So, the Head of Staff and I were talking about ideal staffing arrangements in a congregation….
Let me begin this discussion by saying that officially/denominationally I am an Associate Pastor, but the church just calls us both “pastors.” When I’m introduced by people in the congregation, I hear “This is our pastor” most often. I sometimes hear, “This is our co-pastor” or even “co-director.”
All that to say, it’s not like the HOS is wielding a great big power stick around, telling everyone that he’s the boss. We have a very collegial relationship, where my ideas and opinions are encouraged.
That said, when the HOS and I were talking about ideal staffing arrangements, the HOS repeated that he does not like the idea of Co-Pastors. At all. He listed a variety of solid reasons. Most of them were practical—i.e., when churches have tried the model in the past, it has often fallen apart. Then, they have gone back to HOS/AP models.
(It is a disconcerting trend… are many churches thinking in the CP model much any more? Is it failing? Or did it just fail in such high profile cases that it seems like a failing model?)
For me, if I had my choice, I would rather be a CP than an HOS. I’m not afraid of power, I am a natural leader, and I like being in charge of things. It’s just that I like a team leadership approach better.
And there may be more to it than that. I’ve got to say, I have seen many women become APs for life, even when they wanted to move into a different role in the church. In my years, I have seen women discriminated against over and over again in the HOS selection process.
They have tremendous abilities and gifts, but they have not been able to move into HOS positions, even when their less qualified male colleagues have. After ten years, the statistics in most denominations become quite startling. Men often move up, women often do not. Then if the women stay in AP positions, they often make half of their HOS, even with comparable education and experience. After banging their heads on the stained glass ceiling, soon, women drop out of parish work, and become chaplains or something else.
Many women are not serving in the positions that I am, a collegial situation where my experience and gifts are valued. Instead, on a multi-staff congregation, many female clergy are seen as the pastors to the women and children, and therefore, they (the pastor, the women, and the children) are worth less. Maybe I just want a bit of justice for them.
We can’t force churches to accept female Heads of Staff. We can’t force congregations to have keener imaginations, and see that sometimes the best man for a job is a woman. But, maybe we can begin to re-imagine our church staffs. Instead of paying one person twice the amount for doing all of the “big jobs” (preaching on Sundays) while we pay the other person less for “little jobs” (doing pastoral care, Christian education, and caring for children and moms), we could begin paying on the basis of experience and education.
Instead of having an HOS who stays at the position for decades, getting (well deserved) pay increases every year, while the AP gets chewed up and spit out every couple of years, ensuring that the position will stay at the minimum salary, we could create congregational environments where all of the pastors are valued and appreciated. Not just the tall-steeple pastors (whose demographic make-up seems to be very homogenous). Perhaps that would create a bit more equity in our congregations and our denominations. I certainly think they would create healthier church systems.
What do you think? Would you rather be an HOS or a CP? What are the problems with the CP and HOS/AP models? What are the advantages? Is there a generational shift occurring (people under 45 tend to appreciate less hierarchical models)? A cultural shift? Is this a shift that the church should embrace? Would a flattened-out model help gender inequity? Or would it just be a bogus liberal attempt to create a false equality?
Photo by L Plater