When you arrive at your first Call as a new Director of Christian Education (or other ordained or commissioned worker who cares for young people), everything is new and exciting. You have an office to decorate, you might have staff members to get to know, congregation members want to invite you over to their house for dinner or show you around town. You walk around the building, and you excitedly think of the ministry that gets to happen and how you will grow in your role as a church worker.
But what happens when this honeymoon phase if over? When your office is cluttered with things from three different ministry seasons, when you have your first disagreement with a staff member, when a congregation member says to you in a critical tone, “Well *insert previous staff member here* never would have done things this way…” or when you feel that your ideas are never used or even encouraged. How do you transition from the new and exciting into the routine?
As the initial excitement wears off, here are three things you can say to yourself as you move out of the honeymoon phase and into the normal rhythm of ministry:
‘I am here now. I have been Called here and there are people who need to hear the Gospel.’
There’s an interesting shift that happens when you get to a place for the first time…especially if this is your first or new Call. Your mindset changes from just being a place you’re checking out to the place you are settling into for the foreseeable future. There are new patterns to be set and even some mourning that needs to happen. Know that in the shifting, you were not brought to your place by accident. God Called you there for a purpose: to spread the Gospel and make sure the people you serve know they are loved, saved, and changed by God. This is your place now and it is time to get to work.
‘I need to go home and try again tomorrow.’
I used to work as a paraprofessional at one of the public high schools in my town. This meant that I would provide classroom support in a variety of different classrooms. I worked in one of our high needs rooms and there was this one student who had a myriad of developmental, cognitive, and behavioral delays. When this student was done talking to me or didn’t want to interact with me anymore, they would say, “Go home, Ms. Sarah. Try again tomorrow, Ms. Sarah.”
Over the years, this has kind of become my manta on hard days. When nothing is going right, when I’m exhausted, when I feel like I’ve forgotten everything I once knew about being a church worker, I say to myself, ‘Go home, Ms. Sarah. Try again tomorrow, Ms. Sarah.’ If you’re having a day, if nothing is going right. Lean into God’s grace and forgiveness in your failing. If you’re wondering whether you are meant to be in this place, it might be time to go home and try again tomorrow.
‘What can I learn through this place and through these people?’
This is such an important question to ask no matter where you’re at in your ministry career, but especially as you’re leaving the honeymoon phase of your Call. This question helps us not to get caught up in our own ego or way of thinking. This question helps us to set our eyes on the things that will grow us as church workers and as followers of Jesus. In a new position you are going to be stretched and serve alongside new professional and lay leaders. While the Gospel doesn’t change, where you are can feel brand new.
This question helps us see that we weren’t only brought to this church to serve but to be in a place where the congregation can serve us as well. Will we always like the things we are learning or like the ways we are being stretched? No. But is God by our side and know what is best for us? Absolutely he does. So prayerfully ask this question and be open to learning.
Things change when you leave the honeymoon phase and settle into your first Call. And, that change may be hard and that’s ok. It’s normal and ok to have days when working at your church feels big and heavy. But it is important not to allow those feelings to rule over you. At the end of the day, there are people who need to hear the Gospel.
So, take a breath. God has Called you to your church for a specific reason. Be open to and excited for how God is going to use and grow you as you settle into ministry. And, if it’s been a day, just go home and try again tomorrow.