Coaching Conversations Continued: Building from the ground up

I’m still walking through things with my latest coaching client.

To recap, this is the coaching call that made me do more than press pause. As my new friend was unpacking their situation. I felt strongly that we were walking a similar path.

Scroll back a few posts to see how it started and how I unpacked a lot of layers. (There are lot.)

As I’m helping the person with their walk, I’m finding myself often needing to take my own advice.

I’m also carefully wording these posts to not reveal their identity. I’m keeping a few things purposely vague and have gotten permission to share what I’m sharing.

Where we are now is digging into the why. When I first asked why this person had gone into communications as a ministry, the response was that they thought it would be fun.

I’m not sure “fun” is why anyone should go into any ministry.

Ministry can be hard work. There are tough decisions to be made if you’re in a leadership position (this person is). And there are things that can be discouraging.

In the past I’ve served in First Impressions/Guest Services (my favorite of all ministries and where I hope to serve again one day), Next Steps/Assimilation, Nursery, Pre-School, Student Ministry, and now Communications.

Since I’m now serving in Communications and I’m coaching someone through their own communications ministry, I’ll stay there. But you can apply most of – not all of – these principles to any ministry.

Communications is hard work. It’s also very rewarding.

Building a team takes time, but believe God that they are coming. Start with a vision. Dream. Layout a structure that people can walk into.

At first, you may be the only person in that structure. I have outlined our church’s communications team in to these areas: website and church app, photography, church online livestream hosting, social media, graphic design, and videography/video editing.

Currently I’m a team of one covering all of these areas. I have support from our church’s lead pastor and I’m ready to onboard volunteers when (not if) God brings them. I trust Him to bring the right people at the right time.

In the waiting, you will be tired. The internet never sleeps. Your church will need something communications-related almost every day.

Brief summary so far: expect the beginning of your communications team to be difficult. God will be with you in the difficulty. But expect it. Grab your hard hat and get ready!

Communications is isolating. You’ll be behind a screen when people are praying. You’ll be behind a screen when people are singing. You’ll be behind a screen when people are with people. You’ll get to know your keyboard on a much deeper level. Your face cam will know your expressions more than anyone in your church.

To combat this remember that God has never and will never leave you. People may not know you’re there, but God sees you.

Join some church comm Facebook groups. You’ll make friends there. Try visiting another church during a time yours doesn’t meet. It’ll give you a chance to connect with people and spend time in worship.

Don’t get discouraged at low social media numbers (views, likes, shares, etc.). You’ll have low days and high days. View every day as a gift from God.

Keep believing that as long as you are in God’s will, He will bring the right people at the right time. Did I already say that. It bears repeating. I feel like there’s a song there: Don’t Stop Believing…Hold Onto That Feeling.

Communications is not an easy-entry ministry and a lot of people can’t stay in it. There are deadlines to meet that will take you away from family, friends, and almost everything else. A software company recently made a change that allowed for an automation. In promoting the change, they said a user had said, “you’re giving me the opportunity to have lunch with my family on Sunday.” (Side note: I really need to encourage our Pastor to look into this company…)

But it’s true. You’ll make A LOT of sacrifices. Know they are worth it.

I’m praying for my coaching client. I’m praying for myself. And I’m praying for YOU!

We serve a faithful God and as you’re in His will, expect the blessings.

If you build it, they will come.

Conversations Continued: The Layers

Sometimes a coaching call is a one-and-done.

Other times there are a few follow up conversations.

My most recent coaching call caused me not only to pause, but to slam the brakes.

With every sentence, it was like peeling back layers.

There were so many layers.

One thing that struck out was their desire to remain anonymous. The exact quote was, “I don’t want my pastor or church to look bad. I don’t want my pastor to feel guilty.”

What!?

Friend, don’t try to be a hero. You’re not. Jesus is. You’re not.

Your pastor should feel guilty for not seeing this. What kind of rock is he living under?

Okay – you definitely need some support and I think this is an important story to share, so let’s think about how I can help you.

There are a few different Facebook groups that allow people to post anonymously.

But won’t someone know who I am?

Yes, usually an admin or moderator.

Oh – I don’t think I want anyone to know.

But YOU need to know you’re not alone. Even if you feel alone in your own church, there are communities of people who can walk you through this. Need I remind you, that you contacted me through one of those communities?

And then the ask: Can you post anonymously on my behalf?

I’m not sure that’s wise.

Why?

Because this isn’t my story. We’re very similar, and I’ve walked this path. But this one is not my story.

But also – I don’t want to help you through this alone. Quite frankly, I need help, so give me a minute to think [pray]. And so in a few Facebook groups, I shared their story.

The response was overwhelming supportive.

But let’s rewind: “I don’t want my pastor or church to look bad. I don’t want my pastor to feel guilty.”

I thought back to something a friend posted a few months ago:

Church leaders,

We must do a better job serving our teams and staff. I have another week of creatives telling me they are leaving their church position because of the leadership they are under. They are overworked, underappreciated and not heard or understood. They LOVE the church and want to keep serving the church but are burnt out.

Sadly I have a list of similar stories and one I have experienced myself.

This is not a expose to bring down but to bring a pain point that church staff does not feel like they have the ability to bring to their leaders.

What do you think we, as The Church, could do better to change this pattern? 👇👇

So – what can we do better to change this pattern? (I’ve addressed all of this in my previous post, but if you’re still not doing it, read it again.)

When scheduling volunteers – do not schedule people every week. Even your highest capacity leaders should not serve every week.

Promote teams from your platform during service. Don’t promote serving in general. Spend some time promoting specific teams. It’s VBS season. When was the last time you purposely gave a shout to your kids’ ministry?

Honor some of your volunteers during service. This one is personally a tough one for me. I don’t want to be recognized for something I’m supposed to be doing. Jesus has already died for me. My service is out of obedience to Him, not for recognition from my church. But – I do know this is a driving motivator for some people. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I’ve started a Volunteer of the Week social media post at my church. It’s helping to bring awareness to teams.

Give your highest capacity volunteers a church email. If you’re using a free email client or GSuite for non-profits, this won’t cost you a thing, but will give them some credibility in your church.

Put your highest capacity volunteers on your website. You may have a Children’s Director listed on your staff page, but if you’ve got service coaches or volunteer ministry assistant leaders, list them on an appropriate page. Again, this won’t cost you a thing, but can go a long way in helping a volunteer feel like what they’re doing matters.

Schedule a dinner with a volunteer in your ministry. Get to know them outside of church.

Don’t stack the schedule. Some volunteers (and even some staff members) can’t take the thought of another church event. Time away may be more valuable than time in.

Have a no fear policy. Volunteers and staff should feel like they can approach their Pastoral staff (supervisors/bosses) without fear of being fired or told they need to press in and trust Jesus. A high capacity volunteer or church staff member already knows that yet, burnout is real.

Listen, but don’t let go. A high capacity volunteer may need a few days off, but not out of the ministry permanently. The arm doesn’t always need amputated. Sometimes it just needs put in a sling or a cast and given time to heal.

Share your own story. Too many people are on the edge of burnout in silence and feel alone. Hearing your story could help someone who needs to hear it.

Enforce Sundays off. Entire Sundays. Social Media posts can be pre-scheduled. Other volunteers can be trained. Enforce Sundays off. Be mean about it.

Invest in your weakest teams. Healthy teams grow. People sign up to serve. People show up to serve. If you’ve got an unhealthy team, everyone has to work together to help it grow. Think about a hospital. The healthiest patients, need the least care. The most unhealthy, need life support. If you don’t invest in an unhealthy team’s growth, it will die.

Help me peel back some layers. How do you think churches can do better?

Like Looking In A Mirror

It was like looking in a mirror.

Then playing the “can you spot the differences” game.

Since it’s been awhile, let’s catch up. I’m Marcy. I’m a follower of Christ. A wife. A mom. I work full time for the best. company ever. I work part time for another fantastic company. And I serve my church.

For my part time job, I’m a Community Manager for a the most awesome Facebook Group ever: Church Comm Leaders. If you’re a leader in church communications, you should be in our group.

Often in that group, a group member will reach out to me for some private advice (coaching).

And here’s where we’re going to pick it up.

See – when you’re dealing with people – there are always issues. You have issues. They have issues. I have issues. We all have issues.

I feel like there’s a song about this, but we’ll talk about that later.

A friend of mine once told me that sometimes people will call you for advice and you’ll realize you’re more messed up than they are. It’s true. And it happened to me – maybe for the first time – this week.

I get the first text – introduction.

I have a problem and you seem like someone who I can trust.

Okay…

And then this person laid it all out. All of it.

And with every point, I got it because this person was eerily walking on the same path as me.

Every. Single. Point.

Are we the same person?

No. This person lives in another part of the country, but get this – it’s a state I used to live in.

Maybe I left a clone behind when I moved.

I don’t know.

Every. Single. Point.

Except one.

At the end of the conversation: You always seem so happy. Why am I so sad?

Boom! That hit. Like a punch to the gut. Because that’s what had to be addressed. Oh, we’ll address it all, but first that.

So first, with permission, I give you the twitter version of the person who reached out:

Full time job, also serving church in a communications role.

Loves where and how they’re serving. Gifted in communications. Leading a team, but team is small, Spending almost as much time serving as working, mostly behind a screen at church, so no personal interaction with people. Can’t remember the last time they went to church just to worship.

Um….yeah…so far you could be describing me…and so many other people in so many churches. Believe me, there aren’t just two of us.

Always sad. Crying on the way to church.

The similarities just ended.

And then: why?

And what hit hard was that I couldn’t give an immediate why.

I don’t know.

But doesn’t it all start with the why?

So I literally had to take a few days to go back to my why.

So we’re going to break down EVERYTHING.

Because I guess, on paper, I should be sad. But I’m not.

Let’s start with why anyone in any church should serve in any role.

Someone has already served you. God sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for you. That’s the ultimate service. The ultimate sacrifice. We’re sinful humans. Jesus took our place.

I’ll never serve enough to match that. I won’t even try. But when you switch to viewing serving as an act of worship, you go from “I can’t remember the last time I worshipped,” to “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t worship.” There’s a difference.

Here’s a few other things about serving – for volunteers, church staff, and pretty much anyone who’s still reading this book.

Don’t serve for fun.

Disneyland is fun. But it’s expensive and you’re tired after the day.

The beach is fun. But you get sand everywhere. And sometimes sunburn,

Concerts are fun. But your ears are ringing for hours after.

Sporting events are fun. But you end up disliking the sports officials or the other team.

Junk food is fun. Except weight gain and heartburn.

Fun has exceptions. Fun has limits. Fun ends.

Worship is forever.

Build a team.

Personally, I have a team structure in place. The house is built – and it’s built with expansion in mind. People just have to walk into it. Expect your team to start small. Prepare for that. Don’t be surprised by it.

Know this: communications can feel isolating.

I won’t sugar coat it because too many people get blindsided. You won’t approach the altar or pray with people. You will be behind a screen in the back of the room. You won’t be on stage or in any pictures. You will be behind a screen or behind the camera. You will not have lunch with your family. You will be editing post-service video. In many ways, your life will look like “opposite day” compared to other people. Like an infant having their days and nights mixed up. Your life will be 99% digital and 1% people.

Don’t go into it thinking that being a Communications Director is glamorous. It’s not. It’s hard. It’s tiring. You’ll mostly go unnoticed. Unless there is a problem. Then everyone will know it’s you.

But know it’s a season. Build that team. We’ll go back to this often.

Keep going back to your why and team building.

Not only do I have a structure for growth in place – which I’m excited about – I’ve started making checklists and screen recording everything I do. It’s all to get ready for who’s going to walk into this team structure.

If you’re a volunteer, especially one who already has a full time job, this can be exhausting. I get it. That’s why it’s critical to have a team building mindset from the start. It may take months – or even years to build the team, but God’s timing is always perfect.

If you’re on paid staff, this still applies. A paycheck doesn’t make you immune to burnout. I know because I’ve been there. Whatever ministry you lead should be approached with a team building mindset.

A special note to paid staff

A special note to anyone on paid staff – and I know because I’ve been on a church staff – pay the closest attention to your high capacity volunteers. Invite them to dinner to get to know them – not to talk about church. Get to know their families. The most crushing blow I had as a volunteer was being invited to a volunteer appreciation dinner, but told my husband couldn’t come because he wasn’t serving.

Require a volunteer take off (*away from the church) two Sundays in a row at least every 6 months. Why two? Because the first Sunday they’ll be still worried about things at church. They won’t truly relax until the second Sunday (also make sure they’re off the week between). Require one Sunday off (but still at church) every 6-8 weeks. If you have volunteers in pre- and post-production, this will require sacrifice from other volunteers and staff, but it’s critical to the long-term health of any team.

A high capacity volunteer may (will probably) resist any time off, but it should be enforced.

Encourage and Recognize

One of the best things I ever received as a volunteer was a church email address. It might sound crazy, but it made me feel like what I was doing mattered. I was able to communicate with my team, and even people in other churches using my church email address. I was able to set up accounts with various church comm businesses and stock photo sites using my church email address. Guess how much that costs the church? Nothing. But to a volunteer, it can be everything.

Recognize specific teams from the platform. Do a “Get In The Game” sermon series and each week of the series, recognize a team.

Put your teams and leaders on the website. Again this is some free real estate – it will cost your church nothing, but can make your volunteers feel like what they do matters. Volunteer children’s director? That volunteer should be on the website: name and email contact.

Do you have a team that’s a team of one – or two? Give your smallest teams the most attention. Healthy teams are already growing. Small teams will die if you don’t feed them.

Respect Boundaries

This is a two-way street. If a volunteer has a full time job, they will probably volunteer nights and weekends. Your (staff) 10am text or email, might get a reply at 6pm. If you’re a volunteer and your church staff has official office hours, don’t expect a reply to your 9pm email until office hours the next morning.

Plan Ahead

It’s critical to respecting boundaries.

And finally – Why am I happy?

I guess, on paper and according to my friend this week, I shouldn’t be happy.

So if you see anything good or happy in me, I’ll attribute it to the work of The Holy Spirit.

It’s a choice.

Are there days I’m tired? Yes.

Feel isolated and disconnected? Sometimes.

Miss going to church just to sing and listen to the message (device-free)? Occasionally.

Wish I could spend Sunday afternoon out with my family or doing something fun? Almost weekly.

But, then you realize you’re serving a risen savior who literally carried his own cross up a hill and took nails that were meant for you, it makes it not only easier, but joyful.

That’s why.

When The Church Is There

If you haven’t already read it, start here. That’s the post that got my little piece of the internet noticed.

Not like National News Noticed, just more noticed than usual. I’m usually okay with being not noticed.

I don’t typically add my name or watermark to the graphic. You don’t know I edited the video, produced the website, made the copies, bought the coffee cups, or that I was the voice behind the social media post.

But in this case, something was definitely different. I really needed people to know what happened. Because it wasn’t really about me. It was about people who didn’t know who Jesus really is.

One week ago, I realized who didn’t like or trust us – the church.

I realized why they didn’t like or trust us – the church.

And for a brief glorious and, at the same time, scary horrible moment, I was in two worlds.

I was one of us. I was the church. I was being like Jesus would be and I was doing what Jesus would do.

But I was also one of them.

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

“…church people suck…”

But God.

I talked with a few friends.

They saw that you were human. • They saw you have the same feelings they do • You dropped the Christian mask.

Dropped the mask.

I don’t even know how to wrap this up.

I’ve got nothing quotable, or funny, witty, or clever.

But God.

Yesterday they showed up. Same bench. They went to church with my husband, son, and I.

We took them to lunch after church.

They saw and heard something different yesterday.

I know it was different because they want to go back.

They said everyone was kind to them.

They want to go back.

They trust us to meet us again this Sunday. Same time. Same bench.

I cannot believe it….they actually want to go back.

I didn’t hear anything different yesterday.

It was a hard lesson I’d already learned.

I think I learned it years ago.

Or maybe I just learned it a week ago.

This one could change your life:

https://youtu.be/OjQ4krSz9Ic

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.

Nothing.

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?

Nope.

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.

What?

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.”

Why?

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.

Why?

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. ✌️

Do we practice what we preach?

I write this to all of the congregations. All of you. Everywhere.

I know this: God has called me to serve vocationally in the local church. Definitely in the areas of communications, first impressions, next steps, and assimilation.

I also know I’m looking for every reason not to.

The sad part is that I don’t have to look too hard. This is a post from a group I’m in (I’ve left out a few details on purpose):

“Does anyone else notice that as we preach mental health as a Church, ours isn’t the best example? I was told on Thursday to (insert project + short timeline). Five hours of work later – on a Saturday – it’s finally done. Is it just my church??”

I have a friend who recently left the ministry. She’s posting a lot of pictures showing the activities she’s enjoying with her family. Many of the posts contain the phrase, “for the first time in a long time, I’m able to…”

Think about that. For the first time in a long time, she’s able to enjoy activities with her family.

Just last night, I received this message from a friend “…after having worked in… a daycare, in restaurants w high functioning alcoholics and/or drug users, a government job, and in a regional insurance office that included several dozen insurance salesmen, I’d never been in such a dysfunctional work environment until now.”

(She’s referring to her job at a church)

My own personal experience? I’ve missed family celebrations, flown home early from a family vacation, and even taken my laptop to and worked at the ER – when I was the patient.

I’ve loaded my personal cell phone (that the church didn’t pay for) with apps and images that were only for the church.

And I justified every second:

  • It’s my family’s church home, not just my job – I want to see things succeed (done, done well, etc.)
  • I’m earning a paycheck
  • Jesus never promised easy, He promised it would be worth it
  • I’m not hanging on a cross

I justified it because I knew it’s what God was calling me to do.

And then I ran. For many reasons. And in some way, I’m still running.

But I know I’ll go back.

Because despite the soul-crushing sacrifice, there’s another common bond among church employees: we love our congregations. Your Pastor loves you (I hope). The church secretary loves you. The maintenance guy loves you. The financial secretary loves you. Even the website and graphic design person loves you.

We know it’s a sacrifice. We know it’s a calling. And each and every church employee I know wants desperately to see people connected to the body of Christ.

And almost every congregant I know will say at some point to a church employee, “you work so hard, you need a break (day off, vacation, etc.)”

You’re right. We do.

So…what’s the point?

Here it is:

If you’re sitting in church, not DOING anything, please step up.

Assume this: every time you pick up the phone and need to talk to your Pastor, every other person in the church also called him. If you attend a church of 200, that’s 200 phone calls. And there are still day-to-day operations.

I used to spend 8 hours a day at the office, then come home to work. For real.

Please – volunteer to do something. What’s the thing you do best? What are you most passionate about? There’s probably a staff leader at your church who needs you on their team.

If you’re not sure where to start, I use a Venn diagram, Make three circles, making sure they intersect. Label each: Ability, Affinity, Affirmation. Ability should be the things you are naturally able to do. Affinity are the things you love. Affirmation are the things that other people have told you that you do well. For example: I’ve been told that I’m good with kids (affirmation). I don’t necessarily like working with kids (that would NOT go under affinity). I think that I’m able to work with kids – if there’s enough coffee. So that could potentially go in 2 of the 3. When you find the thing that hits all 3, that’s your spot.

If you know a church staff member is on vacation or it’s a day off – respect that time. I guarantee you, each and every employee will go above and beyond the call of duty, but even Jesus rested.

Resist the temptation to call, text, email, etc. (Yes, we check our emails on our days off.)

For me, my own first step back to obedience is volunteering.

And I’m grateful every day that I get to practice what I preach.