A pastor and I were talking about a staff person in her church.  It seems that this young man has been a wonderful volunteer for many years.  He would come into the office and work during the years he was in high school and college.  There seemed to nothing that he would not do as a volunteer.  Often, he mentioned his desire to become a director of Christian education.  Finally, the church grew large enough that she was able to bring him into a staff position. 

Because he felt called into full-time ministry, she believed that this would be a good transition for him.  However, after approximately a year, she saw an interesting change that took place in him.  Things that he once did willingly and with great enthusiasm were not longer fun.  He resented being asked to do the tasks that he had been hired to do.  “It appears that receiving a salary has broken his spirit.  He just isn’t the same person.”

As we talked each of us remembered our own transition from volunteer to paid staff.  Both of us had struggled with the same issues that this young man was now facing.  There appears to be an added pressure that comes on men and women who move from lay person to staff member in a Christian setting. 

The first time I experienced it I was a young bride and I had taken a job as a church secretary.  Within a few months, things that I had willingly done with love and care became a burden.  And I saw early that almost everyone faced the same perplexing situation.  What had once been a gift of love was now a dreaded obligation to be shunned and even resented.

For many decades, ministry within the mentally challenged community has been manned by men and women who were parents, sibling or professionals who were not paid.  In fact, paying this person to do specialized ministry would have been the last thing on the pastor’s or board’s mind.  Sure they appreciated the good work done by this hard-working mother but paying her?  That was a ridiculous thought.

More and more the church has begun to take value the contributions of mentally challenged people within the community and within their church.  Perhaps they are willing to support a community-based ministry or they want to hire a person to oversee their own ministry within the disability community.  It could be an egregious oversight to not prepare people who are hired to ministry with this reality of a salary may do to them.

To be honest, I’m not sure why this transition happens.  I hate to spiritualize it but I have concluded that the enemy of our souls brutally fights people who are willing to make ministry their full-time occupation.  When a person commits their occupation to the Lord, new pressures are added that are different from the layman.

When I first came on staff at Special Gathering, our executive director said, “You need to have a ministry.  You need something that you don’t get paid to do.”  For me, that is directing the choirs in Melbourne and Vero.  I always wanted to be a choir director; but I knew that it was an impossible dream.  When asked to take over the choirs, I jumped at the chance with glee.  I’ve never lost the joy of the choir.  I’m convinced that this is one of those things that I don’t get paid to do.

What about you?  Am I merely blowing smoke?  Or have you found that ministry is different when you are paid?  Do you think that hiring volunteers is a good or a bad idea?

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