April 7, 2009
Religious Organizations Grapple With How to Layoff Employees
The Religions News Network (For Churches, a Right and Wrong Way to Hire and Fire) is reporting that many congregations, facing declining contributions and reduced budgets, are following the lead of cash-strapped corporations by laying off employees. However, this is not a task being taken lightly. The stakes are higher, congregational leaders say, when you’re putting someone’s spiritual leader out on the street.
The RNN report states in part:
Churches have never been good at this. “Terminal niceness” keeps congregations from dealing honestly with unneeded or ineffective staff members, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch told ministers recently.
Congregational leaders, meanwhile, say already-tough financial decisions can become excruciating when you are firing the man who married your daughter or the woman who held your hand in the hospital.
“Terminating employees, in business or in churches, is never an easy task,” said Phill Martin, deputy executive director of the Dallas-based National Association of Church Business Administration. But the task becomes immeasurably more complicated, he said, if church leaders and ministers are lowering the ax.
“When you live out of the values of ministry, it is more difficult to segregate the impact on the individuals’ and families’ lives than it is for most business people,” Martin explained. “It’s tough when your core value is `I’m here to minister to people’ and you become the author of that pain.”
Instead, churches in financial crisis “get all flustered,” said congregational expert David Odom, executive vice president of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. Congregations typically vacillate “between cold, hard business facts and denial,” he said.
In a bid to delay firing employees, congregations are utilizing other coping measures such as giving employees unpaid furloughs and shifting some staff to part-time status. However, if the economy does not improve soon, these congregations will have no option but to lay off some employees.
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