Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Men at Work

How are you treating the construction workers you hired for your building project?

The project was completed on time. Barely. And the first service--Easter Sunday in the new sanctuary--was a smashing success.

People in droves flocked from miles around to participate in the dedication ceremony. There were hundreds. Maybe even thousands. It took two or three services to accommodate the crowds.

At the end of the day, the pastor settled himself down in his easy chair and breathed a sigh of relief. The project was complete. All those years of dreaming, praying, planning, fund raising and then building--it was all behind him, finally. After years of anticipation, he now saw the fruit of all that labor.

However, some questions still begged for answers:

What about the laborers themselves?

Were there any construction workers at the dedication ceremony?

And if there were, do they still hold the pastoral staff in the same high esteem they might have before the project?

There is a very good chance that those construction workers, after working on the project, have a new way of looking at church leaders. And it's probably not in a better light.

I have known Christian construction workers who have worked on building projects for some of the largest congregations in our county. Some contractors and their crews have vowed never again to set foot in certain churches because of the way the pastoral staff treated the workers.

It's time we in the church ask a few hard questions: Will the praise and worship be any less pleasing to God if it's done in the old sanctuary, in temporary quarters or in a borrowed church building for a few more months? Does it glorify God to be demanding or rude with the workers on a project just to finish on time? Is saving a few dollars worth losing our witness to the lost?

As a pastor, it is important to recognize that while your building project may have been a long-standing dream that you believe was planted in your heart by God Himself, the carpenters, plumbers and painters may be wrestling with concerns of their own: sick children, financial struggles or aching backs.

The construction workers are there to collect their paycheck on Friday, to feed their family, to put a roof over their heads and maybe even have a few dollars left over for some recreational pursuits. For the most part, the members of the crew working on your project have two objectives: (1) to earn a living; and (2) to do a good job.

Contractors, subcontractors and work crews aren't usually there to drag the job out or ruin their reputation in the industry by doing shoddy work. They are most likely working to the best of their ability.

The following guidelines will help you extend your ministry past the pulpit on Sunday and into the trenches Monday through Friday:

Treat the workers as you would treat the members of your congregation on Sunday.

Don't plan your building schedule and then expect the contractor and laborers to change their schedule to meet yours. Ask them how long given tasks will take. Plan for problems and delays.

Respect the workers. This may be the first time any of them have ever set foot in a sanctuary. The way you treat them could determine if it will also be the last time.

Recognize that the building will be just as effective even if you are not in it for that first big holiday service you set your sights on.

Don't expect workers to forego time with their families to exhaust themselves working around the clock to meet your desired production schedule.

Show gratitude for the workers' skills.

Jesus Himself was a carpenter. If He had been on the construction crew for your building project, would He want to attend your worship service on Sunday?

Sherri Kukla is a free-lance Christian writer. She lives in Julian, California.

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