PHOENIX — Nepotism, on its face, may seem like the wrong thing in business and the workplace, but churches have allowed, even encouraged, nepotism-the hiring of family members within the same institution–even since Jesus’ day. Jesus’ brother was a part of the first century entourage.

Author Adam Bellow writes that “religious pulpits have often been handed from father to son,” and he cites the Mathers of Boston and the Muhlenbergs of Pennsylvania as “two of this country’s most important religious dynasties.” Bellow wrote a definitive account of nepotism in his hefty volume, “In Praise of Nepotism” (Doubleday, 2003).

The title gives away his view of the practice. “In short, nepotism works, it feels good, and it is generally the right thing to do,” he writes.

Not so says Robert Cubillos, business administrator at Rolling Hills Covenant Church, Rolling Hills Estates, CA, where his church has a policy against hiring relatives under certain circumstances.

Cubillos writes in the August issue of Church Executive, a business magazine for larger and mega churches, “the consideration and hiring of an employee who is closely connected–by a blood relation–to another employee can cause a great deal of concern for churches.

“In churches across the country,” he writes “there are countless married couples and relatives employed together who make significant contributions of their time, talents and teamwork to the ministry. Much of the work in small churches depends heavily on family members serving together on staff.”

Cubillos’ church recently reviewed its long-standing policy against hiring relatives of staff members. It reviewed the arguments that Bellow makes of a place for nepotism in society, including the church. It is not uncommon, for example, for a church to feel it gets two for the price of one when hiring a married pastor or staff member.

But Rolling Hills Covenant Church felt differently. “Nepotism may be all around us today, but we felt there are places where it should not be–one of them being the large church.

“Nepotism can create a group of people who are insular and self-referential; they are insulated from outside scrutiny and opinion and are allied together by powerful allegiances to each other. Our concern was to avoid any situations tending toward partiality and/or favoritism that threaten our church’s organizational unity and our ability to function cohesively,” Cubillos says.

In the six years the policy has been in effect, the church has not hired relatives of employees.

See the original Church Executive article.

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