Church Staff Survival Guide

I know I should be writing something about thriving not surviving, but let’s be honest …

I know I should be writing something about thriving not surviving, but let’s be honest, if you have been on staff at a church for more than a year you know we all go through times of just holding on. It’s likely you have either gone through those times, or are currently in the mix of just trying to survive. Here’s a few key phrases those in survival mode use:

“I want to go, but God won’t release me.”

“I don’t agree with the church but I am staying for the kids.”

“I am broke and majored in history, what else am I going to do?”

“God hooked Job up eventually, right?”

There are really dark nights in ministry when what you thought would be the greatest job on the planet turned into just existing. When your current reality causes you to doubt your calling and maybe even, if we are really honest, if God is checked in on your story at all–it’s serious. So what do we do? If we are going to turn the ship around we need to move from a place of frustration to passion. The journey starts with surviving … then we get to thriving.

To move from surviving to thriving, first, think about alignment. What is your senior pastors’ vision for ministry? What’s your vision for ministry? Do they line up? I can hear some of you right now, “That’s the problem, my senior pastor doesn’t tell us his vision.” Remember we are talking survival, you may have to dig a little. In fact, getting to know the heart of your pastor is one of the most critical decisions you can make in the turn around. If you don’t already spend one on one time with your pastor–book some. Ask him about his calling to ministry; what his favorite part of ministry is; what’s been his greatest victory as a pastor; and what does he think is the most critical thing for your ministry. Listen to his heart and then spend some time praying through how you can align your ministry with his vision.

Our greatest frustrations arise when we labor against what God has called our leader to do. If we will tune our ear to our leaders’ heart then we will begin to celebrate similar victory and understand the ebb and flow of our church with more clarity.

After working on staff at a church for awhile you will usually end up in one of four situations:

1) I am aligned with my pastor, I like my job

2) I am aligned with my pastor, I don’t like my job

3) I am not aligned, I like my job

4) I am not aligned, I don’t like my job

What do you do?

See Also

#1’s Life is good! When you find yourself in situation “one” thank God for the ministry he’s placed you in. If you are new to church work it may take a few months to settle into number one. You may find yourself going through all four of these feelings as the honeymoon of church ministry ends, yeah, that’s right, it ends.

#2’s Speak up! My pastor says if you like your job 51% of the time you have a good job. I love that saying. If you find yourself loving the organization but not liking your job, set up a meeting with your boss. Wait! Before you go in answer some questions… 1) What specifically don’t you like about your job? 2) Are the tasks you don’t like necessary just not in your gifting or are they unnecessary? Do you have a better solution to accomplishing the task? Do you have something you are passionate about that will bring something new to the pastor’s vision for the church?

#3’s Change you, not your church! Number threes are crusaders. These guys like to fight the man. I have been one most of my life. Up until the church I currently work at I fought the system, loving the people but angry with the leadership. You can work like this for awhile but you will find yourself resentful and more than likely will build a small faction of complainers who all “pray” for the pastor to get a clue, er, I mean have his heart warmed. Number threes can have their heart changed by God but as far as changing the church it’s the path of martyrs.

#4’s Quit! You probably already did. Oh, wait, you still work there? Number fours who refuse to move on can be the most destructive force in the church. They grumble at the leader and at the organization. These guys are usually just cashing a check and hoping something really big changes. If you are a number four–still punching your clock, trust in God’s provision and move on.

It’s a crazy thing when you heart begins to change. Listen closely to where you are and make the moves you need to make. Unless you are able to thrive in your current location it will leave you jaded with how you see God and how you lead other people in maturity in Christ.

So, what number are you? Share your ministry experience.

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