Remember the 1993 book “The Jordan Rules”? You may have heard this from me before: I’ve found that most odd rules that church leaders impose on ministers are the result of mistakes other preachers make. That odd rule on mowing the grass at the preacher’s house? The one where you can’t have “charge accounts” with local businesses? Can’t have a church credit card? No use of videos allowed in your sermon? You must have a complete physiological evaluation before we will hire you. Check, check, check, and a nervous check, they’re all there because you are paying for your forebears' sins (mistakes).
But sometimes not. Sometimes it is the elders/leaders looking out for you. But rarely does it seem that way, especially at the time. Looking back over the last 30-40 years there have been some significant rules that elders have forced on me that at the time seemed either silly, nonsensical, or even bad but that in the long view out the rearview have aided me. Here are five that stand out and what they did for me. Some of them might be worth sharing with your elders or if you are an elder discussing with your preacher:
1. Insurance on me: This is the most recent but someday may make the biggest impact. My elders didn’t come up with it but when they learned about it they immediately embraced it. They have a life insurance policy they took out on me to be paid directly to my wife if I die while preaching here. Here’s the deal. What do you do with the widow when your preacher dies while preaching with you? His wife is not an employee. If you give her 3 months salary, or through the end of the year there will be two reactions. One, some will think how dare you so mistreat her. She gave her life to this work and her husband, HE was our minister, you can’t leave her so distraught. Two, how dare you give her a dime. She’s not the preacher, he should have taken care of this. So, when I die, if I’m preaching here, Mrs. Jenkins gets a VERY generous check. And for those who think she shouldn’t get a dime the church didn’t even cut her a check. For those who fear she is being neglected when the elders let them know how much she got from the policy, they will rejoice that this good woman was so treated. I wish every church would do this one.
2. ONE must be vacation: When I moved to one church they gave me “x” number of Sunday’s off but required that one of them be spent on vacation with my family. Most preachers fill all their weeks and don’t take time away. If I could reboot that one, I’d ask them to consider a small vacation stipend. Well, I probably wouldn’t be bold enough to ask my elders for that. But I don’t mind asking yours to consider it. Especially helpful for younger guys.
3. You can’t co-sign notes with members or preachers: My elders at one congregation made the rule that I cannot co-sign a note with others. This made it especially easy for me not to be the bad guy. I would do it but my elders won’t let me. Done.
4. Loan to any member I will be fired: Not sure where this one came from and it may be a little strong but one group of elders had it in writing that if loan anything more than $50 to any member of the congregation I would be fired without question unless the elders approved it. How dare them so behave, right? No, they were protecting me. Probably from a specific person that I didn’t even know about and would have been burnt by. And, remember, they are the ones who sign your paycheck.
5. In lieu of a raise started a retirement account: This was the hardest one of all to swallow. They were mighty proud of it when one year (after having gone the two previous years without a raise) they came to me and said: “This year we are starting a retirement account in your name as your raise. We will put $75 a month into it but you have to put at least that much in it as well.” In my mind, that year I got a $75 a month salary DECREASE. I was pretty mad. But looking back on it years later and at how it has grown, I’m pretty happy about that discipline/gift.
I could add more to this short list. I also could tell you some pretty inane “rules” I’ve inherited. I’m sure that are some worse ones that others might be straining under as a result of mistakes I’m made. My point here is: One, to suggest some things that might bless your life or your preacher’s life. And, two, remind us that even though at times it may not look that way, if you look under the surface, most often, leaders are trying to help us.
What crazy rules have you heard, had to toil under, etc? (be careful what you share).