Are You Done?
This is, in many ways, a sad tale. It’s about church musicians who have found themselves crumpled up on the curb—waiting, hoping, that another bus would be along shortly to take them in.
The stories are true, but obviously real names cannot be divulged because propriety and respect dictate discretion, and because both people signed nondisclosure statements with their former churches.
There IS a message here…read on!
Kimberly is 53 and a well-respected musician in her community. She taught high school and then began working in a church, where she discovered that she had a serious calling to ministry. She loved music, people, and God, but in the opposite order. She was trained in college to lead and develop choral ensembles and she was very good at it!
During her college days she was a “chick” who played in one of the early “techno” bands and was considered to be one of the most innovative members. She was versatile and played several instruments, but specialized on keys.
She quit the high school job in the 90s because the church needed her full-time. She never looked back, and the church knew it had found a treasure. As music in the church was changing, Kim was able to adapt to each subtle (and not so subtle) iteration. She loved her work.
Her salary naturally increased over the years and she and her family were able to enjoy a comfortable but conservative lifestyle. They planned to stay at their “home” church until she retired.
Last June Kim was told she should look elsewhere because money was tight, choirs were no longer popular with young people and the church was trying to pursue a less “formal” worship style (This, from a very Evangelical and non-liturgical church).
Kim was devastated, but (with some departing financial encouragement) got off the bus in July.
Rick is 31 and trained for church ministry in a bar with his then band of four fellow devotees of all things Rock ‘n Roll. He was hip and very, very good upfront. His training as a lead singer made him a perfect candidate for a worship leader when his childhood roots summoned him back to the comfort and “sanity” of the church. He was 24.
Six weeks ago I received a HELP text on my phone when Rick realized that the church was letting him go. He was panicky in that sort of serious anxiety attack way, and wanted to be put on a list of candidates I keep for church worship leaders.
I listened. I always do.
When I asked why he was being excused, he said he wasn’t sure, but thought it was probably about his age. The state where Rick works has an “At-Will” law giving employers the right to let a person go for any reason and without dispute or recourse. The church exercised the policy with incredible HR-astute swiftness.
Later, Rick cried on the phone. I asked if there had been a moral failure. He said, “Yes, but it doesn’t appear to have been mine.”
Last week Rick was replaced by a 23-year-old worship leader. Hmmmmm…
Machiavelli and Malachi
Churches are desperately trying to win a new generation of believers. That’s a good thing. In the process, though, they may have forgotten that they serve people, and that should include staff members.
Perhaps Good News…or, at least, a good suggestion…
Out of the rubble of these horror stories, I believe churches are going to have to start rethinking so-called “strategic planning” and perhaps look toward “people validation.” It is, after all, people, who make up the church. We can market, strategize, and throw money at church growth endlessly, but Machiavelli and Malachi don’t always mix well.
Let’s find some balance here, folks.
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