Q&A

Do we need to expand our articles of incorporation to reflect our relationship with the CRC and more? 

June 2, 2016 0 2 comments
Discussion Topic

What's the best way to let church volunteers know they're appreciated? If you've been a volunteer, what expression of "thanks" has meant the most to you?

March 28, 2016 0 2 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

You don’t need a reminder that Easter is quickly approaching. But as you’re fine-tuning your plans, I want to offer a few ideas for how you can make sure your work benefits the most people possible. 

February 18, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Here are some of the financial administrative responsibilities connected with managing an overseas ministry that your church should consider (based on experience with my own church).

February 5, 2016 2 4 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

The Key Federal Tax Figures displays variables from previous fiscal years to the current fiscal year.

February 3, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

Four years ago, CRCNA communications staff launched "Webinar Wednesdays" as a “no travel required” means for people in the CRC to get training and resources in a series of free, one-hour events...

January 13, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

I know the church directory is intended to be a resource for members to be able to contact each other. Yet I wonder, is it being used? 

November 16, 2015 2 12 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires all organizations that serve the public to adopt a Customer Service Policy. Here's a sample policy for churches to consider. 

November 5, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The Multilingual Gateway on IRS.gov contains federal tax information in Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. You'll find useful forms for personal as well as church tax requirements. 

October 12, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Policy or Guidelines

Organizing and planting a new church requires careful planning and implementation. Keep reading to find practical help on the legal and financial aspects of organizing. 

October 8, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

None of the volunteers drew attention to themselves. So they didn’t get much attention. For this reason, churches need to be alerted. We agreed and gave it a name: Pastor and Ministry Appreciation. 

October 5, 2015 0 0 comments
Blog

Over the next few weeks, The Network wants to join with you in brainstorming simple and thoughtful ways to say “THANKS!” to the leaders in your church. 

October 5, 2015 0 2 comments
Q&A

Our church is in transition and looking to re-establish what it means to be a committee that takes care of the Property and the Finances of the church. What ought this group do?

October 5, 2015 1 1 comments
Blog

Having some defined hours allows a pastor to plan and also allows people to plan. It is respectful of everyone’s need to plan. But exactly how many hours? This requires discernment. 

September 23, 2015 3 2 comments
Discussion Topic

In talking with churches in transition, we have found gaps in the typical ways that we gather church metrics. What new tools can we use to measure church growth, decline, and other changes?

September 22, 2015 1 3 comments
Discussion Topic

It's time for that uncomfortable conversation again: my compensation. I will be pointing to this question, “Is the level of financial support for the minister appropriate and sufficient?" 

September 21, 2015 0 8 comments
Discussion Topic

Many churches are wrestling with the changes that technology brings. One aspect of church life that may be impacted is office hours for Pastors. Has your church struggled to define office hours?

September 16, 2015 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

There's no doubt that church communications can be a difficult career. But as a church communicator, there are some ways you can be more effective in your job.

August 24, 2015 0 0 comments
Q&A

Our church is beginning the transition to implementing background checks. We are running into several snags and would love the input and experience of others.

August 12, 2015 1 7 comments
Resource, Report

The annual Ministers’ Compensation Survey is intended to obtain information on the compensation practices generally followed by churches in Canada and the United States for pastors serving a congregation full-time.

August 11, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Form or Template

The Church and Minister Profile Forms have been streamlined and are attached for quick download. 

June 22, 2015 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

Churches have a wealth of great content. It’s true. Yet so many churches struggle when it comes to finding the right things to post on social media, websites or other communications avenues.

June 16, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

We often talk about bullying in schools and strategies to encourage decreased aggression for our children. But what about bullying in our everyday lives as adults in the church?

April 30, 2015 2 0 comments
Discussion Topic

When it comes to paying our congregational musicians, most churches are faced with a couple different scenarios. Has your church wrestled with this question?

April 29, 2015 0 2 comments
Resource, Book or Booklet

The 2015 Yearbooks are now available; look for pre-orders to be shipping soon!

April 15, 2015 0 2 comments

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Some suggestions:

  • Insurance should be handled the same for all employees based on full-time (30 or more) or part-time (may be two levels 20+ or under 20 typically)
  • Pension is a covered item for a minister of the Word.  Synod has determined this is how we will take care of our ministers in retirement
  • Housing Allowance is often 35-40% of salary
  • Salary is the most variable option.  Check out the Wage Scales sample in a search on The Network.  This sample from a larger church shows a salary range for a US Pastor Coordinator 1 starting at $49,750/min range/yr to a Senior Pastor max range of $108,340/yr.  This is just a sample from a church but gives you some idea of range.
  • The Ministers' Compensation Survey has variances based on 1st quartile, median, 3rd quartile.
  • "Compensation Handbook for Church Staff" by Richard Hammar
  • If you know of some churches that have a similar position, call them.

Hi Sheri: 

Pardon my digging up an old post. We are considering adding a second full-time staff person. The job does not require ordination, but many of our applicants are ordained. Could you tell us where to look for resources on how to compensate them fairly? We are came up with a base salary using the compensation book you mention here, but that no longer seems to apply if we go the ordained route (does it?)). We are also aware of the ministers compensation survey, but are looking more for information about how an ordained person in a different role should by fairly compensated (especially in comparison to the "lead" pastor with things like Insurance, housing, pension and, of course, salary). Thanks!
 

Nope.

 

posted in: Guns at Church

Has anyones views changed on this topic?

posted in: Guns at Church

Hi Michael: 

Here are a couple resources that may be helpful for you: 

The first is a blog (found here) that includes brief background on Bylaws as well as a sample church Bylaws document. 

Second, there was a communication (found here) that came out August 2015 about some revisions to the articles due to issues with same-sex marriage. 

Thanks!

Sheri 

OK, first off I am not an attorney. Second, the rules of Illinois are probably different than those of Michigan.  That being said, I believe that the primary purpose of modeling articles of incorporation became evident when churches began splitting and leaving the denomination during the long national nightmare of the WIO (Women in Office) issue.  The practical question was this:  If half of the congregation votes to leave the CRC and join the XYZ denomination, are they entitled to take the property with them?  Who owns the property?  By designating the relationship as one with the CRC, it helps with that question.  One less piece of agony to work through during what can be an otherwise messier divorce situation.  Read Article 6 D.

Thanks Randy. Last year I had to pull out a copy of the Letter of Call to remind them of their obligation. Some were stunned to see that in writing. It did change the previous decision and a raise was given. We need to keep everyone enlightened about their responsibilities. We take it for granted that everyone understands, but with changing council members it has to be brought to their attention. I am thankful for their understanding when they received the information.

Good to have this conversation.  I have found that you have to be assertive because committees don't always think logically when it comes to the compensation survey.  The survey is from LAST year's salaries and is meant for determining next year's salary.  It's not meant to BE next year's salary, but the finance committee in my church doesn't seem to understand that.  Because they have always used last year's numbers for the present year, I'm a year behind.  If all finance committee's did what mine does, our pastor's salaries would always remain the same.  The other issue is that our Classis had an influx of young new pastor's and the average dropped significantly for last year.  In my two years in my present charge I've actually been presented with a decrease both years.  Go figure!

When I stepped down as Prayer Ministry Director I was overwhelmed by the cards I received. There was the card from the Pastor, my Ministry Leader and then others that shared how the ministry had impacted them. I still have them. Don't let a volunteer step away without telling them how much their ministry and work has meant. Personal stories are really great.

Here is a list that ServiceLink has compiled, with 10 tips for showing church volunteers how much you appreciate them.  Many of these ideas are 'common sense' actions that volunteer leaders will already be aware of and following, but some may spark new ideas.  National Volunteer Week is also a good opportunity to give thanks, during the congregational prayer, for the faithful volunteers who are such a blessing to our congregations.

  1. Know your volunteers - Look for ways to spend some time with them and learn about who they are and about their lives. Where do they work? Who makes up their family? Ask about vacations. What significant dates are important in their lives? Showing you care about them indicates you’re interested in them personally and not just in completing a task.
  2. Ooze with encouragement either verbally or in writing. Tell your volunteers they did a great job. Share with them the impact they are making in your ministry. Send a card or an email. Let them know you’re praying for them.
  3. Care for your volunteers - Caring for your volunteers goes beyond knowing them. What are some of the things that they require in order to do their tasks? How about making sure they have access to workspace, computers and equipment. How about providing snacks for meetings or training events. This helps reduce the formality of meetings and may give people an excuse to come early or stay a bit later to build relationships.
  4. It’s all about Jesus! Every volunteer must see how their ministry connects to the gospel and changed lives – if not they’re only doing a task. So tell them! Tell them how their ministry connects to the mission of your church and the building of God’s Kingdom.
  5. Show them the ropes - You cannot expect volunteers to deliver quality ministry without some intentional training and team building. Provide the necessary resources in order for volunteers to be effective in their roles, as well as transferring attitudes, competencies and knowledge.
  6. Affirm their gifts - Sometimes people’s gifts are so natural to them that they don’t recognize them as such. When we highlight volunteers’ gifts we acknowledge both their gifts and the Giver of gifts, encouraging them to continue using those gifts to bless others.
  7. Respect their time - Volunteers have busy lives outside of ministry responsibilities. They may already be working long hours or need to arrange babysitters for their children. Lack of time is the most common reason people won’t commit to ministry involvement. So be prepared for your meetings, start on time and return calls and emails promptly. By respecting their time, you value them as volunteers.
  8. Keep them in the loop - People want their lives to matter, to know that they are important to the overall mission and vision of your church. So if there are new initiatives in ministry or changes in programs, keep volunteers informed and share the vision so they don’t feel awkward when other members may inquire of them.
  9. Cover their costs - Investing in a volunteer’s personal growth is a high level of appreciation. Is there a conference that would enhance their gifts and take them to a new level of responsibility? Invite them to participate in growth opportunities and cover their expenses.
  10. Say thanks! Just as you were taught from early on, saying please and thank you is good manners. Say “thank you” often and mean it.

 

Amen Fred! We are out to change our culture, not only follow rules. Safe Church is about creating a truly safe environment for all people, including those who may have experienced abuse, so that all of us together can worship, grow, and become all that we are created to be. It's a mindset that sees safe church as a critical part of building Christian communities that reflect our Lord, communities where his love and justice reign. 

i've enjoyed reading the 'loaded/important' questions, and the wonderful responses. In addition to the comments already made, i assume you are in the US Kory, based on some of your questions, and i have no knowledge of US laws and insurance as it relates ...

As a starting point for a safe church, i often refer to the safe church 'stuff' very much the same as the Occupational Health and Safety Act here in Ontario. As a factory owner, our staff is engaged in constant education, as we try to create a mindset of safety in the workplace. Our safe church team at church is also trying to create a mindset of a safe environment for our vulnerable members and our volunteers. Of course we have policies, vulnerable sector checks, procedures, annual mandatory training, etc. etc.  but through all this, it is a mindset that we all want to create in our volunteers. By creating a mindset of safety, the policies, procedures are less of an issue, and Love can then prevail much easier.

Thanks Larry for posting your comments and emphasizing some Canadian nuances that may prohibit a Canadian church to directly manage an overseas ministry.  All churches should consult their registration documents and ensure compliance with government requirements in terms of both soliciting charitable donations and disbursing monies.  Church partnerships with our denomination's overseas mission agencies is an excellent way to avoid some of these administrative / legal headaches.

Jeff: Thanks for this post.

There are some nuances for Canada that should be highlighted to provide insight into the different context of doing charity work in Canada. The terms "charitable objects" and "direction and control" are key to understanding the regulatory environment for Canadian charities.

Churches are registered charities in Canada meaning that the government has given them the ability to issue receipts for gifts given in support of the churches charitable objects. This is a legal privilege for a charity not a right. In Canada registered charities can only give to other registered charities. The intention of this regulation is that a Charity support only the things that that align with it's "charitable objects".

The founding documents of a church contain the purpose or "charitable objects" of the organization. These documents are called either letters patent or letters of incorporation. For Canadian charities their operations are limited to the items listed in their "objects". Most churches in the CRC denomination have very broad objects: "preaching the word', "benevolence", "support for Christian education" and "support of the ministry of the CRC denomination".

These objects are general in scope but intentionally do not include direct overseas ministry. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has always had a more stringent set of regulations for organizations that send money outside of Canada verses those that do work within Canada's borders. In this way CRA has developed a differentiated regulatory context for domestic and international charity work. (This distinction is beginning to blur as CRA moves toward a more stringent regulatory environment for all charities.)

If a Canadian church wants to engage directly in overseas ministry they should consult their founding documents to ensure that they are able to do so in a direct way. In most cases founding documents will be silent on overseas ministry. For this reason (among others) the CRC denomination has agencies i.e. World Missions, Back to God and World Renew that do ministry overseas.  The best practice for any CRC church is to coordinate their desire to work overseas with the appropriate denominational agency in order to remain in compliance with CRA regulations.

A church must also ensure that any money it disburses to another charity will support it's own charitable objects. This is where the principle of "direction and control" comes into play. A charity must be able to demonstrate it's direction and control over the money it gives away. (i.e. that it's money is being used for it's charitable objects or purposes.) In essence the "giver" must be telling the "receiver" how the giver's money should be spent. It is incumbent on the giver to also ensure that the receiver is using the money for the intended purpose so that the giver's charitable objects are being fulfilled. In other words a charity must "direct" funds to it's the charitable objects and ensure that "controls" are in place to verify that the giver's money is actually spent on the charitable object. (direction and control). 

This Canadian regulatory environment is what makes doing charity work outside Canada much more complicated. By the way this stringent regulatory environment (direction and control) includes money Canadians might direct to ministry in the USA as well as anywhere else on the Globe.

 

Thanks Bill for your comments and especially for your church's generous support of these various missionaries.

Our congregation helps to support two missionary and three missionary families and we personally know them all. I can't think of a better way of doing it.

Thanks for sharing! It's very important to consider what makes sense and is most helpful in your particular context. It's a nice bonus that your half of classis also puts out a directory. 

We are blessed with different methods of connecting.  Within our our faith community directly there is a printed list of all members and adherents within their districts.  This list / booklet also includes ministry contact info etc. but does not have any advertising.

In addition the area churches in our half of Classis (approximately 15 groups including a non CRC but Reformed community and a Christian Retirement Home) also distributes the lists of members and adherents of those churches.  So we are connected to the churches around us as well.

In our particular context (large numbers of elderly in a semi-rural town) the online component is not yet a priority as many members do not have computer or internet connections that would warrant this level of connecting.

Sounds like some great ideas for other churches and a very sustainable directory! Thanks for sharing, Justin. 

We are in the process of redoing our directory after a multi-year hiatus. It was a big job getting everybody's information current again. This time around everything went into an online database. 

Now that it's there we can run a report that outputs the directory in the format for our print directory without all the work of updating a word document or whatever was used before. Plus we can quickly run reports on Profession of Faith aged, teens, singles, widows, etc. Even made these great family reports for house visits.

Also we have it linked to office365, mailchimp, etc. through the api so it's change once and update everywhere. So much better!

Also it's free, so dutch friendly :)

 

There was a question in the December Banner regarding the calling of Pastors.

A long established process in business  is Job Posting. The above basically does that via the forms that have been developed for the "Looking for a job" and a form for  "Looking for a person". The key ingredient is a facilitator. The Pastor Church relations folks could be that group. Confidentiality will be the major issue.

Maybe  you could share your program with Henry De Moor and he can tweak it to meet church polity!

Eva - thanks for the timely and helpful comment. I'm finding via responses that these church directories are still an incredibly useful and valuable tool. I can see it being a bit of work to maintain both printed and online versions. Looking forward to hear the progression of how your church decides to best transition! 

Thanks, Bill! Agreed that it is very important to keep spam out of any sort of online directory. 

What timing to see this posted on The Network. We just finished updating our directory, and have it available to our members in both printed and online versions. We also have a picture directory online, but it needs serious updating. Our congregation is a good size, so they appreciate having a photo to help identify who is who, especially as the young couples marry and have their own children. But keeping track of two versions is a lot of work. I anticipate that within ten years time, we will only have the online version. 

But to see it obsolete? No. Now that phone books are no longer being produced, this is one of the main ways of keeping in touch with each other. People eagerly look forward to their updated copy each fall.

Unless a phone directory is restricted to members, they will be suckers for every sort of advertising and political campaign . . . every sort of nut.

Thanks, Bert! Glad to hear it is such a helpful resource. 

Thanks, Jim! Interesting that your church is using both - nice way to be inclusive. Do they plan to continue with both or only the Instant Church Directory?

My Church Membership in in the First Christian Reformed Church of Sarnia, Ontario. In our city, we have three congregations of our Denomination and every other year, we publish an updated Church Directory of the three congregations, with the new directory to be published in 2016. I'm a bit puzzled that there would be even a discussion about church directories, if it would be a thing of the past. Absolutely not!!

In our home, we use our church directory almost daily and when there are changes, we update our directory. As far as we are concerned, church directories is a very practical publication and very helpful for the majority of our church members.

We have a printed directory, but last year also starting using an online directory, Instant Church Directory.  It runs on smart phones, tablets, and laptop and desktop computers.  Many find it very helpful to look up names and faces, make phone calls, or get directions to members houses.

 

Jim - Ann Arbor CRC

If you look under Church Admin & Finance, Ministry Organization and look at the resources, you will find a sample mandate for an Administration Team.  The Finance Team is a subset of this team that meets when needed for budget and stewardship related matters. 

The Building and Grounds Team is also a subset of this team in this model and usually meets monthly, often working on projects for part or all of their scheduled time.  A member of the Administration Team serves on the Finance Team (a sample mandate also on the site under Finance resources) and a member serves on the Building and Grounds Team in addition to a member serving on the Personnel Team in this model. The Administration Team is a subset of Council so you have a council connect for both of your teams.

When it's pastor appreciation week, I look forward to encouraging not only the pastor but his family as well.  So often we forget about the sacrifices the family is making by allowing their dad/husband to serve us.  It's a great time to say thank you!

Thanks for this post Staci and drawing attention to recognizing and thanking those involved in various ministry capacities. This is an area that often gets overlooked in churches - or where there's maybe only one day when some recognition is given. ServiceLink has a document posted on their website with 10 Tips for Recognizing volunteers which provides ideas for showing thankfulness outside the giving of gifts. We have other ideas as well, but thought to share this one for now. I look forward to hearing other people's ideas.

Todd, it is definitely a thing. I finally remembered where it comes from. The letter of call.

"We also promise and oblige ourselves to review with you annually in the light of the synodical Ministers’  Compensation Guidelines the adequacy of this compensation prior to the adoption of the church budget."

Boom! ;)

 

Is it possible to divorce "health" from "paying the bills?" 

If you want to compare the health of churches and you only use Yearbook data, you will be greatly disappointed in the accuracy of the data to do such a comparison. It is pretty difficult to agree to new metrics which will be used and measured the very same for all the churches. 

A discussion of the health of churches will be beneficial. I hope that many will contribute.

 

Pastor Cecil,

Thank you for prescribing spiritual discernment regarding this issue.  It can be a tricky one!  For some reason, some people seem to equate office hours with the number of hours the pastor actually works, not realizing that often he/she does his/her best work away from the "office."  But I agree, balance is needed.  One thing I've done recently with council approval is to spend some of my "office hours" at the local Tim Horton's.  So, I spend most Tuesday afternoons there, so I call it "Timmy Tuesday."  I've found that more people (church and community) are willing to visit me at the local Timmy's than drop by the church "office."  I would encourage other pastors to try it!
--Leon

 

 

 

Cecil,

Good advice! One of the distinct observations I made in transitioning from the parish ministry to chaplaincy was that I suddenly felt less stressed. In analyzing why, I observed that it probably related to suddenly having boundaries I had failed to create for myself in the parish. I suddenly had working hours and non-working hours (not to mention a more defined list of responsibilities). I had weekends that I was committed to preach or be on-call and weekends that I felt fairly free. I was struck by how much healthier this was. My advice to pastors since that time is to give yourself permission to communicate to your congregation (over and over, if necessary) that you have and need boundaries and schedules. Know that it is ok to focus on what you are good at and delegate other things that are not your forte. Commit to sermon prep time, visiting time, administrative time, etc. and time to be "off the clock" (Sabbath). You will be healthier, your work will be more focused, and your congregation will come to appreciate you as a well organized professional.

Larry -

As for your retirement pension.  Good advice to save more.  I certainly don't see the current CRC pension plan being sufficient in coming decades.  I would like to see us move away from a defined benefit pension towards a defined contribution pension system (Like the RCA) to encourage pastors to know more about our own (and our church's) financial matters.

May you continue to experience God's provision in this new phase of life.

As for the annual conversation about finances.  I've never had it with either of my congregations.  I didn't know it was a thing.  When needed I've broached the topic and we've discussed it well, but I think this would be a good thing to implement here.  If I had it to do over again, I would negotiate an annual cost of living increase as part of my call.  Something to the effect, "Ordinarily the pastor will receive an annual cost of living increase to his total salary (cash and housing).  When mutually agreed upon that annual increase may be suspended for up to one year or increased as God leads." 

That language helps when there is a significant turnover in council during a pastor's tenure.

//

 

 

Randy 

Thanks for writing about this.  Being retired it does not affect me in the same way except to say that my 1600 /mo pension is considerably less than fellow Christian school teachers, RCA pastors,and the members of my church employed at Ibm, Savemart, and gov. Employees.

 

 

 

Should not local salary be based mostly on local cost of living?

My meeting went quite well, by the way. The expectations in my post reflect what I have often felt, but I was heard and understood in this meeting, and while some measures were below what I expected, others were above the classical average, and I was satisfied that we were at the right place. The important thing for me is that there was some communication, and the respect and understanding that comes from that communication. Also, when I wrote this post rather quickly, I did not specify that what the finance committee thinks is actually my fear or my past perception of what they think, which thankfully did not turn out to be the case... so, if there's a way to edit that, I would like to do that.

Thanks, Randy. Quite frankly, I am much relieved not to have that annual conversation any more. In my second to last year of pastoring full-time (and more?), there was no conversation, in fact. Rather the Chair of Finance made a an off-hand comment to me on the way out of another meeting that support staff would be getting a 1% raise, but the pastor none. Budget contributions were down at that point in the year, blah, blah, blah. I was so stunned I couldn't even think bad words.

So, come January when expenses were all paid, turned out there was a $20K (OK, it was Canadian $$) surplus. Whoops, too late to reconsider; the budget was already approved for that year.The $20K went to pay down the mortgage. (Btw, how and why a 30+ year-old congregation still had a large mortgage on its original building always escaped me and most folks simply didn't seem concerned, despite the interest charges accruing.) Not conducive to feeling good about Council. And they didn't get it when I brought up the issue civilly; uncivilly would have been worse, I'm sure.

The next year, a new Personnel and Finance Committee had taken over and a new climate was clearly evident. They were stunned, embarrassed when at "the meeting" I said there'd been no meeting the year before, no raise, no consideration of compensation guidelines. That was corrected and I thanked them.

Still, it makes for unpleasant memories plus temptations to cynicism. So, more power to you. You are NOT alone.

A great question! As a CRWM missionary currently on home service in the U.S. visiting 21 different churches across six states over the course of a short six months, we get a quick church-health snapshot of a lot of different congregations. In some places the decline is obvious and disheartening. In other places there are refreshing signs of renewal and growth.

Half of our work in Mexico is with Multiplication Network Ministries (www.multiplicationnetwork.org/) whose motto is "More Churches, Stronger Churches." This ministry, in fact, was founded by several members of the CRC and others (their global office is housed in Emmanuel CRC in Sauk Village, IL).

One of the tools we use in Mexico from this ministry is called "Take Your Church's Pulse." It is available in PDF format from the website and it can also be administered by means of an online survey. The heart of the tool is a questionnaire with seven questions in each of ten vital areas and ministries for every church (Vision, Leadership, Church Body Using Gifts, Resources, Context, Proclamation, Discipleship, Service, Fellowship and Worship). The point is not to "grade" a given church, but rather to promote healthy conversations about the church's life and ministry at this point in time.

Rev. Ben Meyer

CRWM Guadalajara, Mexico

bmeyer@crcna.org

The issue of how to work with a pastor regarding standardizing "office hours" at church is indeed complex. Because of the options provided by cell phones, and because of the nature of ministry frequently and appropriately being done away from the church office, it is indeed possible for a pastor to do honest, productive work while not being in the office at church.

Yet, as you suggest, there is something positive to be gained when "office hours" are posted and observed. Among the benefits is the "drop in ministry opportunities" that may occur, to say nothing of the community perception that someone is at the building, and the congregational experience of seeing their pastor function in a disciplined, accountable manner. 

In our CRC polity a pastor is accountable to the church council, and it is appropriate for the elders and the pastor to speak openly regarding a policy for office hours, and a format for accountability regarding this. Such a conversation can take into account the personal style of a given pastor, and the need or desire for flexibility of scheduling, yet it also can take into account the positive factors that are gained through what we can call "the public accountability demonstrated through a posted schedule".  

A pastor who resists such a conversation and such accountability risks alienation with those with whom he is serving. Elders who resist dealing with this matter risk allowing distrust within a congregation to fester. On the positive side, a ministry and pastor that make themselves physically present on a predictable schedule will open themselves to unknown and significant blessings. 

There are some basics here.

The pastor must divide his time three ways:

  1. Personal time. For those who are married: this will be a very important part of the family life. (Some pastors underestimate this role.)
  2. Prepare sermons, read, and study.
  3. Tend to congregational duties: visiting, pastoral care, and be part of congregational management.

Can these duties best be done by the pastor being regularly in his study in the church building...??

I could see advantages. Members would feel encouraged to come and see their pastors when needed.
But there are other equally valid possibilities. Just over a generation ago, most pastors had their study in the parsonage. I think it should be up to the pastors to make arrangements that would encourage parishioners to visit but that would also leave sufficient time for study and other personal  ministerial duties. Pastors may wish to have a study in the parsonage. That would be their choice. But when in  the church, parishioners should keep in mind that pastors don't have an office job. Many of their duties must be done in various settings. When they agree with the congregation that they will keep regular hours, those will be of necessity limited. Whatever pastors decide regarding the setting in which they can work best, they must keep one thing in mind: be accessible! The members should be able to reach them, if not directly then by leaving a message. With telephones now being sophisticated there should be no problems on this score. Congregations should remember that pastors need personal time: for reflection, sermon preparation, study, and a goodly part of pastoral work. In situations where pastors are urgently needed, there will be enough ingenuity among the elders and other leaders to locate him at short notice.

Thank you for the question. It is an appropriate one for this day and age where I find it easier - and more economical - to work from my home.  I would, however, like to suggest that we offer a parallel question: How many hours shall the pastor be in the study each week? And to that question, I think the answer has been and remains: "as long as it takes to prepare the sermons and lessons required each week." 

Any answer to this question has to be framed by the particular context of the congregation.  Here are four real life examples:

A rural church where the parsonage is across the parking lot of the church building and most of the congregation lives within 10 miles.  This pastor keeps a full schedule of office hours because it’s convenient, it’s a quieter space to study than an office in his home, and he serves as the “church secretary”.  He also wants to preserve a distinction between his home life and pastoral duties and prefers that his congregation meets him at the church office.  He does let the congregation know what days are his days off and asks that they be respected.

A small urban church where the pastor has a thirty minute commute to the church office and the congregation is widely dispersed throughout the urban area.  This pastor does not keep daily office hours, but does maintain a few days of the week when she spends most or part of the day at the office.  Cell phone and email keep the congregation and their pastor in 24/7 conversation.

A large urban church where the pastor lives within walking distance of the church building and the congregation is a lively mix of distance and proximity; some members live in the neighborhood and some commute 40 minutes.  This pastor tries to spend at least two full week days in the office so that folks can drop in, but also to interact with staff.  Those days vary because of other needs in the congregation and involvement in community activities.  If someone wants to meet with the pastor, he often suggests meeting at a place closer to where the congregation member lives or works than the church office.

Another urban church—the only CRC church in the city—where the pastor lives within a short commute of the church building but the majority of the congregation lives further away.  Again, this pastor has flexible office hours based on other demands on his time, but does hold himself to one consistent day a week to be in the office—the day he and church secretary pull together the liturgy and bulletin for the coming Sunday.   

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  It’s a balance that needs to be worked out between the pastor, the elders, and other church staff.  Most pastors would also point out that their participation in and attendance at church events during the week often offer better times for those casual conversations.  Pastors who volunteer at the church’s food pantry, help serve the neighborhood dinner, attend the local high school football games, or read a story at the church’s daycare center are creating informal opportunities for interacting with congregational members that can build caring relationships without the need to be “in the office”.

Hi Kory,

Thanks for you good question! It's encouraging to me that background checks are becoming more important in the CRC. More and more people are asking about them. And it's encouraging to see good answers to your question and resources already posted. The number of recent requests about background checks has led Safe Church Ministry to (very soon) add a page to our website regarding it. We are currently waiting to have one part of that approved (one company is prepared to offer a discount to CRC affiliates and we want that to be a part of our webpage). Your local police can give you guidance regarding background checks. There are different levels of background checks, and different costs associated with them. Each church must weigh the risks and costs carefully, and then chose what will be the best for that context. And it's important to note that a background check should never stand alone as a screening procedure, it's only one part of a process that can also include an application, interview, and checking references. And good policies are also important to prevent abuse, protect children and vulnerable adults, and as Libby points out, also protect the church from potential litigation. There are companies that help organizations with background checks. The following have been successfully used by many CRC ministries in the U.S. and Canada. 

Screening One (U.S.) and My Back Check (Canada) are very reliable companies that work with all kinds of organizations; their primarily work is with employers, but they also can help with any background check needs.

Protect My Ministry (U.S. and Canada) is an organization that is geared toward helping congregations and ministries and provides background checks as well as other services.

Plan to Protect (Canada - expanding to U.S.) is another organization that is more comprehensive in nature and has a lot to offer organizations that serve children and youth and are concerned with safety.  

 

I'm not sure how to answer your question about undocumented people - I've heard that background checks are possible with only a name and birth date (however, a more comprehensive check may require more than that). There should be no exceptions to any policy - change the policy if you need to - but be sure to follow it.  I'll check into it and let you know.

Hi Kory -- do you mean the police will only do 3 per month, or that turn-around is 3 months?  If turn-around is 3-months, you could phase it in.  If the police will only do 3 per month, that is a different problem....and one that you may wish to discuss along the political route since it creates the irony of the police process being the impediment to background checks.  As for other organizations, have you looked into this:

http://www.dps.state.ia.us/DCI/supportoperations/crimhistory/obtain_reco...

All the best as you sort this out.  Feel free to contact me at ServiceLink if I can offer any assistance (kbosveld@crcna.org)

Thanks, Libby and Ken, for your input and the helpful resources. Our local police can do something like 3/month. Do either of you (or anyone else) have any other suggested organizations and specific costs?

Thanks!

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