Some our mistakes are made simply because they seemed to be a good idea at the time. One hiring mistake made frequently by churches not only seems to be a smart thing to do, but the right thing to do. This is what I would call the compassionate hire or the hire out of pity.
From time to time we all encounter people who encounter job loss and/or financial hardship. We also, from time to time, have to hire staff at the church, both pastoral and support staff. When these two events occur at the same time it seems like a godsend. We need somebody, and somebody we know needs a job – this sounds like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, this rarely turns out to be the case.
The root of the problem is that when we do this we ignore the call of God. One of the 5 major pillars of the reformation was the realization that everyone has a calling. This is in contrast to the Middle Ages where the church only recognized those called to ministry as being truly called – other vocations didn’t really count. Because of this theological realization we normally ask the question of whether or not God has called a specific person to a specific task.
Generally when someone is trying to discern God’s call on their lives we look at several things. What kind of passion or burden has God placed on their heart? What kinds of natural talents and gifts has God endowed them with? How has God already been training and equipping them for the task ahead? What opportunities for following that call has God placed in their lives? And what has God revealed to trusted friends and mentors about His calling on their life?
Most of us as pastors have conversations with various people about God’s call on their lives on a fairly regular basis. However, we blissfully throw all of this out when it comes to the compassion hire. There people are not hired because we sense any kind of calling on their lives, but simply because they need financial relief.
Oddly enough, we already have systems in place to help people in financial distress. But when it come to the compassion hire, we ignore these as well. Instead of helping them get employment in a way that reflects God’s call on their lives, we take a short-cut and simply hire them ourselves.
What can possibly go wrong with this?
Many things, actually. First of all, if that person hasn’t been called to that position it is very unlikely that they will find any kind of fulfillment there. This will naturally manifest itself as low morale. When you add low morale to the fact that they were hired on the basis of financial need, not because of competency, poor job performance will naturally be the result. Now normally you can discipline or relieve someone with unacceptable job performance, except in this case. They were never hired because of their ability to perform, they were hired because of they needed a job. Calling, fit, morale, attitude, or performance never played into the hiring process in the first place. Because these things were never a part of the original agreement it is fairly unethical to insist upon them now – and they know it.
How do you remove someone who has been hired on the basis of compassion? One of two ways. First, you are no longer compassionate. Second, they no longer need a job. That’s pretty much it. There’s no easy way out. Which is why when I have seen others make this mistake, they end up stuck with a bitter underachiever for years and sometimes decades.
How do you avoid making this mistake? First, is by having a system in place to help those in need and then stick to that system. Second, is to only hire someone on the basis of their calling to the position, and keep them for as long as they remain faithful to that calling. Can we still have compassion for people in need? Of course we can, and we must. However, that will mean helping them to be obedient to God’s call on their lives, and not by ignoring God’s call and thinking that we can do better apart from the Almighty.