This past week, a group of teachers, administrators and a pastor gathered in TLSP’s ACE Room to consider ways to encourage students to consider church work. Church worker recruitment is an urgent issue in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). While the number of workers retiring and leaving the ministry continues to be at about the same rate as past years, the number of graduates from our Concordia University system and our seminaries does not match those departures. The result is stress on school boards, congregations and districts as they seek qualified and dedicated people to serve in our churches and schools.
Champions of this effort to encourage students to consider work in the church have already established the Education Professions Class at CLHS, the John Weber Scholarship Fund and of course, the individual invitations of those whom this issue touches. Every encouragement is needed.
Upcoming posts, including this one, will give consideration to other areas that contribute to the present situation and how we as a collective Lutheran community can address the shortage of church workers. Each of the posts have implications for boards and church leadership.
In a study performed by Concordia Plan Services in 2018, surveys shared two areas of concern- employment experience and school board effectiveness.
Under the category of employment experience, respondents included topics like support, respect, and the encouragement to improve. Support is giving teachers everything reasonably necessary to be successful. Compensation is important, but things like time off from instruction, respecting prep periods and family time are also important (which may include BEFORE school time). When there’s a “gap” in some way it is important that workers are not put under obligation to pick up the slack, especially, when it is a direct result of decisions made by others.
Pondering a bit more, what may be Implications of this broad category of employment experience?
Boards and church leadership need to look at the compensation of church workers not from the eye of “what can we afford” but “how does compensation support and encourage”? The Concordia Plans Compensation Tool may seem unattainable but its a reality check for ministries in determining compensation. Kudos to the schools and churches who have made the move to using this tool.
Kids and families have changed dramatically as we recover from COVID days. The duress for teachers and principals has demonstrated itself in challenges to physical, mental and emotional health. How does staffing and scheduling support the effective work of teachers and administrators? Do we expect more with less? In addition, is the staff making use of the rich support of Concordia Plan Services benefits- annual physicals, financial coverage of counseling, virtual physical therapy, health and wellness support through apps? The Church has made resources available. We need to take the time to access them.
While leadership development is a key to retention and to professional growth of church workers, governing bodies need to be careful of 4th source funding issues. 4th source funding? 4th source funding is placing the burden of the expenses of church and school ministry on the compensation and workload of its workers. Oftentimes, this means low or decreased pay, decreased benefits and unmanageable workloads.
TLSP has provided 4 schools with Facility Recommendations completed by our marketing partner, BIG. While the study is accomplished with an eye on PR, included items can also be connected with employment experience. Included in these reviews are outdoor and indoor maintenance recommendations. When facilities are cared for and work conditions mirror the expectations of a 21st century school environment, the employment experience is much improved.
Next week- Respect