Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Pain in the Neck

I have a pain in the neck - and it's not even Ole!!

Since retirement Ole and I have become quite active in church. He's a trustee and I'm a member of the council. At this point I'm not sure this is a good thing as our church has huge financial problems. I won't go into all the boring details other than to say we have staff that is too highly compensated and the previous council didn't take care of things the way they should have. We have a membership of just over 300 folks with a DCE that makes more than the minister. The DCE's salary and the secretary's salary add up to 67% of our total annual budget. It's hard to keep the lights and the heat on in the winter time under those circumstances.

Part of the problem, up until two years ago, was that the secretary's husband was the president of the council and her son was an elder. At the last meeting of the year where her husband was president, before he stepped down from office, he pushed through a $6,000 a year raise for his wife. She only works 4 days a week, 8:30 to 4:00 - or is SUPPOSED to work those hours. Of course he had his little toadies all lined up ahead of time to make the motion and second it immediately that this would pass. He did the same thing for the DCE only the raise was bigger. By the way, both of these positions include huge benefit packages $$$$$!!

Four years ago, when our new minister came, he didn't want to live in the church furnished parsonage so we sold it to the tune of $385,000. There was acreage that went along with this house as it's out in the country in a beautiful setting. Spending has been out of control for so long that by this time all of our savings had been used up and instead of investing the income from the parsonage the council at that time decided to use that money to keep the church's head above water. Due to over compensated people and champagne taste with a beer income, the church has $25,000 of that $385,000 left. At the current rate of spending the council figured they could keep the doors open possibly another 6 months, so maybe it was time to do something!! Gee, do ya think?

Last fall Ole was asked to be on the budget & finance committee. Gee, didn't I promise I wasn't going to go into all the details? I lied!!

Anyway, he went around the community and visited 7 other churches about our size. They shared their financial information with him and of those 7 churches we were the only one that had a paid full-time DCE and a paid secretary, both with huge benefit packages.

To make a long story short, (ha, ha) the only way to come up with a balanced budget - one that will match the giving income that we have - is to cut the hours and salaries of the DCE's position and the secretary's position. The secretary got mad and quit and the DCE negotiated and is now working 20 hours a week and currently making a salary of $47,000. Can you imagine that for a 20 hour week? The committee has budgeted so much money for the DCE's annual salary and have told him that when it's gone - it's gone and he won't get a pay check. We have no other choice because there's no money left - unfortunately instead of being understanding about it he's being a real a- -! He's certainly not practicing the christian values that he's been preaching for so long, and in fact, stood up in front of everyone at one voter's meeting and yelled at everyone that they were a "faithless bunch of no goods!"

Anyway - back to where I started. I have a pain in the neck. I went to the last council meeting and came out of it with such a terrible headache I felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out of my head. That was three weeks ago. I still have the headache. Yes - I've had my blood pressure checked and it's fine. I think I just have so much stress in my neck and it's so tight right now that I can't get rid of the headache. I've been to the chiropractor several times and he's gotten my neck and upper back to move. It feels okay for a day or so and then I'm right back to square one.

This is no fun. I know - I take things far to seriously - but that's just me. Politics and church are not a good mix. Unfortunately there's way too much of it at least in this church.

Love Lena


Susan said...

I'm sorry, but I just have to say that you need to switch churches. Obviously this church is not teaching the principles of faith, love and obedience to God. You would not be the first people to switch churches and most that have, are so much happier. No need to go through life with such frustrations. Take care.

harrietv said...

Don't know if you ever read about similar problems in my synagogue. There is no more synagogue in our town. What's left of the congregation meets in a second floor of an office building about fifteen miles away -- too far for me to drive.

No, it's not the same; there are loads of differences. However, that is what can happen to a once flourishing congregation. For operating cash, they sold the synagogue to a church.

Lena . . . said...

Unfortunately many families have switched churches over the last several years due to the attitudes of the staff. Whatever happened to volunteerism? Our organist gets $100 every time she sits down at the keyboard. Couldn't she volunteer a Sunday or two a month to help the financial situation? Couldn't the secretary have volunteered some of her time? If we can keep the doors open we're going to have to operate on volunteers from here forward.

We've thought of switching churches, but this one is quite important to us as I grew up in this church from age 3 on, was confirmed and married here. Both my parents and sister are burried here. It means a lot to me and to Ole.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to see you writing again. I've missed your stories -- from the childhood ones to the travels of you and Ole.

I'm sorry to see the troubles the church is having. Sad to say, I thought to myself after reading your post, I have no idea what things cost and what salaries are paid at our church. You've opened my eyes to what a big job just running the church must be. I've wracked my brain, though, trying to figure out what a DCE is.

Also, LOVE the swan pictures. Too cool!!


Memaw's memories said...

I too am wondering what a DCE is, but I think it's time for him to find another position. And as for the secretary, if you are down to 300 folks, is it necessary to have a 'full-time' secretary?

And a paid organist? Is she a member of your congregation. She should be playing as part of her personal work for the church.

When I went to a smaller church, I did the bulletin each and every week--free. Never thought about being conpensated. Where I attend now, I take care of the sick list. Also free. I wouldn't think of asking for money for something of this nature. If I depended on what the church paid me, I might have a different attitude.

Does your council make the final decisions on everything or do you ever take things before the church. If your congregation knows about these salaries, I'm quite surprised they aren't in the process of mutiny.

I need to get off this soap box. I'm getting dizzy up here.

Marge said...

When the DEC and the secretary make 67% of the annual budget, how do you pay the pastor, the organist, the utilities, and still do God's work? I think you should cut a couple of positions and call for volunteers. I was church secretary for four years. I received a low hourly salary, no benefits, and our membership at that time was about 800. And now with over 1200 members, our organists don't make near $100 for their services. Fortunately, we have a congregation filled with volunteers. Seems a couple of your employees have a highly inflated sense of worth!


Anonymous said...

I just found your blog today, so don't know much about y'all at all, but just wanted to say that I respect your decision to stay at your church. That's not to say that if the stress ever becomes too much you shouldn't rethink that, but how else would you stop these thieving people that have the gotten the 'serve others' all backwards? Good for you for taking these bullies on, a church that has been around that long is worth fighting for. If all the good ones leave...that doesn't say much for those left.