We frequently get questions about hiring members and the challenges that come with having members on staff. Congregational leaders ask if the UUA has rules or recommendations about members as employees. While there is no prohibition from the UUA on hiring members, we do have some guidance.
What Does It Mean to Be An Employee?
Whether they're a member or not, ensure that each employee appreciates and honors the boundaries, role, and identity associated with being on staff in your congregation. Problems arise when staff fail to recognize the unique responsibilities and relationships inherent to congregational employment.
Do you have policies and practices in place to aid these understandings? Are staff held to the codes of ethics of their respective professional organizations?
With member and non-member candidates alike, bring up these matters at the interview and upon hire. Consider and discuss with potential hires:
- What boundaries must be maintained?
- During times of congregational conflict or stress, what will professionalism require of them?
- What are the implications for their family members?
- How do their relationships with other congregation members need to change – especially with those they consider friends?
- How will they manage their relationship with their supervisor, whether that is the minister, another staff member, or a lay leader?
For the Whole Staff
These are actually important topics for supervisors to discuss with all staff, regardless of membership status. For sure, things tend to be more complicated if the employee is a member of the congregation. When someone is both a member and an employee, they need to appreciate that they are wearing two hats – and that their "staff hat" needs to be the one that shows.
Here are some questions to ponder as a whole staff:
- What does it mean in practical terms for the congregation to view you as a staff member?
- What limitations are there in talking to members about congregational business or member situations?
- Staff are often approached by members who want to discuss (or complain about) another area of congregational life. How should you direct people regarding concerns that fall outside of your own area of responsibility?
These can also be discussed during supervision.
Staff as Volunteers
Allowing member-employees to volunteer in the congregation, even in areas that seem separate from their staff work, is a slippery slope and ill-advised. It is far too easy for work and volunteer responsibilities to commingle, leading to complications with hours-tracking and pay, as well as the blurring of roles and authority. For help navigating specific personnel-related situations, we encourage you to contact your regional staff .
For More Information
- From our LeaderLab collection, by Rev. David Pyle, UUA Congregational Life Consultant: When Members Become Employees
- Two articles by UU minister and church consultant Rev. Dan Hotchkiss: Becoming Staff and When a Member Joins the Staff (pdf)