July 27, 2010
Where You Work Best
The pros and cons to working and worshiping at the same church.
Can church employees work at one church and worship at another? Off the Agenda recently explored this question on our sister site, BuildingChurchLeaders.com with mixed feelings. Blogger Tim Avery asked these follow-up questions in response:
• If the church can't meet all of your spiritual and relational needs, do you expect it to meet the needs of others?
• Does your role impede your ability to relate to the community because you are placing too much weight on your responsibilities?
• Can you really fulfill your role well without being fully involved in that community?
• Is your perception of the church as employer something that needs to be fixed or fled from?
While Avery ultimately objects to the idea of having two church homes—one for work, one for growing—there are some church administrative assistants who would advocate for this situation.
A few of our readers find it very difficult to work as an administrative assistant and worship at the same church. Here are their concerns:
“Sometimes I miss out on fellowship because I am running around helping.”
“It’s difficult to worship uninterrupted at church.”
“At first I didn’t find it hard to attend worship on Sundays, but as time went by people started seeing me as ‘the secretary’ anywhere they saw me. As it became a problem, my pastor talked to the Deacons, Elders, and other church leaders to get their support. I am learning to just ask them to call me in the office on Monday, e-mail me, or leave a voice mail. It continues to be a challenge at times to balance my work life with worship.”
While many have legitimate concerns about working at their home church, others feel they are able to minister more effectively because of the position they hold in their church office. Church administrators that belong to the church where they serve often have a better gauge on leadership and congregational issues facing their church, as well as a deeper investment in supporting the church’s ministry efforts.
No matter how you’re divided on this issue, unique problems exist for both groups of church administrators. Dr. James Cobble, the former editor of Church Office Today newsletter, offers the following tips to reduce potential problems with respect to your membership and employment status.
If you worship where you work:
One of the greatest problems for administrative assistants who work at their own church is “role confusion”—knowing when you are at work and when you are not. Your tendency is to initially take on every job and responsibility regardless of time or location, but this quickly leads to burnout and even bitterness toward your church and its members. To prevent this from happening, develop strategies to create boundaries in your work. Use the following seven strategies as a launching point:
1. Clarify your responsibilities. Make sure you and your boss understand your job description.
2. Understand who can assign you work.
3. Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty. You are not expected to do everything for everybody.
4. Educate your congregation to communicate work concerns during your regular office hours or through written notes, or an e-mail rather than contacting you at home, or during worship.
5. Recognize that your pastors are human and may make mistakes.
6. Maintain strict confidentiality on matters involving congregational members.
7. Since it can be difficult to seek counseling on personally sensitive issues from a pastor who may also be your boss, build other nurturing relationships that are available if the need arises.
If you do not worship where you work:
Two common problems that exist for those of you who are not members of the church where you work are staying informed on issues and concerns that arise during church services or events, and getting to know the people and culture of the church. Here are five tips to help you feel more in-the-loop at your workplace:
1. Develop an informational network. Be active in collecting information and getting to know those in charge of ministries.
2. Make visual connections with callers. If the church has a pictorial directory, use it every time a member calls whom you do not know.
3. Read whatever is available concerning the history of the church.
4. Attend some social functions at the church to deepen personal relationships.
5. Maintain neutrality if divisions arise, and stay focused on your service to the entire church.
Where do you stand on this topic? Do you feel it’s better to worship where you work, or can it be beneficial for church administrators to have a second church where they feel free to worship uninterrupted?
To stay connected to issues related to the church office, be sure to sign up for the free, twice-monthly Church Office Today e-newsletter.
Lindsey Learn is assistant editor of the Church Management team at Christianity Today International.