Frogs in Boiling Water

I recently heard a police official here in Richmond talking on the news about how his officers were getting discouraged and how moral was down.  He said, “When you have open positions that you cannot fill because of finances, but you are requiring more and more from the officers still here, it is discouraging.” He of course was being interviewed for a proposed coming increase in taxes in order to fill these positions.

But I couldn’t help but think about the church and those of us in ministry, wishing we could be this honest or perceptive. Often the fear now when someone leaves a position is whether the position will be filled or duties will be reassigned. Many churches expect the same level of planning and leadership from a dwindling staff. Staff members are expected to provide the same quality of programming with less and less dollars.  Each year, many ministers watch their job descriptions grow and grow, without any compensation because this is something they are “called” to.

As ministers and leaders the progression to being overwhelmed happens without much thought. We see a need and we meet it because we are called to do so. Or, we are conscientious and so as our boss’ give us more work, we just step up to the plate. The people I coach don’t think about whether the new demands are part of their original job, they are called to serve the church and so they are working to meet their needs.

It is kinda like that gross story about boiling frogs alive. Now, I’ve never tried this, but I hear that if you put frogs into a pot of water and just slowly raise the water temperature, they don’t recognize what’s happening and so they stay in the water until you have eventually boiled them.

Why even bring this up? Is it helpful to point out the truth that today more is required with less resources?  I have found it is incredibly helpful to take note of the water I’m in once and awhile.  It keeps me sane…it may not take any of the work from me but when I look around, I realize this is not the water I signed up for in the first place.  Maybe there is a reason I am getting heated.

It may be enough to name it but it could also be helpful to ask some good questions. What can we let go of? What can we do differently now that we have less resources? Especially if you are the pastor or leader of your church or organization, be like this police official and make sure you are paying attention to the climate of those under you. When we continue to promise and push for the same level of leadership and involvement from our ministers, while requiring more and more from them, we burn them out before they even get started.  It may have been possible for everyone to get a hospital visit every single day when the staff was bigger.  It may have been possible at one time for the staff to plan every program or event at the church while just asking for input from church members.  But is this still feasible?

For those whose job descriptions continue to get longer and longer, perhaps negotiating more salary, more vacation days or more dollars for personal development could be helpful to handle the rising temps. Again, if you are in a position of power, negotiate this on behalf of those under you. A little boost, a little encouragement, goes a long way.

If you are a church member, think about how you can encourage the leadership of your church. Perhaps offer to babysit or provide meals for them and a family if they have one during busy times of the church year. If you know your church or organization won’t be able to give even a cost of living raise, find those extra dollars for more personal development monies or offer extra vacation days. Just because ministers are called to care for others does not mean it is not your responsibility to care for them.

Paying attention to our pots, our frogs, our water can help us to find healthy ways to continue to have or to be healthy ministers and leaders.

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