September 23 – I hope they are wrong


I received a letter in the mail the other day. It was from the Society for Human Resource Management. It was their pleasure, they wrote, to inform me that I have been pre-approved to join their society as a professional member. They said that my commitment to successful HR practices at Langhorne Presbyterian Church qualifies me for this exclusive privilege. All I have to do is fill out a simple application and remit $175 by October 28. $195 after October 28.

I hope they are wrong. I hope they have me mistaken for someone else. They need to know that I have no commitment whatsoever to successful HR practices at Langhorne Presbyterian Church. I would be a disgrace to Society and all its other members.

I don’t need to wait until October 28. I’m not joining.

It is not an original thought, and I think I first heard it at an HR seminar back in my church administrator days. Those we set aside for paid work at the church are not resources. They are people.

Coal and oil, wind and water, are resources. We are to use them wisely, but we use them. Sometimes we use them up and they are no more. Curriculum and supplies are resources. We use them until they are gone – pencils to a nub and erasers having erased all they are going to erase; books until the bindings break and the pages are brittle and yellow. Roofs until they leak, light bulbs until shine no more. We use resources.

Those we set aside for paid work at the church are not resources. They are people. They are followers of Jesus Christ gifted in such a way that the church has decided to free them to serve Christ and his church and still be able to pay the rent and put food on the table. Some do it with all their working hours and some with only a part of their working hours.

Lord, keep us from using the people who work at the church as if they are a resource to be exhausted and tossed away when we are done with them.

LPC has told Holly, Michelle, Don, Sandy, Jon, Sally, Marcos, Ed, and Kay that we see and experience in them the kinds of gifts that build up the Body in particular ways, and that we’d like them to be free as possible to offer those gifts for the common good.

But its more than just skill sets that mark those who serve on our staff. It’s more than Michelle’s amazing abilities at the piano or Don’s at the organ. It is more than the joyful music of the five choirs and entire music program that Holly directs. It’s more than the accounts Jon manages as bookkeeper or the bulletins Sandy creates every Wednesday. It is more than phones answered, the prayer chain kept strong, vendors contacted, and newsletters published by Sally. It is more than Marcos’ leadership of the praise team and background support of the Adult Ministries and Evangelism Committees. It’s more than a creative new game or a well-prepared lesson as Ed works with the youth. It’s more than Kay visiting a homebound member or working to help create a ministry with kids and touching the lives of their parents.

More than all that, what marks our staff at LPC is a commitment to Jesus Christ and his church, a love of Christ and his people, a joy in humble service.

Somehow the Society of Human Resource Management got the idea that I share their commitment to seeing the staff I am honored to serve and to lead as they would see them: resources to be managed. Resources to be used up and then thrown away.

I hope they are wrong.

So, thanks for thinking of me SHRM, but I really don’t think you want me to be a part of your society. I hope I’d be an embarrassment to you.