A Church Problem and A Way to Help

I have a confession. This morning I am angry at “the church.” Not one in particular, but all of those all-too-human bits of the Body of Christ who mistreat their people wittingly or unwittingly. I passionately love Jesus, and I believe in the church as His hands and feet to serve the world, and voicing His prophetic Word to continually call His wayward people to faithfulness and commitment.

Why today? A member of YMX, a unique community of youthworkers I’m privileged to serve and take part in, posted an all-too-common story. An excerpt from his post:

The long story short is that I was given the option of either taking a month’s severance pay and leave immediately or to appear in front of the deacons the next day who had the power to send me packing with no severance. With a baby on the way, I obviously chose choice #1 and packed up my office.

What makes it worse is that I was not allowed to even come back for Sunday morning to resign properly in front of the church. I cannot come to Wednesday night this week for a last message or anything like that. Simply, that’s the end of my time with this church.

This youth worker was blind-sided by leadership asking for a resignation in the total absence of poor performance, moral failure or any cause for dismissal. This is a church with a financial problem and they handle it by by ambushing their youth worker.

I can not count the number of times I’ve heard this story, and it breaks my heart. Financial problems do not sneak up on churches. Why do churches think it’s ok to sneak up on staff and shove them out the door? It only hurts. It hurts the church as a place of credibility. It hurts the congregation by fueling gossip. It hurts the students by ripping an important and trusted adult out of their lives. It hurts the youth worker and family by snatching away community, ministry, relationships, and salary & benefits. There is no aspect from which this is a good thing!

What can be done?

About the church? Pray. Train leadership that it needs to consider the ripple effects of its actions. Check the budget and make considered plans far enough ahead of time that you aren’t kicking people to the curb and tearing apart your community.

For hurting youth workers? There are lots. We work in reletive isolation in a ministry that most people don’t understand or want to deal with (but have high hopes and expectations for). Encourage us. Equip us. Treat us fairly. Don’t look down on our ministry. Attempt to understand what we do and why we do it.

When we’re wounded, get us help. There is a ministry at YMX called The Oasis where youth workers can have a private place to get advice on sensitive issues of life and ministry. It is “staffed” by veteran youth workers who have a heart to help and encourage hurting co-laborers.

Lastly, like all brothers and sisters in need, help us as you can financially. Friends at YMX have established an independent fund designed to provide assistance to youth workers in need. It arose from a number of stories similar to the one I shared above, in addition to an array of personal tragedies that have befallen members of that community. Sadly, need has happened often enough that there is a need to formalize it and create a Hurting Youth Workers Fund. To contribute, see the box in the sidebar to the right on this page that says “A Cause I Care About.”

Please read here for a more detailed explanation of the rationale and administration of the fund and for a link to add the contributions widget to your site.

Lastly, please pray for youth workers. If you know one or two, send them each a note letting them know you prayed for them today and offering a word of encouragement.

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