When The Church Isn’t There

Let’s be real.

I ran through a few different titles for this blog post.

The Character Of God

God’s Word Doesn’t Change

Get Your Freaking Communications In Order

The Most Un-Marcy Thing To Do Ever

How Could You Leave Me Hanging Like That

I’m writing this one for two reasons. 1) People need to know. 2) I don’t want to forget.

It all started with a service opportunity.

So far, so good.

It didn’t involve anything I might typically do.

No graphics, no guest services, no social media, no database.

This one was boots-on-the-ground. Downtown. Serving our city’s homeless community.

I think we’ve already established what Marcy would do. I’ll babysit your kids so you can go serve, then you send me pics of you serving and I’ll post them to your organization’s social media pages so all the world can know just how awesome you are.

(Read that with a slight hint of sarcasm. None of us – me, you, all y’all – are even close to awesome. Not even close.)

So… I checked the date, time, and location of this serving opportunity against a few other things I had that day (all 38,000 of them).

I realized I would be in the right place at the right time and had a few hours to spare.

What I’d typically do in that situation would be to load up a laptop and find the closest coffee shop.

That’s what Marcy does.

But I agreed to serve.

Two days before the event, I received a confirmation text.

Document timeline. Midweek: opportunity is posted for Monday. Saturday: personal text confirming Monday.

Pause: this WAS NOT, in any way, organized by my church. This was an outreach by a third party organization who (I’m absolutely assuming here), contacted various churches for help.

However, my only communication for or about it was from our Lead Pastor.

Here’s a pro tip: don’t make your Lead Pastor the point person for communications. It’s not their job. Communications will fail. Find a volunteer and put the ball in their court. Anyone who throws the LP under the bus after reading this post, should read that again.

Let’s get back to it. We left off with the personal text confirming Saturday. Address – check. Carpool with us or meet you there? I’ll meet you there. Good to go.

Monday morning I arrived at the appointed location, at the appointed time. My role: help set up a tent, help set out chairs, an organization is going to give haircuts to the homeless community. After setting up tents + chairs, I just get to pray with and for people.

I can do this.

I even left the house without my laptop!

I arrived 15 minutes early, found an open parking lot directly across from the location, arranged to sell a kidney, and paid for parking (another pro tip: if you want to make real money, go into the parking lot business.)

I’m only 10-15 minutes early. Surely there should be some activity.


Just three guys, sitting on a bench under an awning, in front of a store across the street.

Me: suburban mom in an unfamiliar part of downtown that seemed eerily inactive and three rather rough looking (God, forgive me for judging people based on outward appearance) dudes across the street. Obviously we all saw one another. You couldn’t NOT see one another.

Do I get back in my car, lock doors, and wait for back up while scrolling social media?


I crossed the street, walked directly to them, and said, “hey guys… what’s up?”

That was the start of two hours that changed my life.

I was there to help them get haircuts. They were waiting to get haircuts. but no one else was there.

No haircut people. No other homeless people. And no church people.

We struck up a conversation. All the while, I’m thinking, ‘where are my people? Where are any people?’ I’m quickly making a connection with them… this is crazywhy am I here alone? What am I even doing?

Then these guys decided to take a walk to a few downtown churches – maybe we got the location wrong.

Oh no.

You are not leaving me here alone. I’m going with you.

We weren’t meant to do life alone, and at that moment, my community – my safety, security, and comfort – had become three homeless guys I’d known for roughly 15-20 minutes.

So there I am, walking through downtown with three homeless guys, hoping that at the next turn, we’re going to see a tent and people.

No tent. No people.

We made our way home – back to the familiar bench in front of the store, under the awning, across from my car.

We talked. I asked them about their lives. What happened to them? Why are they homeless? Why they’d rather live on the streets than in a shelter? What are they learning from this? What’s their plan to turn their lives around?

I texted our Pastor (again, don’t expect your LP to field this stuff – ever):

Where are you? • What is going on? Am I in the right place?

I get a text back: the event was canceled.

(Heads up: I’ll serve the church I’m a member of for free as your church comm person; scroll back a few posts. If I strongly believe in you or your organization, you get me for free on a volunteer basis.)

Another incoming text: I’m so sorry.

My response:

You’re going to be sorry. • I feel forgotten. Left out. Unwanted. Not thought of. • You’ve really screwed up my day/life. How could you, you completely selfish idiot? • It’s okay. God meant for me to be here. I get to talk to them about Jesus.

Don’t lose it. • Hold it together. • Build a relationship. • I’m a fish out of water. • Talk about Jesus. • Share your story. • Why am I even here? Don’t leave here.

And then the moment. One of the guys says this happens all the time.


The preachers come on Sunday. They tell us people are coming. People don’t come.

Preachers = God / Jesus

People are coming = God / Jesus are coming

People don’t come = God / Jesus doesn’t come

This is the basis for their belief system.

I told them I was so sorry for this experience. This isn’t at all how Jesus is.

And one guy said, “we feel bad for you.”


Because your people didn’t show up either.

And I lost it. I openly sobbed and poured out the train wreck to three homeless guys.

You’re right. I feel unloved, unwanted, left out on a limb, stranded on base, unprepared, a bit uncomfortable, forgotten, angry, and seriously hurt.

Honestly, in this moment, I want to tell you that church people suck because we do. And the one I attend – in that moment – was the worst offender.

Yep. I’m out. Over done. Church is not for me.

But God.

I didn’t immediately pull out the YouVersion Bible app and meet them with scripture.

I just shared personal experience. Every time I’ve been in a valley, down, broken, near the end, Jesus stepped in. It’s been rough – comparatively no where near as rough as where they are – but it definitely hasn’t been easy. And every single time, in unexplainable ways, God was there.

Then. After all that, I gave them scripture. I pointed out how His promises were true. Every time.

In the end they acknowledged that not all churches (or church people) must be that way, because I showed up.

What!? Did God just use my broken, messed up, train wreck of a life to reach them? Maybe. I think I cried even more at that.

They agreed to meet my husband and I at that same bench on Sunday morning and go to our church with us (I’m praying they actually show up and go).

We hugged and parted ways.

And what I realized is that when the church isn’t there, many believe that Jesus isn’t there.

But I know that when the church isn’t there, that’s when you know Jesus really is there.

The home team bench.

Today I Quit My Job

Today I quit my job as a professional volunteer.


Didn’t you just start it?

Yeah – sort of.

First, it’s important to remember what this means to me. If I believe in you or your organization, I’ll give you my time.

Second, let’s remember why I do this. People need Jesus. That’s all.

But someone pointed out a few things to me today.

• Volunteers are volunteers. Period. No matter what they do, or how much they do it, they (we) are volunteers.

• And…labels can lead to pride issues. I don’t personally have pride issues, but if I could be on that path, better to hop off now, rather than later.

So, I am NOT a high-capacity volunteer and I am NOT a professional volunteer.

I am a volunteer (and a child of God, because that’s the most important thing).

I’ve got 24 hours in a day. I need to sleep roughly 8 of them. That leaves 16 to be a volunteer.

I Am A Professional Volunteer

I am a professional volunteer.

What does that mean?

If I believe in you and your mission, or if I see your vision and I’m 💯 on board with it, I’ll probably ‘work’ for you for free.

I might ask you if I can update my social media profiles to reflect what I do for you and your organization. It honestly depends on how strongly I feel about how much I want people to know I’m on your team. Why do I want people to know I’m on your team? It’s definitely not about me or “the title/position.” It’s always about letting people know I believe in your organization’s mission. Whatever I can do to drive people back to your social media channels, I’ll do it.

An example of this is: recently a local Pastor called me and told me about a project he was working on with a few other guys. I bought in.

Could I design a logo and how much would it cost? Yes and free.

I believe our community needs this and I’m on board. In that case, I didn’t ask him if I could update social media to reflect what I did. They’re doing a great thing and I’m sure I’ll share what they post, but at this point, free logo design + a few logo based digital deliverables was enough.

Then he switched gears and asked about t-shirt design for his church. At this point, there’s a fee, but since I was already bought into him as a person, that fee was greatly reduced.

When I jump all in as your professional volunteer, I take what I do pretty seriously. Because usually it’s about helping churches grow stronger, which means they can reach more people, which means more people know Jesus.

But here’s the raw truth: being a professional volunteer comes at a cost. Software subscriptions, stock photo subscriptions, etc. all cost money.

And being a professional volunteer doesn’t pay well. 

So what’s next for this professional volunteer? Well, I’ve got a few contract proposals out now and some serious conversations happening about possible long term contracts. I’m looking at about an hour of billable projects this week. I’m scheduled to lead a series of Lunch & Learn videos that will generate income.

We are not leaving our church – that’s a given fact. After a really disconnected 2020, we finally found a church to call home in 2021. That’s not changing.

I know there are ministries being hit hard financially right now. So I’m going to do the best I can to keep my fees ridiculously low. Not to undervalue my time, but to continue to remember this is ministry, not just a job.

Someone asked me recently if I was in this for Jesus or for a paycheck?

For Jesus.


Vocational Ministry

I’ve been thinking a lot about vocational ministry. What is it? For those who don’t know, it’s when a person gets paid to do the work of the ministry.

Earlier this year, a young man was offered a job at a church. It was a visible leadership position. The advice he got: don’t take it. Instead, go to the church. Love the people, learn the people, earn the trust of the people. Serve and serve well. Don’t hold back on service. Give the church everything you’ve got. Then, after some time, see if that paid position is still available.

When he told me that, I didn’t get it…but I did. God started working.

All around me were people who had been in vocational ministry, but left. Either by choice – or not by choice – in various positions of ministry. I began to ask questions of them. And more importantly, I listened. I wanted to hear where they were, what happened (as much as they could share), and what God was doing in their lives.

This has brought me to a few conclusions. These are my conclusions – and God may speak to you differently – but here they are:

Church first. Find a local body, get connected, love the people, learn the people and earn trust. You may be the most gifted leader, but you may have to start at the bottom of the leadership pipeline. I know of one person so called to vocational ministry that he accepted a job as the church facilities manager. He’s a gifted pastor and leader, but humbled himself in order follow God’s call.

Job second. Too many times, people go to a job and take their family into the church. I think we need to reverse that. It’s your family’s church first. Your job second. Don’t get that wrong. Churches change. Jobs change. Roles change. People change. But your family is who you live with 24/7. Forever.

It has to be a calling — not just a job. The call to ministry has to be just that: a calling. If you don’t know the difference, stop reading and don’t go into vocational ministry.

Serve with all you’ve got. You’ve got 24 hours in a day. What are you doing with them? The greater the calling, the more you’re going to WANT to serve. There are 40-hour/week volunteers. Be one.

Butwhat about the need to earn a living? You knowmortgages, car payments, braces, college.

There are seasons of waiting. In them, serve your church as much as you’re able. But do what needs to be done in order to support your family. I know former church staff members who have gone into real estate, sold snow cones, and worked at a soap factory.

Realize that everything can be a ministry:

“Our daily work can be a calling only if it is reconceived as God’s assignment to serve others.”

― Timothy Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work

During the job interview process (if you choose job first / church second) propose a time of volunteer service before moving forward with any further discussions on a staff position. If finances are truly an issue, propose working for the church on an outside contractor (1099) basis. Take Sundays off to be with your family, and then if God moves, take steps to get your family more involved in the ministry.

Know this: you are not alone. People have walked this path. There are many walking it with you. Many more will follow.

Follow where and how God leads and set an example for others.

And finally, stop reading this blog and go serve. Serve someone. Somewhere.

But God

But God.

Friday I’ll be about an hour from home. All day.

Friday night I’m babysitting.

I’m old enough to know where my wall is. (I’ve hit it enough times.) Hitting the wall isn’t fun. It’s hard. It hurts. I’ve seen it coming and I’ve been completely blindsided. The wall hurts and it’s hard whether you see it coming or not.

So I put a big red ‘x’ on Saturday. ‘X’ marks the wall.

But God.

But our church scheduled a day of service for Saturday.

Y’all can serve. Need some graphic design? I’m happy to help. Website update? Social media update? I got you.

Anything that can be done from my house + in my pajamas… it’s my wall day.

But God.

But then I realized that maybe there’s something I can do.

So…I’m babysitting Saturday morning for a couple so they can go serve together ❤️❤️

Then Saturday afternoon I’m possibly babysitting for another couple so they can go see a movie.

The wall told me I’d be at my limit.

But God told me I could throw on sweats and keep kids alive and entertained for a few hours. (I’ve been doing that for 22+ years.)

Do I get tired? Nope. Okay, well, yes. But no – because I’ve learned not to hit the wall.

But the same God who moves mountains and parts seas can push that wall back a little further.

☕️ Also, my love language is coffee so if you see me this weekend and I look dead, you know what to do. ✌️