It really is an odd thing, the church office.
Only working and experiencing a few of them, I realize they are very different in nature. Currently I work in a cubicle situated in the middle of several work spaces. While at my former office I had my own office and probably could have taken a nap without anyone noticing.
I guess it is pretty similar to any other office, with some noticeable differences. Being a Student Pastor my lens is different, maybe the best equivalent is some sort of middle management position over a specialized area. My scope is narrow but for all you out there who have wondered what pastors do all day or what working for the church is really like here it goes:
The Whole Jesus Thing
I would guess that you don’t pray to begin your staff meetings or someone reads from the Bible, but maybe you work for Chick-Fil-A or Hobby Lobby or some other business of that sort. Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t have meetings and hold people accountable for following through, but we throw in a plug about the parable of the talents.
Is He Your Boss, Your Mentor, Your Friend?
In the business world only a few people can pull this off. The Lead Pastor (or whatever your church calls it) really does have to find ways to be all of the above. Most pastoral teams are small enough that a good personal relationship is essential. There is also the whole elders situation, think of these folks as the board of directors. They aren’t there day-to-day but they wield a lot of power. Sure the Lead Pastor can fire you, but they are much more likely to have you over for dinner; besides there will be a petition of angry congregants before you are fired. Which brings me to.
Congregants, Like Customers but With Higher Expectations
As a business you must have customers to keep the lights on and make payroll, same thing with a church if no one shows up and gives then I don’t have a paycheck. That may be the basic facts but it goes much deeper than that. Understandably there is a high level of expectation placed on churches. We are dealing with people’s spiritual life and eternal destination, the bar should be high. This can equate to pressure in the workplace, but becoming a workaholic goes against that whole sabbath thing. So yeah there is work to be done in the office.
Seeing Lives Change
A few weeks ago a single mom called needing help. I took the call and shared the need with the rest of the staff, eventually handing it off to another pastor. Later that day I had the privilege of delivering a check. See a family in our church had donated a sum of money for a need such as this. As we investigated the need and figured out what it would take to get this mom back on her feet and keep her and her kids in their home the total need was scary close to the donated sum. I got to sit in this woman’s kitchen as she wept tears of relief and joy. I hadn’t met her before that day and really all I did was play assistant middleman, but it was an incredible scene that I will never forget.
Sure you can make a difference working for a corporation and you can make a lot more money in the process. And there are days when I try to figure out if what I am doing really matters or changes anything, but it’s experiences like that kitchen that remind me that I have a pretty cool job.
Yeah it is weird, but it is not dull.