from the rest of the job market. Being cut off from the rest of their colleagues makes them prone to believing the lies that they didn’t need to get accreditation or certification. As a result they have no relationships with those kinds of bodies and they don’t participate in continuing education with their secular counterparts.
As a result they simply have no idea what their skills might be worth in the rest of the world or how to build a set of credentials that makes them worth more.
2. Delayed Gratification.
“Treasures in heaven” is the cry of those who really don’t want to pay for good dental benefits on earth. Christian workers are told that somehow their efforts are more special and worthy of greater rewards. Lots of people work in school cafeterias but Jesus loves people who work in Christian school cafeterias just a little bit more. The celestial payout is going to be awesome! (So we’ll need you to go ahead and work for peanuts while you’re here.)
After all, it’s all about getting people saved! Who can put a price tag on that?
3. Shrinking Population.
Church attendance is in decline. That means fewer checks in the offering plate and less operating budget. Like any other business the first place any ministry is going to start cutting its expenses is not in buildings or salaries at the top. They’re going to start by seeing how much they can save by reducing the number of paid days off or requiring all employees to contribute some amount of time for free.
This is just suffering for Jesus.
4. Heavy Indoctrination.
Fundamentalist and Evangelicals have done well in playing the education game. Every year there is a crop of idealistic fresh faces that emerge from their high-schools and colleges having spent hundreds of hours in classrooms being taught that there is no higher calling than being grist to the ministry mill. With new cheap labor being manufactured every day there’s no incentive for raises for the people who have been here all along.
Jesus is the greatest coupon ever.
5. Total Prevarication.
If you ever work for a ministry that tells you that if you just serve the Lord with them for 30 years that there will be a pension at the end to take care of you in your old age I advise you to smile politely and then walk away quickly. There is no retirement. There. is. no. retirement. There is, however, a pink slip with your name on it sealed in an envelope that says “to be opened when the employee is 65.”
Unless you’re putting savings in your own IRA or stuffing it in your mattress then there will be no money.
So the formula goes like this:
Isolated employees + A Heavenly Mission + Declining Revenue + Renewable Workforce + Lies = Starvation Wages.
If you give people too much then how will they ever learn to trust God? The food pantry is open from 3-6 on Thursdays.
The church constitution of Emmanuel Independent Baptist Church of Clay Center Kansas contains the following clause:
“This Church shall be an independent, autonomous church, subject only to Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. There shall be no co-operation with any group that permits the presence of apostates or apostasy. Should this Church ever become organically joined or in any way identified as part of a denomination or association of churches, that part of the pastor’s salary, of four thousand dollars ($4,000.00), received from Bob Jones University, for the first year must be returned to Bob Jones University plus six Percent (6%) interest compounded yearly on the amount received.”
Since this constitution was adopted in 1975 that means that an attempt to join the SBC would currently cost the church almost $55,000. The real irony is that founding pastor “Pastor Schoneweis” (the bio never gives his first name) served as the South Central Regional Director for the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International — Which is TOTALLY not a denomination or association of churches. Nope. Totally different than that.
Nothing to see here folks, just move along.
Ever wonder what kind of rules people have to live by when they’re on the staff of a hardcore fundamentalist church? Ever stop to think exactly how much control the pastor has directly of their personal lives?
Presented here without further commentary is the Staff Manual for North Valley Baptist Church, kingdom of Jack “the pastor is your shepherd you shall not want” Treiber.
(If you’d prefer not to read it on scribd you can also directly download the PDF)
Wherever there is a fundamentalist institution that has managed to land itself in legal hot water, one can be assured that somewhere in the shadows will be support from the legal minds of the Christian Law Association.
As self-proclaimed “legal missionaries” the CLA are given donations by countless churches to defend those who are “facing difficulties for the Biblical faith.” In other words, they are The Fixers for fundamentalism.
For years, the front man for this organization has been Dr. David Gibbs Jr. (and more recently David Gibbs III) who showed up at least yearly at my Fundy U to preach and tell the good news of how our religious liberties were being defended in the highest courts in the land. As a student, I always looked forward to his sermons because even though they tended to be strong on legalism (stories of reading the Bible through every month spring to mind) they were as cogent as they were hilarious. A bit light on exegesis, perhaps, but still very entertaining.
It was only after I left those hallowed halls that I began to consider exactly what role the CLA plays in fundamentalism. As has been demonstrated over and over again, fundamentalists have more than their share of skeletons in the closet and those skeletons often involve some type of legal action. The links between Hyles and the CLA, for example, go back as far as the 1970s and can be documented right up to the present day with David Gibbs III being selected to hand out an award during the 2010 Pastors School at FBC Hammond. Dave Gibbs Jr. also routinely fills the pulpit next to men like Clarence Sexton and Scott Caudill. These are fundamentalists of the fundamentalists.
Consider, would anybody be more likely to know about the dirty secrets of churches, colleges, and schools than their legal counsel? Yet, knowing first hand exactly the caliber of people with whom they are dealing, the CLA not only continues to laud these institutions as righteous but they also take money from churches by characterizing this defense of fundyland as “missions.”
You can count on two things: 1) Fundamentalist churches and colleges will act stupidly and end up in court 2)More often than not the CLA will be somehow involved in cleaning up the mess.