Over nine years ago, my husband started his first full-time position on staff at a church. We had both been active in our local churches for years, teaching and leading in various areas of ministry. After a year and a half of marriage we packed all of our belongings, a grumpy cat named Gus Thompkins, and one rotund corgi, and headed to Texas to start our new adventure as a family in full-time ministry.
Nine years, three children, 2 dogs, and 1 cat later, we are looking back on the roller coaster that is church work. Now to be clear, my husband is not a preacher, his ministry is in church tech… a need that we did not even realize existed, but a world for which he was obviously created. The world of church tech is quite foreign to me, and I joke that I simply provide the coffee and try not touch any of the shiny knobs or buttons. FaceTime is an act of sorcery to me. Yet, I am married to a tech guru.
Church work is an all-consuming vocation. We went into it understanding that it was a commitment not only for my husband, but for our family. Our community, our spiritual growth, the rhythm of our daily life is all intertwined with how we make our living. There is no coming home and switching off “work mode” for “home mode” because my friends, my outings, my service are all connected to his work and vice versa.
Ministry hours can sometimes be extensive. There is a church tech conference aptly named: FILO (First In Last Out). Working in a church is often full-time plus. We are all (myself included) painfully naïve of the amount of time that goes into preparing a sermon, creating a worship set, or creating that 30 second promo video.
There we were, two newlywed little babies with dreams of changing the world with the local church and Jesus. We spent many years treading water, not realizing the extent of the commitment we had made. Whether you are answering the office phones or leading the elder board, ministry is an all or nothing sort of lifestyle.
After 9 year’s in full-time ministry, here is what I’ve learned: EVERYBODY POOPS.
By this I mean: everyone is human. We may be living under the gracious, life-change of the Holy Spirit, but we are still, at our core, sinful human beings living only by grace.
I know you have heard it a thousand times, “Well, of course the church isn’t perfect, it’s run by humans!” The unspoken expectation though, is that the staff of a church (and their offspring) live their unmarred, orderly lives in a lovely little glass house. One on which we will graciously leave our anonymous sticky notes of “encouragement” (change the music, turn down the volume, preach for less time but with more jokes). And when their humanity shows itself (as it is bound to do–imagine trying to poop in a glass house) we ready our stones and share them with friends.
This country club approach to church leaves ministry families isolated and unable to work through life’s hiccups in healthy ways. Your pastor, worship leader, children’s minister, they need a community that is genuinely in support of them.
We forget that those called to serve the Church body are all of us. We have different gifts, but are part of the same body, working together for the same purpose.
Yes, we should hold our pastor in high regard, but don’t separate them from yourself based on your “levels of holiness.” The church and your leaders aren’t tallying your attendance or shocked when you accidently say “damn it” in our presence (I promise the steering wheel in my car has heard far worse.) Christians are not here to monitor your language; we are here to love you radically because we are radically loved
Over the last nine years of our ministry adventures, I have learned that I have my own unrealistic expectations of those serving alongside of us. I have held them to these standards of perfection and been painfully unforgiving at times when they fail me. Long hours and intermingling of work and personal wear on all of us if we are not truly on the same team, not truly working under the same vision. Your leaders covet your interceding on our behalf. Pray for your pastors!
Wherever you fall on the spectrum as far as church goes- maybe you’re an elder, the janitor, the tech guru, or the woman warring for the body through prayer. Maybe you’ve never stepped foot in a church. Know this, the church is made up of flawed humans. We don’t hold the keys to some secret society. We aren’t waiting around to see you screw up so we can hit you with the bag of judgmental rocks we keep on hand.
The church is unified under this one truth: we were all prisoners in cruel chains because of our rebellion against God, and He, in His unfathomable mercy, reached down and saved us from our distress. He brought us out of darkness and gloom and broke our chains apart. So we come together as a people to give thanks to God for his faithful love and his wonderous works for all humanity .
Let us hug your neck, let us cry with you when life is hard– because we are all completely human dripping in grace.
 Psalm 107:10-15