Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You don't need a psychological profile to call an elder but you do need to know them

I read this article by Joel Hathaway at the Gospel Coalition this morning and my jaw just dropped: How Pastors Get Hired Today. If I didn't know better I would think it was a joke but it is deadly serious. Just read this paragraph:

Large Churches Tend to Know Better

Large churches are increasingly hiring staff with consideration not merely to a resume or theological statement, but also various technological and human-metric resources. These churches hire consulting firms and make use of the MBTIRightPath, or the DiSC. They check social media, including LinkedIn. They use Behavioral Interviewing questions in both the written and verbal interview steps. They search for candidates via networks, depending largely on recommendations by people they trust.
I have found that these searches produce better results. They largely focus on candidates serving faithfully elsewhere. And their jobs almost never get posted where you can say, “I applied.”
Wow. How did those poor saps in the first century manage to find elders without LinkedIn and psychological profiling? Not to mention the enormous investment of time and money required to find a stranger to hire, knowing that you are likely to lose them in a few years when they move to a bigger church and better compensation package. Well it turns out that if you know the men you are calling and observe their lives, rather than basing your decision on "metrics" and a resume, you tend to actually....well know them. Of course for the early church the calling of elders was not framed in terms of an employer-employee relationship. They were volunteers and self-supporting. That makes an enormous difference because there is an inherent conflict in any relationship when it becomes an employment relationship. There is a reason many companies have pretty strict rules about co-workers dating or the employment of family members. It goes both ways and if the church is anything it is supposed to be a family. When family members start employing other family members they understandably and inevitably start seeing them more as employees and less as brothers.

This essay by Joel makes a common human error. When something is not going right (and judging by the reports of pastoral burnout, turnover and unemployment among clergy, it is going horribly wrong) we tend to try to make what we are doing better rather than asking if we are going about it in the wrong way entirely. The problems with clerical burnout and turnover are not going to be solved by the latest, greatest personnel screening fads from the business world. It might be solved by trying to get away from the professional ministry model and back to a relational peer model we see in Scripture. No matter how sophisticated your methodology or how fancy your technology or how expensive your consultants, you just cannot replace simply knowing one another and calling men based on the character qualities we see in Scripture, qualities you cannot ascertain by looking at a LinkedIn profile.

Check out my post Home Grown Elders for more on why the church should raise up men from within the Body to serve rather than going after hired guns to come in a minister to people they don't know.


Anonymous said...

The “church” gone berserk. It is ironic that some of these ideas find shelter under a group formed to strengthen the faith in Jesus Christ. I wholeheartedly agree with your commentary. I would even go as far as saying that this is not Biblical in any shape or form. This is algorithmic Christianity. God’s image reduced to formulas and metrics. It has always been the time but now more than ever to go back to a primordial form of Christianity that is synonymous with the one portrayed in the book of Acts.

Alan Knox said...


The biggest problem with your suggested solution is that it will not work within the current system.


Aussie John said...


I'm just thankful I'm one "commodity" now passed my "use by date", and not available for "the market"!