Thursday, January 6, 2011

Being the Boss

The cleaning lady quit today. Her teenage daughter left the keys on my desk along with an angry letter about how disrespectful I had been to her mother--and me being a minister and all.

She threatened to tell on me.

She had saved up all the memos I had written her mother and she was going to turn them in to the, and I quote:

"Better Bisuness Buro."

I'm relieved. She was doing a terrible job. Even I noticed, and that's saying something.

Even so, I shielded a lot of negative talk from the congregation about her. I've been working for churches for thirty years. In every congregation there's a gray haired cadre of women who are unhappy about the hygiene of the church building. I hadn't even put my books up on the shelf of my office in this present church before one of them came to me with a "real problem." With all the construction going on at the time, it was hard to expect a spic and span facility.

Besides, I didn't care.

As time went on, it was clear even to me that she wasn't getting the job done. Any other employer would have fired her a long time ago. But I worked with her a lot. I didn't want her to lose her job. However, she found a reason to quit when she saw I was going to insist she actually work while she was here.

I hate supervisory work, but it's a necessary evil, I suppose.

I've cleaned a lot of the building these last few days. I like it. It's not hard like, say, being a supervisor.

I like making the building look spiffy. I've written about my ambivilance concerning lavish church buildings, but I also think if we have something, it should be taken care of.

And now I'll be able to write up a better job description for the next person.

Once a member of the church becomes an employee, the relationship changes, and it's hard to be both boss and pastor. I try to have a supervisory committee in place, but it still comes down to me having direct contact with the employees. If this lady had been working somewhere else, she would have come to me to vent, and I would have given her my support.

Now, she'll be venting to someone else about me.

It bothers me. I didn't do anything wrong. In fact, I feel like I was extra patient and kind. I even protected her.

But as in many cases, when you try to be the hero, you're going to be treated like a villain.

Gotta go clean the windows now.


  1. No good deed goes unpunished!

    I read a book where an astrophysicist was cleaning tables at a restaurant. When asked why he did such demeaning work, he answered something to the effect of "when I clean a table, it's clean." There's something satisfying about a job that can be done, as opposed to dealing with people, where success or failure can be a matter of opinion, and opinions may change!

    - Chris.

  2. Chris, I've known several people who do complicated work but take pleasure in accomplishing a more concrete task. You can actually be finished with something.

  3. CWH, hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    What an entertaining scenario!

  4. I learned the hard way that some people want to be saved and some don't. Find someone who wants what you're offering. A real job. ;)


  5. K, I think that's pretty good advice the rest of church work, too.

  6. Great blog! Sorry about the situation. There is not another job in the world where hiring and terminations are questioned. Any other job and yes, this lady would not have an audience telling her she was wronged.

    I have serious question I would really love if you answer it. I know everyone talks about lust for men. Rightly so, I get that and yes I have that. But, I really struggle so much with covetousness. Right now, I feel so awful about myself becuase I have a crush on a woman in my church. I don't want this crush, I have set up good boundaries, have her meeting with a woman instead of me and have never been alone with her. I don't email her, I am tempted, but have never read her blog, though I am so curious to know her thoughts. I just want it to go away. But I admit, I am wondering if I was supposed to marry her. I think the trigger is she is new and sounds like her husband left her. so I feel sorry for her and then it turns into I would love to rescue you with myself. I have told six other men about this who are praying for me, I even told my mother and I told my wife. It crushed her. Maybe that was a bad mistake but I want to nip this in the butt and provide accountability. Even so, I still cant stop thinking about her. What the heck? Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever had a crush on another woman? Thanks, young clergy guy

  7. Dear Young Clergy Guy,

    Welcome to the blog. Yes, of course I've felt attraction for women in my church. It happens A LOT to ministers--good ones.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the rescuer mentality that is in so many pastors' personality makeup. You're not crazy or awful for having those feelings.

    I'll bet you're a good minister. So I'll give you the respect to tell you what I wish someone had told me straight out when I was a young pastor. I won't hold back, okay?

    First, you're right to avoid falling into this trap. If you were to pursue an affair with her, you would be in a world of pain. You'd hurt her and her family. You'd hurt your wife and children, your parents and hers, and your whole church. You know this of course, but you can forget it at times.

    As I sympathize, I want to say loud and clear that you would not just be doing something immoral. You would be doing something hurtful to indulge your own needs.

    Second, you need to be more private and careful about who you talk to. Talk to a professional counselor or friends that are not part of your congregation. This would be hard for them to handle.

    Third, apologize to your wife bigtime. Bring her flowers, take her on dates, and take her on a weekend getaway and tell her again how you love her, how she's beautiful and keep your mouth shut about these struggles--go tell it to someone who wouldn't be hurt.

    Fourth, there's a reason you're feeling this way. The most likely thing is that you're unhappy and frustrated at home--and you might not have even admitted it to yourself yet. If you have problems with your marriage, deal with them head on. Admit your unhappiness, go to a counselor, work out the problems. If you get a divorce, make sure you do it for honest reasons and don't use one of your sheep as a means of escape.

    Or you might be unhappy in the ministry. Pastors have trashed their entire lives in order to close the door to ministry. If you want out, just get out without hurting others, as well as yourself.

    Good luck and if you need to discuss this some more, I would welcome your email anytime.

  8. Thank you very much for taking the time to help. Great wisdom, understanding and truth. Well written too. I just read your response now, its funny. We went out of town last weekend on a date and I bought her flowers. It has been a lot better, but geez I was so foolish to share this with her. The people I told were out of town and people I have known for years so they get me and can shoot straight too. That being said, I think I do need to go back to counseling and marital counseling at that. We did it years ago, but it is time again. One very large redemptive aspect to this story so far is that I have discovered how little I share form my heart. We got into a pattern where she has been so depressed that I have not expressed needs and tried to be upbeat and positive. I have not just shared from the heart and expressed my fears and concerns. It is no magic bullet, but it has been a drink of water in the dessert so far. I really appreciate the honesty and time. I re-read your response twice and I think I am going to read it again and then schedule a counseling appointment (no exaggeration, honestly) . Thanks, young clergy guy

  9. Praying God will give you guidance:)