Thursday, May 2, 2013

Church as an organisation and the changing labour market

Over here, in another blog I write, I wrote recently of emerging patterns of work. I focused on drawing a distinction between people employed in jobs and people employed to do a task.

Jobs I defined as being for an organisation either for a specified period or indefinite and which comes with a set salary and benefits. Often they are associated with a career path. Societally, jobs are associated with high wages and health outcomes.

Tasks, on the other hand is an emerging class of work at the other end of the scale. Beyond the point of consultants that going fishing for work, at rates of pay that are survivable tasks are single discreet packages of work. Mechanical Turk is the current extreme example of outsourcing tasks at, for the most part, an extremely low rate. However, there are other platforms emerging to outsource 'tasks' and each task may be at quite low pay rates.

Now I understand that there will be a group of people this pattern may well benefit, but at the level of the economy it is problematic as a recent Economist article revealed in discussing massive global youth unemployment.

But I'll also want to repeat what I said in the other blog - it maybe that certain cities keep producing jobs with only a marginal creation of tasks activities while other cities will produce a much higher percentage of task activities. You need to be discerning about your environment.

In this blog I want to focus on the impact on churches. This is not about good or bad it is just about change at this stage.

Changing church finances. Middle class city churches in the West have generally been able to afford a middleclass lifestyle. A building, at least one Pastor and often some help and then maybe a little bit of paid administrative help. Now obviously, many Churches do better than this and some that do worse. Now for those cities or regions that trend towards a task economy it is possible that many churches will no longer afford a building or pastor.

Attitudes. Protestant churches still largely affirm the Protestant work ethic of: get a job! This may not be so possible in the near future at least for task regions. Entrepreneuring your way to an income will be tougher and more taxing.

Church demographics.   Again middleclass churches often had quite high employment levels, and good education backgrounds - not necessarily tertiary but skilled and high school completions. But if jobs begin to get harder to get we will see a growing rich poor divide in our churches between those who work hard at piece work tasks and those that are somewhat more secure.

Church leadership. I think  it is still pretty common for churches to have hierarchical leadership structures of a small leadership group (board, council or deacons) and then committees etc. As workplaces flatten their structures people have less experience and less desire to work hierarchically so we will need to flatten our church structures. After all the we have been democratising and flattening church structures since the middle ages as we became familiar with parliaments and private organisation of work.

Just a few thoughts to mull over......are you already seeing this in your church?

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