For those working in ministry, no matter how much we love our calling, taking time off is healthy, allowing your mind, body, and soul to unplug and see things afresh. With burnout rates for pastors around 42%, churches need to provide a comprehensive benefits plan providing personal time off for vacations, holidays, and illness. But avoiding burnout isn’t the only reason people need time off. Life throws events and circumstances that can bring great joy and painful sorrow. When these life-changing occasions happen, it’s a blessing for an employee to know they can be with loved ones and not lose pay. It helps ease the pain when a loved one passes to help make arrangements, demonstrate love to those hurting, and grieve. It also amplifies the joy of adding a new member to the family and acclimating to new routines and schedules. Life events like these shouldn’t require employees to use their vacation time, and churches, just like for-profit organizations, must provide and define these benefits.
In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul gives instructions on what love in action looks like. In verse 15, he says explicitly, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Churches need to provide their employees with more than a competitive benefits package; they must show love. Churches should review this list to see how they fare.
In the mid-1990s, before I went into full-time ministry, my wife and I had two healthy, beautiful daughters. When my first daughter was born, I had only been on the job for about four months, and my supervisor informed me that she wanted me to take a week off to research a program at home. She knew I had not accrued any time off and wanted me to be home with my wife and new child and not lose pay. I never forgot that incredible act of kindness. If a secular organization can figure out how to treat employees navigating the difficult and exhausting period when bonding with their new child, churches should be able to do more. Imagine how quickly a medical complication to the mother or child can alter this scenario. Churches need to go above and beyond whatever short-term disability plan the employee has (private or church provided) and designate a set amount of paid time for parental leave of at least two weeks.
On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, bereavement pay provides the employee time to grieve the loss of a loved one and attend the funeral or memorial service. Churches should allow a minimum of three days and consider more for death within the employee’s household. Be forewarned bereavement pay and time off are sensitive topics. Provide the church staff with a policy that is easy to understand and explicitly defines the family, including in-laws, grandparents, and step-relatives. Make every effort to balance compassion with work expectations.
If you have ever sat on a jury, criminal or civil, you know the importance of the selection process; that’s why we need more followers of Jesus on juries, not less. Of course, it is the civic duty of every citizen to serve when called upon, so churches should eliminate the barriers that make it challenging to serve. To that end, churches should provide at least 40 hours of paid jury duty time to fulfill their duty. If a church employee finds themselves on a case that goes beyond 40 hours, the church must allow the time off, but it’s up to the employee to decide to use their accrued time off or go unpaid.short url: