We don’t need to write anything down. We’ll just trust each other like Christians, and I promise you we’ll take care of you and work out any problems that come up along the way.” And that’s been the beginning of disappointing “agreements” between leaders and their new preacher.
But what could go wrong when we’re all sincere, honest, and faithful brethren?
Let me suggest a few things I’ve learned from the University of Hard Knocks, whose colors are black and blue and the school yell is, “OUCH!”.
Some possible agreements:
- What do you expect of me?
- What are my responsibilities?
- How will I know if I am doing well, mediocre, or if I am in danger of being terminated?
- Will I know that in advance of termination or will I be informed on the way out?
- What spiritual support will I receive?
- How often and when will I meet with the shepherds?
- As your preacher, how many weeks do I get for vacation?
- Will these be with or without pay?
- How many weeks do I have for workshops and gospel meetings?
- Who arranges for speakers when I am gone and who pays them?
- Are there provisions for medical and life insurance, car mileage reimbursement, provisions for continuing education or lectureships or seminars, reimbursement for half of social security, retirement, or other benefits?
- When I decide to leave, or you decide for me to leave, will there be severance compensation until I relocate?
- How long will that be?
- Etc., etc., and etc.
If any, all, or some of those are discussed, how many in the group remember them fifteen minutes after we agreed on them?
In the last two posts, I wrote about the importance of specific written agreements. Not everyone agrees with that concept. Here are reasons people have for resisting.
- “If we don’t trust each other any more than that, we have no business working together.” It isn’t a matter of trust, it’s a result of imperfect memory. [tweetthis]When you fail to record agreements, a week or five years later, two or more people may have different memories of the facts.[/tweetthis] After that, each will regard the other with suspicion and distrust. Each is sure he remembered correctly. A way to eliminate that is to write it, sign it, distribute it to all parties, scan it, save it on your computer, back it up to external hard drives (I use three in rotation), secure it in the cloud, and put the original in your safe-deposit box in the bank. Since I’ve done that, I’ve never had a disagreement on details of my agreements that wasn’t solved by reading the document.
- “In my daddy’s day, people just shook hands and did what they said they were going to do.” If it worked for your daddy, I’m pleased. My experience is I forget. We had written agreements with our children when they were growing up. Every time I remember having a disagreement, I was wrong. I wasn’t trying to cheat my children. I forgot the details. When we checked the document, I had no trouble doing what I promised to do.
- “I don’t think it’s spiritual for brethren to have to write every detail. It seems like Christians should be able just to agree and do what they said they’d do.” [tweetthis]God didn’t think it was unspiritual to write agreements.[/tweetthis] In His two big agreements, the Old Testament and the New Testament, He chose to have details and stories recorded in writing. Some of the big agreements, He wrote in stone — twice! When the first copy was deleted by breakage, He had another copy made and placed in a safe-deposit box (the Ark of the Covenant).
My conclusion: the only people who don’t need to write their agreements are those who’ll never forget and who’ll never die — and they need to work only with people who’ll never forget and never die. Otherwise, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships are likely.