Nepotism, it’s all relative ...
Someone once noted, “nepotism, it’s all relative.” One church highlights the following, “We promote family values here almost as much as we promote family members.” Humorous, yes - but there are probably many unfortunate stories behind these sentiments and many other similar ones. I have been part of three church staff teams that involved family members; one of which where the lead pastor’s (to whom I reported) wife reported to me. So I do speak on this matter from experience.
The matter of nepotism and the church has been debated for some time, resulting in many churches adopting nepotism policies and standards. Nepotism comes from the Latin Nepos, meaning “nephew.” It has come to mean “granting employment to family members without merit.” The answer to the question, should we hire family, typically falls into two main categories: No, or It Depends (on a rare occasion, you may get the answer Yes - with very few qualifiers, if any). What factors should be considered if you are wondering if a family member should join your staff?
Being a family member should not be an immediate disqualifier. They are people with gifts and calling, which can be lived out in a staff context alongside their family member(s). In the contexts where I have worked in which family members were on staff, the experiences were overall positive. I recognize that this can often not be the case (which has led many to say, “It’s just not worth it - don’t do it.”) Challenges and perceptions will arise and must be addressed to make this arrangement work. Here are some guidelines that should be implemented to create a healthy experience when family members work together to help prevent or remove the perception or the appearance of preferential treatment:
- Family members should not have a direct reporting relationship with each other.
- If family members share the same last name, have one legally change it to a different name (ok, maybe not : ).
- Family members are equally accountable to all staff expectations, standards, and commitments. They are to be treated like any other staff member. No shortcuts, pay iniquity, or special favors allowed. Family members should not have final decision-making power in role advancement and salary increase decisions for other family members on staff.
- Staff and leadership should have input when a family member is being considered for a position. Do they meet the criteria and qualifications for the job? Suppose the family member on the team has the authority to make the hiring decision involving the other family member (because of the role being filled). That hire should be approved, affirmed, and vetted by a leadership team of people separate from that individual. In this situation, we avoid a conflict of interest in the hiring process.
- A culture of transparency and openness must be championed by leadership for these kinds of working relationships to be well received and flourish.
- All of these guidelines are applicable when hiring people who are close friends. When favoring friends for staff roles, this is known as Cronyism (another fancy word to add to your repertoire).
At the end of the day, wisdom must prevail - what is best for all parties involved? Are the potential risks worth it? What could be the beneficial outcomes? Will team members be able to thrive in this kind of arrangement and environment? Will Christ be honored? Wisdom takes into consideration all the unique elements of a particular context. This means that a wise decision for some will be, “no, we should not hire family members in this case (or any case),”; and for others, it will be, “yes, we should in this case.”
At Chemistry Staffing, we understand the importance of building healthy teams that work well together. Whatever your staffing issues, we would love to serve you by helping you address those needs or concerns in your unique context. Reach out to us for a free consultation call.
Another helpful resource to check out is Family on Staff Policy from XPastor.