Holy Cash Incentives Batman!

(italics in this article are mine)

Spiritual salaries go performance-based at Chesapeake church

By STEVEN G. VEGH , The Virginian-Pilot
© January 11, 2007

CHESAPEAKE — Like millions of workers in corporate America, staff members of Deep Creek Baptist Church have a financial stake in how well they contribute to their employer’s success.

“If you did a good job or more than what’s expected, you get some sort of award – it’s an incentive award,” said the Rev. Ernie Myers, Deep Creek’s senior pastor.

In the church world, performance-driven bonuses are rare.

Yet in this season of budgeting salaries, a small number of churches are tying at least part of their employees’ compensation to some quantifiable measure of performance. The 16 administrative and clergy employees of Deep Creek – a growing Southern Baptist congregation that draws more than 1,000 to Sunday services – are eligible for annual bonuses that range as high as 5 percent of their base salary.

“Not everybody gets 5 percent, but most people get something. It’s a way to reward good performance and for the church to show appreciation to the staff,” Myers said. “If you did an average job, you’d probably get a little bit.”

Some clergy and church professionals question whether such pay-for-performance benchmarks can be applied to spiritual ministries.

Aside from “can” they even be measured in this way, is the question of “should” they be, and the answer to that is definitely not.

“You’re motivating people not around finances or even on performance, but on their sense of interacting with God and sensing God’s presence, and that is hard to measure,” said Joseph Umidi, who teaches Christian leadership at Regent University’s divinity school in Virginia Beach.

At Bethany Baptist Church in Portsmouth, the Rev. Gene Primm discounted tying productivity measures to church ministry. “I can’t stand here today and say we’re going to have 50 baptisms next year,” he said. “We’re in the Lord’s business, but we don’t create decisions of faith.” Latest Videos

But Rex Frieze, a church management consultant in Orlando, Fla., said churches such as Deep Creek are moving in the right direction. He argued for linking part of church paychecks to achieving “defined objectives.”

“If it’s a music ministry, it might be numbers growth in the choir or performances. If it’s in the evangelism area, it could be the establishment of small groups” for Bible study, he said.

At Deep Creek, Myers said, the church gives salary increases, or “step” increases, every four years, guided by published salary surveys that show pay ranges at churches of comparable size and location. Deep Creek also gives a cost-of-living wage adjustment every three years. He declined to say how much the church’s employees are paid.

And for the church employees to get this is completely fine, But, it should be enough as it is without all this incentive baloney added on. After all, there are multi-millions of workers in this country who would be positively thrilled to get “steps” and C.O.L.s at all.

Myers said that in evaluating employee performance, he uses both subjective and objective criteria.

“Is your ministry progressing, is it reaching people and growing?” he said. “We want to get more numbers, but we also want people to grow as Christians – we want maturity to grow. ”

Myers said some ministry activity, such as youth group participation, is more suited to measurement than other areas. He also weighs whether anything outside an employee’s control affects fulfillment of objective goals.

Myers gives each staff member a letter grade based on the performance evaluation. “A through F – nobody has ever gotten an F,” he said. A church committee uses the grades to decide how big each employee’s incentive award will be.

Frieze, the church management consultant, said that even the best performance-based pay system can’t measure vital pastoral qualities like love and compassion. “You can’t quantify everything,” he said, but wherever benchmarks are provided, “it gives you that incentive to work hard.”

Considering that the Christian faith teaches us that we should give our absolute best in our work, no matter who we work for, nor what we do for work, even when we (as most Christians do) work in the secular world; anyone who feels they should get an “incentive (cash) to work hard” in working for the Lord (Pastor or Janitor), really needs to re-evaluate what they are doing and why, or they need to be re-evaluated by the ministry they are serving in.

All of this is of course just indicative of all that is wrong with the entire idea of market-driven ministry.

Reach Steven G. Vegh at (757) 446-2417 or steven.vegh@pilotonline.com.

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