**Disclaimer: The following has nothing to do with my current employment or my current feelings toward it. This is simply a piece designed to help those who are struggling in their work and ministry contexts as I know there are times we all question why we are doing what we are doing.**
The elder board calls you in for an emergency meeting. You show up thinking you are ready for anything, but then they look at you and say, “Well, you have done a good job here. But your ministry costs a lot of money, money we don’t have…so we are going to have to let you go.” What are you going to tell your wife and kids?
Your boss walks into your office Tuesday morning, sits down and tells you that your department met your quota and beat out every other department, but he is downsizing yours due to budgetary reasons. Oh and by the way, he expects you to maintain your quota in the same time frame you just met.
Many of us have had experiences just like these or very similar to them. Some of you reading this may be walking through these circumstances right now, and perhaps you found yourself yelling in affirmation, “That’s me!” I get it. Work or ministry is hard at times and it drains you. I totally get it.
I simply want to offer you some reflective reasons for why this happens and some means to cope. Neither will be exhaustive, but my hope is to encourage you, any of you, who are reading this and are feeling spent, hurt, forgotten, or marginalized.
So why does this happen? There are a lot of circumstances. But I want to look inward, at our own hearts and motivations, before assigning blame. Looking inward can be frustrating and discouraging as we beat ourselves up for the faults, inconsistencies, and sin that we see. My hope is that as we work through these areas, we do not become self-deprecating, but instead look at them with hope, resiliency, and a desire for change. There are many areas in which we could struggle, but I believe these four are the key areas for many of us:
- Selfishness: Often times we place value on our job, our desk, our skill set, our ministry…our, our, our! Now here is the thing: what gives you the right to have ownership over anything you do? Your desk was probably there before you started working. That ministry can and will continue without you. Your skills are yours, but other people have skills and knowledge as well. The problem is we are told that we deserve something, actually everything, that we want, and so we pursue everything as if it is already ours. But the crazy thing is nothing is yours. The Bible says in Psalm 24 that the entire earth is the Lord’s. Not ours. When we continue with the notion that the items of this world are ours, we become selfish, resentful, and indignant with change and new ideas or systems. The truth is we deserve nothing but are given everything.
- Pride: Pride is a natural progression from selfishness, but I believe that it is more dangerous. Pride is coupled with arrogance, a critical attitude, and a judgmental spirit that can be disastrous to everyone around us. Now some may jump up and champion that they were raised to work hard are proud of their work ethic. And to that I would say good, be proud of it. But where is that pride truly rooted? Is it in yourself, your accomplishments, your work ethic, your ministry? Or is it rooted in Christ? Do you call everything yours, or do you thank God that he and he alone has allowed you to step into this career and work for him, to give him glory?
- Lack of direction and communication: Sometimes we show up to just get our job done and don’t offer to do anything more. We are content to just meander along and simply maintain. This is not okay. Doing this does a disservice to others because it shows a lack of accountability. We are saying that we do not have the capability to think for ourselves and instead pass the blame to someone else. He/she didn’t tell me to do this. This is our mentality because we are rooted in sin. We started doing this at the beginning of time! We pass the blame and hope for the best because we are too stubborn and selfish to ask for direction. If we simply communicated and asked for help, so many problems would cease to exist and we could potentially thrive in our careers and ministries.
Now I would love to offer some ways to help you cope with your work environment if it is truly a struggle to be there. Because let’s be honest, sometimes the workplace won’t get better. You may be doing everything you can to please God and your boss and it still is a horrible place to be. So let me offer these thoughts:
- Pray: Do this a lot! Sometimes in hard times and dismal work environments we forget to do that. If you have a nasty boss, pray for them. Pray for that “lazy” co-worker. Pray for the janitor who never empties your trash. Pray. You do not know what is going on in that person’s life that could make them the way they are. So ask God to help you see them as he does: his child that he lovingly created and hopes to have a relationship with.
- Talk to someone: Go and find someone who is older and wiser than you and seek direction. One of the greatest benefits in my life is having mentors. These people have helped me grow, called me out on my inconsistencies and shortcomings, and have challenged me to be a better man, employee, and servant of God. They also listen and will have your back. If you need help finding someone, ask me and I will give some clarifying ways to do so.
- Communicate with your boss: If your work sucks, have you talked to your boss? Have you expressed your dissatisfaction? Have you done so respectfully? If not, go honestly and with a clear head. Share what is going on, ask for change, and be willing to meet halfway or even two-thirds of the way.
- Take a break: Sometimes you need a vacation. Time to recharge your batteries. Take it! If you are frustrated and upset, now is the time.
- Ask yourself some questions: Is this the right job for you? What makes this place difficult for you? Why do you stay? Are you contributing to your own frustrations? What would your ideal job look like? Does that job exist? Being honest with yourself and asking hard questions will hopefully bring about some resolve to the situation.
- Look to how Jesus handled conflict: Jesus spoke into these situations calmly, with authority, and with respect. If things got heated (like when they tried to kill him), he moved on. When people were obnoxious (disciples and Pharisees), he spoke to them in a way to teach them and make them better. Maybe Jesus knew a thing or two about leadership?
I am no workplace specialist. I do not claim to have all the answers. My desire is that this offers you some hope and encouragement.