All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."
— C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)
Before we get into today’s topic, we want to clarify one thing. The “media” was not out to “get” Franklin Graham. In light of the Wall Street mess, The Charlotte Observer was looking at a number of the not for profits in the area to see how they were faring. For those of you outside of North Carolina, Billy Graham is a local icon. There are roads named after him, and his library in his hometown of Charlotte is now a landmark.
It is sad that Franklin Graham was caught up in this but he was not the target. His salary jump was the highest of any organization in the area. If it had been the CEO of United Way or a local rescue group who had this statistic, that organization would have captured the headline. This was not a Christian devoured by the lions story. Samaritan’s Purse and BGEA have to accept this simple fact. Franklin has done very well during the current recession, and it looks suspicious.
Franklin Graham chose to run two organizations that get a tax break because they are “not for profit”. That means he should realize everything his nonprofits do will be subject to scrutiny by the American public. It is the nature of the beast. If he chose to run a private, mom and pop group, then this story would be moot. There are investigations already underway by Charles Grassley regarding the enormous salaries of some folks like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, and Randy and Paula White. All Christian organizations should be wary of the government sticking their noses into their business. But, if high salaries for folks like Graham continue, we may lose this exemption altogether, and we will have no one to blame except ourselves!!!
People do not believe that pastors should get rich. Some claim that Franklin works very hard. Well, so did Mother Theresa, along with countless saints throughout the ages who did not get rich while serving the Lord. Even Paul (now there’s a busy guy) worked as a tent maker. Many saints died poor in possession and rich in the Lord.
We are NOT impressed with Graham’s long working hours. Many poor people work two and three jobs to make ends meet, and do not have a private jet to take them to work. We know countless missionary doctors who work incredible hours and still get poverty wages. It’s time for the church to wise up before people go into the ministry to get rich.
Now, onto today’s topic — nepotism.
The following is a true story but all names, exact circumstances, and location are fictional. There was a busy oncology practice that had approximately 100 employees. The business manager resigned, and the doctors discovered that the financial end of the practice was in disarray. Thankfully, the spouse of one of the physicians was a whiz at practice management and was willing to work for a year to clean things up, which he did. However, the arrangement continued beyond a year, and this manager/spouse decided he wanted to stay permanently.
During the previous year, there had been some ticks and fleas, so to speak, that annoyed many in the office. But, these concerns were overlooked due to the temporary nature of the position. What was most interesting was how his wife, a partner in the practice, viewed the situation. She believed her husband was the best thing since sliced bread because all of his decisions that affected the physicians were made to benefit her.
Any complaints about her husband were glossed over by her. Suddenly, this once cohesive practice began to develop factions. Many of the office workers resented the manager’s “flexible” schedule. Others expressed frustration at his condescending attitude. The manager refused to answer to anyone but his wife, and she protected him.
People began to play favorites and tempers were reaching a boiling point. The other doctors decided to ask the manager to leave and to look for a replacement. The wife/doctor was upset and became non-communicative with the rest of her peers — something that had never happened before in this practice.
During the meeting to discuss and vote on this matter, the manager’s wife pointed out two “Aha” scenarios. First, she complained that one of the doctor’s sons had worked as a fill-in for 6 weeks during a summer vacation. Secondly, when the two doctors founded this practice years ago, one of the doctor’s sisters was hired to answer phones and serve as a general office worker, and she had been there for 25 years. The other physicians pointed out the temporary nature of the son’s assignment and the very low nature of his job (filing). The sister had no responsibilities in supervising other employees and had worked above and beyond her responsibilities for years, always helping out others. Both of these folks received a barely above minimum wage and were well-liked by the employees.
None of this convinced the manager’s wife. Although the manager is now gone, there is still residual damage to the organization due to this difficult relationship. As one doctor said, “I will never allow a family member to be hired again unless it is a kid to cover summer vacations.”
Below you will find the suggested nepotism policy of the ECFA.
Sample Nepotism Policy
Purpose. To clearly define XYZ Ministry’s policy regarding the standards for close relatives working for the Ministry in the same or different departments.
Policy. XYZ Ministry permits the employment of qualified relatives of employees, of the employee's household, or immediate family as long as such employment does not, in the opinion of the Ministry, create actual conflicts of interest. For purposes of this policy, "qualified relative" is defined as a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, first cousin, corresponding in-law, "step" relation, or any member of the employee's household. The Ministry will use sound judgment in the placement of related employees in accordance with the following guidelines:
• Individuals who are related by blood, marriage, or reside in the same household are permitted to work in the same Ministry department, provided no direct reporting or supervisor to subordinate relationship exists. That is, no employee is permitted to work within "the chain of command" when one relative's work responsibilities, salary, hours, career progress, benefits, or other terms and conditions of employment could be influenced by the other relative.
• Related employees may have no influence over the wages, hours, benefits, career progress and other terms and conditions of the other related staff members.
• Employees who marry while employed, or become part of the same household are treated in accordance with these guidelines. That is, if in the opinion of the Ministry a conflict arises as a result of the relationship, one of the employees may be transferred at the earliest practicable time.
Any exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Ministry Board of Directors.
Please note: The above policy allows the employment of related individuals in certain specific circumstances. Other nepotism policies may entirely prohibit the employment of related individuals. When creating a Nepotism Policy for your ministry, please consult your lawyer to verify compliance with federal and state laws.
This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.
However, the only mandate is that there be no more than 50% family members on the board. They also suggest that any family member working for an organization not be in a direct supervisory relationship.
Why bring this up? It is human nature to favor your own family. Take a look at our story on Pray's Mill Baptist Church. Mike Everson was adamantly opposed to pornography and even fired a staff member for viewing pornography on the church computer. However, when his son (a pastor on staff) was caught viewing pornography, he was allowed to remain on staff, and church members who knew were sworn to secrecy.
Do you think this is hypocritical? Yes, it is. But we all have our blind spots, especially when it comes to our family whom we treasure and love. It is darn near impossible to be objective about our close relatives. This is not a failing, merely human nature.
Franklin Graham employs both his wife and his son. Since he is the President of Samaritan's Purse, he has the ability to affect their salaries and their jobs. Of course they are decent people, wanting to make a difference. Conversely, with Graham’s salary now under scrutiny, one has to wonder about their salaries. Imagine the difficulties if layoffs occurred. What if an employee had issues with one of them? Most people, and we mean Christians, as well, would definitely hesitate to air their complaints, realizing what side their bread is buttered on.
Look at how upset some of our commenters became when we took a critical look at their pastors. Those same feelings would most likely be multiplied if they were the spouse or sibling of the party on question.
Now, before you say we are “attacking” the Grahams, we would turn your attention to Mac Brunson and First Baptist Church Jacksonville. Brunson's wife is a paid employee of the church. She, along with Mac, spent over $100,000 renovating their church offices. They even bring their dogs to work, and the office was designed to accommodate them, giving new meaning to “dog heaven”.
Ned Graham’s organization has come under scrutiny in the past as well. There were unfortunate accusations of sex and alcohol. When board members resigned, he replaced them his sister, Ruth, along with Gigi’s former husband. The organization had to withdraw from the ECFA because the board had a majority of family members, which is against the standards of the organization.
“Well, so what”, you may say. “They are Billy Graham’s kids”. Let’s be careful here… All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Being born with the surname “Graham” does not mean being born without the same sins that the rest of us struggle with… Billy Graham (who played a part in my (Dee) conversion and who I have admired through the years) admits in his biography, Just As I Am, that he was not a great father (he said it, not us). When he came home after one trip, he asked who the little girl was, and-it was his daughter, Anne. Billy Graham was an absentee father and most of his children: Franklin, Ned, Ruth and Gigi have had significant personal struggles. But, that’s OK. So have the rest of us. We must be careful, however, not to idolize Billy Graham and his family. If we do, they will disappoint us, just like we will disappoint all of you at one time or another.
The bottom line is this: just because someone is the child, sister, or wife of a well-known leader does not mean they are the right people for the job. In fact, we believe that nepotism should be avoided at all costs in not for profit groups and churches.
As some of you have noted, both of us have our MBA’s and happen to be evangelical Christians. We have great empathy for those in the stories we cover. One of our goals is to influence the church and parachurch to be the shining lights in the world. We are on the side of the church. If we are upset about certain issues, you can be certain that the secular society will be as well. So many of the issues we write about could be resolved with a simple “mea culpa” and an apology. Then, objective groups could be set up to oversee these deficiencies and report the progress to the donors. Christians are pretty quick to forgive those with repentant hearts. Unfortunately, far too many pastoral and parachurch leaders are slow to apologize. Humility goes a long way toward healing an embarrassing situation.