This week, two good friends have told me (on separate occasions; they don’t know each other) about the incredible experience they are having in their new jobs. One works for the International Mission Board of our denomination and the other for Samaritan’s Purse, the Franklin Graham ministry.
The IMB friend said, “I’ve been there for six months now and everyone is so super nice. There’s no backbiting, no gossiping, just kindness and graciousness.” She thinks she has died and gone to heaven.
The Samaritan’s Purse friend said, “The co-workers are such godly people who are in this work because of the call of the Lord. I feel I have found a new family.”
Music to my ears.
Sometimes when we offer jobs to people, we make the mistake of thinking that salary and benefits are all that matter. Not so, particularly for those with the call of God upon their lives. Working relationships with colleagues can be the most crucial factor of all.
It has long been noted that longevity in staff relationships is directly proportionate to the relationships between team members. I’ve known a few churches where the pastor and ministers of education and worship served together as a team for 25 years or more.
Conversely, I’ve known some churches where the staff positions rotate every year or two, with no one staying any longer than it takes to find a new position in another town.
What accounts for such turnover? There are people and institutes that study such things and they have solid answers. What I have is anecdotal evidence based on my observations and experience.
Here are my candidates for the top ten reasons people in the Lord’s work change jobs often.
1) Someone misrepresented. Turns out the church wasn’t as open to new directions as the pastor search committee had implied. The youth were not as tired of fun and games and as hungry for discipleship as the pastor had said in his conversations with the new student minister.
2) Someone overpromised. The pay turned out to be less than expected, the duties more severe, and the support almost invisible. After the pastor arrived, the church leadership wasn’t as eager to paint the parsonage as they had promised.
3) Someone underexplained. You took the job without an adequate understanding of all you were expected to do. You needed more training and more time to get adjusted. But they threw you into the crockpot and the phone is ringing off the hook (remember phones with hooks?) and workers are needing answers you are unable to give. The stress shows no sign of abating.
4) Someone overexpected. You implied that you were highly confident — which you are — but you did not mean to leave the boss with the expectation that you need no direction, no guidance, and no assistance. You feel like the new coach hired to turn around a losing team all by yourself. Quickly, you find going to work in the morning a chore.
5) Someone erred. You’ve moved into this job, this church, this staff position, and within a week you realize you’re in the wrong place. You were sincere in coming and now you are just as sincere in believing you made a mistake. Better to admit the error and resign. It’s hard on everyone and costly to the employer who has just moved you to this new city, but better now than in a year.
6) Someone lied. The new employee does not have the degrees he/she claims, did not actually work for the period of time the resume’ claimed, and lacks the skills which were promised. No employer can overlook such dishonesty. The employee is terminated. And, just as likely, the employer lied about the situation. (Better to get it all in writing!)
7) Someone is impatient. The boss is too demanding and unwilling to wait for you to acclimate yourself to the situation. Or, you the employee give up too quickly and throw in the towel. Personally, in two of the seven churches I served, it took me a full 12 months to adjust to the culture of the congregation so I could begin to do my best work.
8) Someone blasphemes. “The Lord led me here and now, two months later, He is leading me to this other job.” Be careful here, friend. Someone is in danger of violating the Third Commandment. I doubt seriously that the Lord leads a church to extend a call to a minister or staff position only to change His mind a few weeks later. Someone needs to face up to his own failures or weaknesses and quit blaming the Lord.
9) Someone disobeys. God led you here and for some reason or other (money, prestige, location), you decide to take matters into your own hands and relocate. Morris Freeman, a pastor friend from Tarrant City, Alabama, jokingly said to me one day, “Then the Lord comes back later and says, ‘Now, where is old Tom? I left him at this job.’ Meanwhile, old Tom has moved on.”
10) Someone backslides. Nothing ruins you for the work God gives you like sinful failure in your personal life. Suddenly, you no longer get joy from the little tasks that use to fill you with such satisfaction. You find yourself criticizing your co-workers and complaining about the church members. To my great sorrow and shame, I know this one only too well. Been there, done that, and it’s no fun.
It helps the believer to remind himself/herself that God is Lord over such mundane matters as whether we should take this job or remain where we are. Then, once we take a position, He is Lord over our attitude, our demeanor, our standard of excellence, and the quality of our production.
There are three “whatsoever you do” verses in Scripture we do well to remember and practice as we go to work each day.
1) “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) This is about passion.
2) “Whatsoever you do in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) This is about praise.
3) “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:27) This is about purpose.