Ever had almost the exact same conversation with three different people? I have. In the last couple of months, I’ve had three different pastors tell me the same thing: “If I weren’t on staff at my church, I don’t think it’s a church I’d attend.”
I’d like to say I’ve never been there, but that’s just not the case. I became a Christ-follower at age 15 and felt like God was calling me to be a pastor when I was 17. Immediately following high school, I started working at my first church as an intern.
Within a few months, I knew this was something I wanted to do with my life, so I started looking for a church that would allow me to serve in a pastoral role. I was willing to work at almost any church that would would give me a shot. I got church jobs, but by the time I was 27, I had experienced the pains of such an approach.
I had been on staff at four churches. Two of them were a great fit, two were not. The common denominator between the two where I was not a fit: Neither was a church I would have attended if given the choice.
This common denominator broke down into three categories.
I didn’t like the ministry style, the musical style or even the teaching style of either church.
In one of the churches, I discovered a pretty major theological disconnect.
In the other church, I found that I had serious issues with the way the church went about its mission.
After leaving those churches, I filed away my experiences under “stuff never to repeat.” I also realized these three critical issues could be addressed before ever accepting a staff position.
Things were better until later in my 30s when I worked at a church where I didn’t fit the staff culture well. I agreed with the church’s theology and mission. I loved the style of the church, but something was off.
I found myself in an environment where my boss tended to use a heavy-handed approach and negative pressure to push staff for results. He also wasn’t very open to new ideas or suggestions. Some people seemed to work well under his leadership … I did not.
So that was one more thing to add to the “stuff never to repeat” file: working where I don’t have chemistry.