I heard about this recently: A church staffer had signed a non-compete agreement with a church, then wanted to leave for another one within the proscribed radius. (He wasn't supposed to leave for a position at another church within a 30 mile radius, I believe. Apparently, this is pretty standard fare for church non-competes.)
Now, some might say, "A NON-COMPETE AGREEMENT IN A CHURCH STAFF CONTRACT???" and wonder what in the hellck has happened to us. But I'm way past that. I'm told you've got to accept this is the way some churches operate, and they do a lot of good, and plus we shouldn't criticize, and you know, what if someone on staff leaves and it takes people away? and so forth.
Right on. Now that I think about it, and get past my wild, idealistic, primitivist "Why-are-we-doing-this?" impluses, I can see why. It just makes sense:
1) Non-competes are very common. Businesses simply have to protect themselves.
2) Churches could lose clients to competing churches. Until churches sign clients to binding contracts, a la, a gym membership, clients are free agents, and able to avail themselves of the products and services marketed by churches in competition.
Today's church consumers are fickle.
3) Loss of clients could result in a decline in revenue streams to the church/business. This would emperil revenue growth, physical plant expansion, marketing, and ultimately, profit.
4) Churches must protect what, legally, are termed "trade secrets". These are key processes, methods, or devices that have previously given a business a competitive advantage.
A staff member could leave a successful church for a competing church, and divulge secrets that may help the new church lure customers -- perhaps even key, revenue-producing clients -- away from the original business. This could result in "pirating".
This is important, because in a given market area, there is a very limited number of people in the target, middle-to-upper-class demographic who might be attracted to churches selling virtually the same worship experience, services and products for youth, support groups, etc. Each customer unit, then, is vital to revenue growth.
5) Customers "imprint" upon certain employees. Not all church clients are able to develop one-on-one relationships with the CEO/face of the organization. Like all other businesses, churches need to recognize the threat of another competing church being founded by departing employees/production units.
Employees/Career Christians/Brothers in Christ will often invoke religious "calling" terminology to justify this, which is all the more reason to spell out, contractually, that "God" will not be "calling you" to a ministry within 30 miles.
God's signature, or other involvement, is not required.