Being a leader, you’re supposed to have everything together, right? You’re supposed to always be on, always be happy, trust in God for everything and not have any problems or struggles at all. And now that I’ve created something that doesn’t exist and never will exist, let’s spend a bit of time in the reality of what happens in life and ministry.
When I was in Wisconsin, I served a church that I led the music in the congregation, (organ, choir, handbells and more) along with teaching music in the K-8 classrooms. I really enjoyed the challenge, but a little over a year and a half into my time at the church, they cut my position. The reasoning? They didn’t have the money. Long, complicated story on that one. But, since it was October, I made the best choice (I thought) at the time, and contracted with the congregation to continue on a part-time basis, with the allowance that at any time, I could give my two week notice. This was accepted and I continued. It was awful. To sum it up, I had to go to a place where I did not feel wanted. I was told that by a congregational vote. The pastor’s response when asked how he was doing was, “Blessed by the Lord”. True statement, but as often as he said it, it became cheesy and pointless. And of course, he wanted everyone else to say it. I stopped saying it when I contracted with the congregation, and he sat me down and told me I needed to. One of the final nails was on Christmas Day, I had said that I would play for that service, but when I didn’t get hymns, I checked and was informed that they got someone else to play. Problem was, we booked our flight to Texas with the thought that I would have to play and then we could leave. I was ticked. I spent that whole flight and the whole time while visiting our families trying to talk myself out of quitting right then and there. I decided that I could make it until Easter. And that’s exactly what I did. Easter was my last Sunday, and I was very fair and had it shared and announced in the bulletin 4-5 weeks before Easter. Yet later, I got word back to me that a rumor was started that on Easter Sunday, I finished playing, slammed down my books and said, “I quit”. Nope. Didn’t do that.
So what’s the takeaway? Maybe you’re in a position where you’re struggling? Maybe you’ve been hurt by the pastor, one of the leaders, or the entire congregation. Here are a few thoughts.
- Pray. Praying not only voices your concern, anger and frustration to God, it gets it out of your head. It’s a release for you. In the midst of my struggling in the situation I mentioned, I prayed quite fervently and regularly. The answer ended up being quite simple in teaching music lessons and being a church musician for hire, which I did for 2 years. But I had to work through it in prayer.
2. Seek wise counsel. My dad, being a traditionally minded pastor, told me that I was the head of the household and that I needed to take a position at a different church, even if that meant moving. The problem was, a little over a year before my position was cut, my wife started as the full-time youth director at another church. Being a good, loving husband, I couldn’t say, “I’m the head of the household, let’s move”. I’d be moving on my own! It’s a matter of hearing from a number of voices. If all of those voices are telling you the same thing, then it’s a pretty reasonable thought that you’ve got your answer. Or if it is someone you trust highly, their input will be highly regarded.
3. Realize that God has put you in this position for a greater purpose. It’s hard to see in the midst of it. It’s really, really, really hard to see when you don’t see any sense of hope in the midst of it. For me, it led me to starting Harmanny Music, to write music and teach music lessons. Which ended up being a great blessing to me and my wife. But I don’t think that I would have done it, had I not had those struggles. And having the struggles that I did make me appreciate the blessings that I currently have, and sensitive to the struggles of others.
Seek counsel. Pray. Seek more counsel. Pray more. Look at all the options around you. Pray some more. Breathe. Pray even more. It’s a struggle right now. It’s hard to see an answer. This story happened to me in 2005-2006. Here, a little over 10 years later, I now see the blessings that have come from it. And over time, I’ll see even more. You will see blessings out of your struggles as well. That doesn’t diminish the challenges and hardships you may be facing now. Which is why the pray and counsel is essential. And listening ears. If you need one and don’t have one, e-mail me at email@example.com. I’ll be your listening ear.