In many ways, being on staff at a church isn’t much different than being on staff anywhere else. There are still deadlines to meet, job expectations that need to be fulfilled, and a hierarchy of power and accountability that needs to be followed.
In many other ways, however, being on staff at a church is radically different than being on staff anywhere else.
One of the major differences, of course, is the open emphasis on faith and scripture. Which, for many, is one of the driving forces and benefits of working for a church. The way in which this openness of faith and scripture plays out can change from church to church, but by and large, there is a uniformity in what the experience is like.
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For example, when working for a church, staff meetings often entail some sort of devotional or directing towards the Bible, a time of prayer, and even for some, a time of worship. This time not only benefits the individuals present, it bonds the team together, creating a unique and intimate environment of connection and community. Which is something almost every church hopes to obtain.
Leadership Within Church Staff is Structured and Hierarchical, But Very Supportive
Much like any other working environment, the leader sets the tone. In a church, however, there is a unique opportunity to know that the leader of your church is probably a man or woman who is dedicated to the scriptures, the truths it preaches, and the overarching principals it encourages.
In any given church, the leader is the person you see at the pulpit on Sunday – the lead pastor. Although they are accountable to the church board and elders, the lead teaching pastor is the one who will dictate the mood of the office, the direction of the church, and the heartbeat of what they consider valuable and important.
If you are considering working for a church, get to know the pastor. They are the one who will have the greatest influence on your time and experience and whether or not your skills, talents, and resources will be used in a way that suits your needs and vision.
Conflict Resolution Between Staff Always Has a Scriptural Underpinning
Unlike many businesses, working for a church will bring an almost universal understanding that problems, issues, and disagreements should never be ignored or swept under the rug. On the contrary, with strong and specific scriptures acting as foundational truths for how to deal with disagreements, engaging in honest and purposeful disagreements is not only common, it is expected.
For as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
A healthy church will not allow conflict to fester or strife to run free. It will address the issue, with grace and kindness, just as scriptures command.
Prayer is a Big Part of Church, and it’s Also Part of the Workday for Church Staff
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of working for a church is the connection you will make with those you work with. Especially during times of prayer. There are many companies all over the world that host and provide opportunities for employees to pray together.
At a church, however, praying together is the norm, its what’s expected. And if the team is truly open, if they are honest and vulnerable and feel safe with their surrounding staff members, this time of sharing and praying can be one of the most unique and rewarding times of your entire career. The lead pastor will dictate how and when and to what depths this will occur. They are the driver of prayer in the church.
The ways in which the pastor delivers prayer when asking the leadership, staff, and congregation to bend the knee and pray offers great insights into the direction and purpose of the church.
Unlike a common workplace, prayer is foundational in a church. Working at the church, therefore, not only provides you ample opportunities to pray, it expects it, allowing you to confidently cast your daily and weekly cares upon Him, both individually or communally.
Church Staff Get an Inside Perspective on the Balance Between Business and Mission
While having your faith at the center of your work is valuable and an opportunity not many in the general workplace have the pleasure of experiencing, combining faith with business can also cause a few issues. Both as an individual and as operating body of believers.
Some examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
Perhaps one of the most frustrating and perhaps debilitating components of working for a church is the fine line between running a business and engaging in ministry. As a business, one must always be checking the bottom line, balancing the numbers, and using the information provided to make unemotional, data-driven decisions.
As a church, one must step out in faith. Numbers and data, although helpful, mean nothing to the almighty, omniscient God. And sometimes, finding the balance between the two can cause for more than a few ripples of dissention between church leaders, staff members, and the congregation.
Luckily, a healthy church will engage in such disagreements with an open mind and a gracious heart which will not only build a stronger, more cohesive body of leaders, it will ensure wise and biblically-centered decision making.
Working for a Church Comes with Unique Challenges When it Comes to Work-Life Balance
Every company has data and makes decisions based on the bottom-line. In some ways, churches are no different. They still have bills to pay, salaries to ensure, and goals to reach. Where they differ, however, is that a church’s mission – a healthy, Christ-centered church - isn’t to become successful in the way society often views success, with dollar signs and mass attendance, but rather through the sharing and spreading of God’s word.
The purpose of a church is to help strengthen its members so they can go out and help save lives, save souls. This weight of responsibility can cause an unhealthy balance between church-life and real-life. When people’s souls are at stake, it is difficult to say no to any opportunities to spread the word and make a difference. And when we do, when we see hearts open up to the Lord and people repent of their sins, we not only rejoice in God’s goodness, we feel exhilarated that we were part of the process, and fear missing out on the next one. We struggle to say no.
Working for a church will always provide more opportunities, more requests, and more reasons to just do a little bit more – for the Kingdom’s sake. Which, overtime and for some rather quickly, leads to burnout. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The Line Between Working for Financial Gain vs Serving the Ministry
In a similar vein, working for a church can put you into financial strain as the line between being paid and serving the greater mission gets blurred. This isn’t true off all churches, and it might even be said it isn’t true of most churches, but no matter where you attend or what job description you carry, when working for a church, the tug between working for pay and working for ministry is constantly blurred.
It is often easier to stay quiet than it is to ask for a raise as it can be seen as caring more about financial and earthly treasures than heavenly. Also, and what is probably more accurate for most churches, is that they simply cannot afford to pay what your position is worth. Outside of the mega churches spread throughout the country and world, churches are not always financially stable and are therefore unable to commit to higher wages, for fear of overextending the budget. All of which is fine and fair, but it doesn’t change your reality of bills and other financial demands.
In many ways, working for a church is a blessing and an answer to so many prayers as it provides valuable work, authentic and enriching community, and constant support and encouragement. It can also be a bit tricky and complicated since churches have to continually toe the line between being a business and a ministry.
Being on staff at a church requires wisdom, patience, and grace. It asks that you love those you work with, serve those you work for, be responsible with your life, time, energy, and resources, and in all your ways acknowledge Him. Just as the Bible asks us to do.