16 Apr All Things Together for Good
People often ask me how working at the church is different from working in the business world. Before being hired at Redemption, I worked for a Control Systems Integration company for 14 years. They are a large company with offices throughout Canada and the US, and about 250 employees. They started out just doing industrial control systems, then branched out into data collection and automation solutions and robotics. In my time there, I got a behind-the-scenes look at some really neat, cutting-edge projects.
I started at that company right after college in an Administrative Assistant role, and after about two years there, the CEO asked if I would be interested in transitioning into a role as his Executive Assistant (EA). I was terrified, but also very excited. He was a very smart man, and I knew he had very high standards. I worried I would not measure up, however I felt there would be a lot of opportunity to learn and grow, and help “create time” for him – and this was what I was passionate about.
I was in that role as his EA for 12 years and I loved it. I learned so much about all areas of business – Finance, HR, Sales, Management, etc. The company had an aggressive business plan, so I also had the opportunity to help my boss with several acquisitions. He was also a member and had a leadership role with the Young President’s Organization (YPO). This gave me great exposure to working with many high-level executives, as well as learning from their EAs, who were much more experienced than I was.
I thought I would retire there, but in my last year or so, God started working through some difficult circumstances to show me He had other plans. We had started attending Redemption about five years prior to that and had gotten to know Norm a little bit. He approached me and asked if I would ever consider taking a role at the church as his EA. I had a very similar reaction to when this happened with my previous boss – terrified. I had a lot of respect for Norm and didn’t want to disappoint him. I felt I could do the tasks, but did not think I was good enough, spiritually.
I also knew that this would be a huge change, and a difficult one after 14 years at the same company, where I felt I had a lot of job security, and great pay. However, I couldn’t shake the sense that this was God’s clear leading. I recall right before I hit the “send” button on the email to accept the job offer from Norm, I paused. This was such a huge step of faith, a big change, and I wasn’t sure I would have what it takes (I’m still not sure!). Richard walked by me sitting at my computer staring at the screen and asked, “Did you send it?” I told him I hadn’t, and I’ll never forget – he said to me, “What are you waiting for? You know this is the right thing.” That sealed it for me. I have the utmost respect for my husband and his discernment, and he is not often so outspoken, so I took what he said seriously.
I gave my notice at work, and three weeks later, was starting at the church.
I don’t know what I expected but working at the church wasn’t at all what I thought it would be. I had been going hard for 14 years at my previous company and thought this would be a slower pace. Boy was I wrong!
I think perhaps because when we come to church on Sunday, or to any mid-week ministry, and it’s separate from our work, we don’t think about all the tasks that need to be done to pull everything off. We come to church not thinking about a “to-do list”, but expecting to hear from God, and so it’s just a weird thing for your work and your church to suddenly become the same thing.
This was a normal workplace, in the sense of things that needed to be done. The worship music doesn’t just “happen” – there’s several people working all week selecting songs, working on timing, interacting and scheduling volunteers. All the data and connections in a big church don’t just “happen”. There are several people working hard all week in a database, making sure information is correct, following up on requests from the registers, etc. A sermon doesn’t just pop into a preacher’s head, there’s hours and hours of study, research, praying, editing, and general preparation. The professional way everything looks isn’t something God just drops on the church – there are several people working hard all week on graphics, IT stuff, videos, and more.
So, when people often ask me how it’s different working at the church from the business world, I tell them that in one way, it’s very much the same. The same in that my job – the tasks I need to do in managing Norm’s calendar, planning projects, helping him in various ways, as well as all the various HR and finance tasks, are not much different than the tasks I had in my previous job in the business world.
However, I have found working at the church is also so much different than the business world. One positive way it’s different is because of the staff family. I made close friends at my old job, but it’s not the same. Our staff is a family, and it’s just how you would imagine working with your family would be – you drive each other crazy sometimes, but there is a foundation in Christ and our work for the kingdom that binds us together. We all love each other, pray for each other, and care for each other, because we are united in Christ. When one of us hurts, we all hurt. When one is rejoicing, we rejoice together.
I often tell people that in my old job in the secular world, it was like me against the world. I was so aware of the sin “out there” and tried as best I could to be a light, pointing people to Jesus. But working in the church, you are much more aware of the sin within yourself. I often think of what Paul said in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I am so much more aware of my weaknesses and struggles, but God uses that to break me and make me dependent on Him, trusting in the work of the cross, not on my to-do list.
When you work in a church where God is at work, you are in the heart of spiritual warfare, and sense it almost all the time. Where God works, Satan attacks. I have found this to be so true, and working in this church, you are right in the middle of it.
I recall when I first started working at Redemption, Norm told me about the unique pressure of working in a church, and how it spills over into your family. I didn’t believe it. I remember thinking, “I know about work pressure. I have experience and there’s no new pressure this place could throw at me.” I was prideful and should have listened. I’m slowly learning that there is a lot I still don’t know – as Norm has been right and I have been wrong more times than I can count! There is a weight and stress that comes with working on staff that you just can’t explain. Many days you may just want to quit and run away, but God sustains us and grows us in those times.
I am thankful for how God worked years ago to bring me to the staff team at Redemption. I am confident that someday I will look back on the things I am going through now and see how He was preparing me for what only He knows is coming. My hope and prayer for all of us is that this will encourage us to look at our current circumstances, whatever they are, and by faith, trust that God is in this – for our good, and His glory.