When Submission Hurts
One morning four years into full-time ministry as a Youth Pastor I found myself realizing that I was in the wrong organization, working for the wrong leader. Sometimes this can happen because:
1. We did not choose the church we entered into wisely.
2. Our leaders or supervisors have changed
3. We have possibly stayed too long.
Here are three ways you can avoid this pitfall in ministry:
1. Stay out of bad situations
This is, of course, easier said than done. Coming out of college, I was so excited to become a full-time minister that I jumped right into a situation that spelled disaster from the get go. One thing I could have done was to ask better questions in the interview. It is healthy to view the interview process as going two ways: 1) The Church is trying to locate someone who fits them and their mission, vision, and values and 2) you are also trying to find a church that fits with your mission vision and values.
Not every church works for every person and not every person works for every church. So before you go to an interview think about what you believe, what are your non-negotiables, and the kind of environment in which you thrive. I’d encourage you to take some time to find out more about yourself by taking personality test. A great, and free, one can be found at www.16personalities.com.
After you have a good idea of who you are and what you want make sure to craft some good questions for an interview. Here are some examples:
· Do you have a vision statement?
· Where would you like to see the church be in 5-10 years?
· What are your biggest strengths as an organization?
· What are your biggest weaknesses as an organization?
· What would my job description be?
· How do you define success for this position?
If all of that goes well, make sure to do your homework and find out what the church believes. Make sure it matches up with what you believe. PRAY about your decision. One more thing: if the church tries to recruit your spouse to run their VBS before you have accepted the job…run the other way.
2. How to survive under bad leadership
Before I came to New Life Christian Ministries, I was working at a small church that was on their third pastor in four years. That meant a group of lay leaders determined all the church’s actions. Needless to say, our boat had sprung a leak. I stayed in this situation longer then I wanted to because of my stubbornness, my hatred of change, and because I believed God had called me to that church four years earlier. While I was there I wanted to adhere to Colossians 3:23 which says “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” This conviction allowed me to learn some ways to survive under bad leadership. When I say bad leadership I mean leadership without direction, vision, humility, strong morality, or a likeness to Jesus.
The following four things helped me survive bad leadership while remaining faithful to my call in ministry, and maintaining my integrity:
· Submit: The bible is very clear in Ephesians 6:5-8 that if we are slaves we should still obey our earthly masters with respect, fear, and sincerity of heart. As long as our leaders are not demanding that we sin we are called to show them respect, listen to what they have to say, and support them as much as possible.
· Don’t cause Division: My senior pastor always stresses that having two visions is the definition of division. If you have found yourself in a situation where you disagree with the vision of the organization I would suggest that you: 1) pray for Gods direction; 2) always publically support the vision; and 3) attempt to change the vision only through the correct channels of authority and communication. If none of that changes the direction of the vision to one that is compatible with your vision find a new organization.
· Be Open and honest about your struggles (with those you are having problems with): If no one hears why you are upset, nothing will ever change. Be respectful in how you speak with your superiors, but let them know what it is that is stopping you from doing the job you have been called to do. Anyone who is a good leader at all, will listen and help you feel more comfortable.
· Don’t gossip: When my parents were getting a divorce my dad showed me a great example by not gossiping about my mom to me. Be a person of integrity even through your frustrations, and avoid gossip and slander at all costs.
3. When to move on
I left my first job in full time Youth Ministry after nearly five and a half years. It was a decision I did not want to make, and at some level felt that I should not make. Ministry is all about building relationships and for me, it was hard to see some of those come to an end. However in the last two years of work at New Life Christian Ministries I have been able to see God work through me in ways that never seemed possible two years ago. Sometimes we are just on the wrong seat (or maybe even the right seat) on the wrong bus, and we need to follow God’s direction.
Some ways to determine that it is time to leave a toxic situation are:
· Prayer: If you hear God’s voice calling you somewhere else–listen! Be sure to take time to really know if it is God’s voice speaking to you. Seek counsel from mentors outside the church for wisdom and guidance.
· When you are unable to answer the call God has put in your heart: God had put a distinct call on my life to do youth ministry in such a way that I would be able to reach lost students for His kingdom. I was unable to do that in my old job and felt God was directing me elsewhere.
· When it is hurting your walk with God: If you are in a situation where your relationship with God is suffering or you are sinning as a direct result of your job, it is time to start looking elsewhere.
Contact me at Alex@newlifexn.org or @PastorArod on Twitter. I’d love to talk with you, pray for you, and help you best answer God’s call on your life!