Side hustle. Freelance project. Gig: the way pastors talk about our work is changing in ways that reflect the changes happening in the workforce our congregants are navigating. Long-term jobs are disappearing and many people are turning to Uber and Airbnb as a way to make money independently.
People like Seth Godin are preaching the opportunities hiding in those changes for workers who have ideas and can overcome their fear of failure or of not being picked. I’m convinced by that argument, and my work has changed appreciably in light of it.
But not everybody is buying it, at least not without some caveats. Hillary Clinton expressed concerns this week over traditional worker protections in an employment landscape where more and more of the tools a worker uses to make money for a company are paid for by the worker, and with no benefits to speak of. I’m concerned about that too.
What reservations ought pastors and churches to have about embracing this move toward independence in work? One comes to mind right away. The nature of an installed pastoral relationship has as much to do with the congregation as it does the pastor. It provides protections for the pastor (especially in a Presbyterian system, where congregations can’t simply fire their installed pastors but must ask the presbytery to dissolve the relationship), but it also protects the congregation too–pastors can’t just quit. The presbytery has to dissolve the relationship from our end as well.
Last Sunday the congregation I serve approved changes to my terms of call that make my role there 3/4 time, so that I can take on a 1/4 quarter time role doing new ministry development work with our presbytery. I know that causes anxiety for some, but mostly I’m hearing a sense of support and collaboration; the congregation feels like my new work is its work too (envy is an appropriate response here).
That’s the piece, I think, that is missing in the gig economy, some sense that my work not only matters to a community larger than myself but is also owned and claimed by it too.