Your first job post-college is always an exciting but nerve-wracking experience. You’re excited about all of the new opportunities that lay ahead for you. You’re nervous about how the job is going to be and if it will be what you thought it would be. But when you’re a first-time church worker starting a new job at a church, it isn’t just starting a job. You’re trusting that God called you to this congregation of a reason. You’re figuring out how to plan events, write lessons, find small group leaders, take kids on mission trips, tackle Vacation Bible School, and the list goes on and on.
In the midst of figuring out all of this out, you’re also trying to figure out how to fit in in your congregation. As a new church worker, it’s hard to navigate forming relationships within your congregation because you don’t know how to develop relationships with the people you are serving alongside. Here are three tips on how to find your people.
Find a group of church workers outside your congregation to learn from and grow with.
The reality of working at a church is that there are things you can’t share with people within the congregation. Whether it be a hard situation amongst your staff or difficult conversations you’re having with congregation members, it would be inappropriate to share specific details with the people you’re serving. Find a group of church workers within your district or local churches in your area and work on making them your safe people. Let them be the people who hear the hard stuff and help you grow. Allow this group of people to help you feel seen and heard (bonus points if this group of people have been in ministry for a while.)
Create a support system within your congregation.
It can be easy to feel isolated when you’re a new church worker. Maybe it seems like your fellow staff members have it all figured out and you feel like you don’t. Maybe you have all these questions but you feel like you don’t have anyone you can go to for answers. We trust God brings his people together in community through Scripture and the Sacraments. Yet, ministry can be isolating in general as you put up boundaries between yourself and your congregation members so they only see the “on” version of you.
If you isolate yourself to the point where you don’t have a support system within your congregation, your ministry is going to suffer. Start with finding a couple of congregation members that you can have fun with and allow a connection to grow from that. Ask them to be praying for you as you prepare for *insert event here*. Prioritize time with your staff, especially your pastor, to get to know them and build trusting, honest relationships. Find places you can be in prayer, Bible study, or conversation where you aren’t also being asked to be a leader. Show that you are an approachable person who wants to build relationships. But be grace filled with yourself as you’re creating this community; this building process takes time.
Building community is going to take time.
Do you remember what it was like to create your community when you first started college? You didn’t step foot on campus and instantly have a group of friends that you did life with. It took time to figure out who you could open up with, who you wanted to spend time with, etc. The same is true when it comes to creating support systems within your congregation. It takes time (and sometimes trial and error) to figure out who the safe people are. So have grace with yourself and don’t be discouraged. Oh, and in the instances where maybe you thought someone was a safe person but it turned out they weren’t? Forgive and love them like Jesus does.
I can tell you a lot of stories of how the people I get to serve have shown up for me; stories about how they loved me well in the wake of my dad’s death. I can tell you how they supported ministerial decisions. But instead, I’m going to tell you about one particular family. This family has kids that are either currently in youth ministry with me or have graduated and are now in college. This family has loved me well. They have been a respite to me. They’ve invited me into their home, they’ve helped me with events. They’ve supported me. They’ve celebrated me. When I’m with them, I’m me first, and my role at the church second. They’ve shown me the importance of healthy support systems within the church I get to serve. God opened the door for that relationship and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Setting up support systems within your congregation can be tricky and like I mentioned earlier. You may even be burned by people you thought were safe. Throughout all of Scripture we’re shown that God desires us to be together in community. Spend time in prayer asking God to place people in your life that can support you and walk alongside you both within your church and outside. Pray for your pastor, other staff, and leaders that they might also have a strong support system and for opportunities for you to care for each other. Ask God to remind you of His grace and love as you walk into your new role. Finally, remember to be grace-filled with yourself as you navigate life as a new church worker. The road ahead of you isn’t going to be easy. But man, is it going to be good.