Monday, December 08, 2014

Leadership Journal: The Painful Lessons of Mars Hill, with a few asides from Wenatchee The Hatchet--it looks like Bill Clem has finally said stuff for the record

The most notable points about this recent article would be who finally says anything at all for the record.  Of particular interest is Bill Clem, whose resignation was mentioned by Wenatchee The Hatchet almost two years ago.  Clem's role in the transition of Doxa to Mars Hill would be hard to overstate. Without Clem and James Noriega agreeing that giving Mars Hill the Doxa real estate was best for Jesus there wouldn't have been a West Seattle campus.  Clem was dealing with the inevitable death of his wife to ovarian cancer and Noriega was brought on as an elder at Doxa.  Doxa either did or did not just so happen to be sitting on a piece of real estate Mark Driscoll had wanted to launch Mars Hill at in 1996.  That didn't pan out but in 2006 when Driscoll approached Clem and Noriega about use of the real estate things got worked out.  One of the key events in the history of Mars Hill relative to its co-founders was that Bill Clem's star rose during a period when Lief Moi's star was on a steady decline. There's a tagged series of posts examining the last year or so of what could be ascertained about Moi's role in the church he co-founded.

Now, with all those things in mind ... there's a few things of interest from Clem in this article.

The principle held true when that corporate drive took hold of Mars Hill. Clem had planted a small church called "Doxa" in West Seattle, and shortly after receiving a large building as a gift, they merged with Mars Hill, becoming its first expansion campus.

"At the time, when they got me and my building, the concept of multi-site church structure was fairly infantile in its movement and structure," Clem says, "and we chose to start out heavily centralized.

"'How do we get more money coming into Central?' became the main question," says Clem. He describes the basic Mars Hill budget strategy like this:
 A campus pastor sets his own budget for the year.

 He bases the number on a "per head" estimate for weekly giving.

 The goal is to keep increasing the per-head income.

"So, looking at my 'per-head' of $31, they wanted me to say, 'This year I think I can get this up to $35' and then set my budget accordingly," says Clem. "Then, if I didn't make that by the first quarter, Central would adjust.

"But look. If I make a budget based on just $4 more per person, with a congregation of more than 3,000 people, I'm talking about $12,000 per week [$624,000 annual]! And that number equals staff. So if I don't make it to the next level, I have to fire those people. And this is where some of the staffing volatility came from."

Before we get to something that is probably still available let's move a little further along in the piece.

"Here's an example of what happens, then: When Driscoll quit preaching at my Ballard campus and went to Bellevue, I immediately lost 1,000 people. At $10 per head, that's $10,000 per Sunday that went out the door. And yet my people who stayed continued to give to the same budget; they actually started to give more.

"But because my attendance dropped, Central says my budget needs to drop, and that means that I have to fire a youth pastor.

"People don't want to lose the youth pastor and start asking, 'How much more will it take to keep Mitch?' And I'm saying, 'No matter how much more you give, we can't use a penny. It just goes to Central.' And they start going, 'This is communism!'"

So why would a pastor—or congregant—keep playing this game?

This looks like an explanation of what was going on in the moment at which Clem decided to resign in early 2013.  But it also looks like a possible case study of a dynamic laid out over here.
How is compensation set at Mars Hill?

Compensation is connected and linked to increased responsibilities that are directly related to the mission and vision of Mars Hill, which are given by supervisors and communicated between leadership and employees. Each position is assigned a staff level (staff, supervisor, manager, director, etc.) based on level of responsibility. The staff level determines the compensation range and vacation eligibility.

Compensation for being a staff member at one of our churches is based on the responsibility and number of people in weekend attendance. Three different independent studies are used to determine market rates for all staff positions. [emphasis added]

The independent members of the Board of Advisors and Accountability set executive elders’ compensation. Additionally, an independent compensation study is done for our executive elders by an external accounting firm.

In other words, regardless of how impregnable job security was at the very top, for pretty much everyone else everything hinged on how many butts you got in the seats at your campus on a Sunday basis.  Given how far back Mark Driscoll extolled reverse-engineering your life in five year plans Wenatchee The Hatchet was not the only person to have joked that this must have been modeled on the economic plans of the Politburo in the Soviet Union ... but it's begun to seem more and more as though analogies to Soviet financial and governmental theories seem less funny the more comes to light.

There's relatively little that seems necessary to comment on in the article for the moment except for ...
Gerry Breshears let himself get described as a "past friend" of Mark Driscoll's?  That's an interesting detail.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Everybody talks about "the turning point". You've pointed out in earlier posts, people's view of the "turning point" often corresponds with the start of the fall of their MHC Star.

When would WTH say "the point of no return" began?