5 Things I’ve Learned Working at a Church

After ten years, I finally went back on staff with a church. You can read about how I stopped running from God here.

This is not a conclusive list, but these are a few of the things I’m learning and relearning while working at a church. Feel free to leave a comment with your own observations!

So here are 5 things I’ve learned working at a church:

1. Church isn’t just for those who have all their sh*t figured out; it’s for those figuring out their sh*t

I think this is a common misconception carried by those who don’t participate in the life of a local church. This goes for people who consider themselves either unchurched believers, unbelievers, or I’m-not-sure-what-I-believers.

Most people who get involved with a church don’t do it because their trying to appease God, they do it because they’ve hit the point where they can’t do life outside of community anymore — they realize that they can only get so far on their own and they need the help of others.

People join church communities because it’s a collective of both sinners and saints, cowards and warriors, sages and fools. We only grow when we rub shoulders with those who are a step ahead of where we want to be.

2. When we’re real and authentic, it frees others to be real and authentic.

I lead a morning group between Sunday services for young adults. It’s a conversation group more than anything because I believe we all have something of value to offer others.

I’ve noticed that whenever just one person exercises bravery and says, “This is what I’m struggling with,” it frees the rest of the group to open up and be real about their own suffering, no matter how big or small.

When we’re real and authentic, it frees others to be real and authentic. When we’re real and authentic with community, grace abounds. Why? Because grace lives in brokenness.

So people join a church community because they hunger for an authenticity that’s rewarded with grace.

3. It’s not about building programs; it’s about building relationships

During the my interview with the personnel committee, I told them, “If you want to hire me to get people to come to church, then don’t hire me. But if you want to hire me to take the church to where they people are, then hire me.”

It seems backwards to a church community who wants to grow, but I’m finding it’s a good conviction to live by.

I still struggle with this because I feel all of these outside forces telling me: If you build it, they will come. But I just don’t believe that. I’d rather “leave the 99 for the one” and pursue personal relationships.

Transformation rarely happens when we’re talking to people; it happens when we’re engaging with people through intentional relationships.

4. It’s not about making things look cool; it’s about equipping people with what they need to grow

A church’s branding doesn’t reflect its ability to help you grow.

In complete transparency, I think the branding at the church I am a part of needs some serious help. The staff knows it’s a problem, but you know what they spend the majority of their time doing? Not branding.

They spend most of their week on the phone, engaging with people over email, sitting in the homes of people without family, waiting in hospitals with concerned families, and lunch meetings and coffee dates and so much more.

The ministerial staff “pastors” the community as a whole, but they expend most of their energy helping individuals in the community grow through one-on-ones, prayer, coaching, and more.

5. Not all Baptists are jerks.

The Baptist church community I’m a part of is one of the most accepting and affirming communities I have ever been a part of. They have to work hard to overcome the stereotypes projected on “Baptist” churches.

Bear in mind, this is written by a guy who has said, “I’ve never been a Baptist, not a Baptist, and don’t ever want to be a Baptist.” But here I am, working at a Baptist church.

The church is home to an involved and active LGBTQ membership. It’s home to young people and old people struggling with all kinds of issues. It’s home to every addiction and support/recovery group out there. It feeds hundreds of homeless men and women who stumble into the office every week. And it clothes those same people and helps them find shelter.

The people in my church community redeem the name “Baptist” for me. They all have hearts of gold and I have yet to meet a jerk.

What have you learned working at a church?

These are just a few of the things I’ve been learning, relearning, or recognizing over the last few months I’ve been back in church. And you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Leave a note in the comments and let me know. I’d love to add to the list.

About Matthew Snyder

Matt is a thirty-something writer and young adult minister. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Merridith, and their dog, Finn.

2 Comments

  1. Good blog. Point #5 is pretty funny… but, a legit point. Unfortunately, being a jerk is broader than inclusivity vs exclusivity issues. Every religious establishment has to stare this stuff down regardless of the brand or sect. Glad you’re in the battle.

    1. Haha, this is true. I’m finding that “jerk-ness” is often predicated by inclusivity/exclusivity in my generation’s circles.

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