- Your boss walks into your office Tuesday morning, sits down, and tells you that your department met their quota and beat out every other department—but he’s downsizing you due to budgetary reasons. Oh, and he expects you to maintain your quota.
- Your senior pastor comes by while you’re setting up for a program and, out of the blue, says, “You and I don’t seem to be working toward the same goal . . . we need to fix that. Oh, how did last night go?”
- You just successfully ran your organization’s biggest fundraiser and netted the largest amount of donations they’ve ever had. Afterward, some of your fellow employees come up to you and complain about the service, food, and pleas for money.
- You work in a male-dominated office where you’re never taken seriously. Jokes are constantly made about how you should handle all the office parties because you’re a woman and know about cooking and decorating.
- The elder board calls you in for an emergency meeting. They say, “You’ve done a good job here. But your ministry costs a lot of money—money we don’t have . . . so we’re going to have to let you go.” What are you going to tell your wife and kids?
Many of us have had experiences just like these or very similar to them. Some of you reading this may be walking through these circumstances right now. I get it. Work and ministry can be hard.
My ministry is my career. I love what I do—I’m passionate about it. I’ve also been hurt in ministry and in my careers outside of ministry. I’ve been let go, I’ve been criticized for how I ran my team, I’ve had to fire people, I’ve been told maybe ministry isn’t my calling, and I’ve been told I work for Satan. I offer this to say I get it. I understand. I’d like to offer you some reasons for why this happens and some means to cope. My hope is that I might encourage you if you’re reading this and feeling spent, hurt, forgotten, or marginalized.
So why does this happen? Before I begin, I ask that you lay aside your defenses. Yes, your boss could be the reason. He could be a horrible person who hates life, teddy bears, and small children. Yes, your work environment could be dismal. And yes, maybe your job is just a job. You don’t want to be there, and they don’t want you there. There are a lot of possible external factors, but I want you to look inward. Take a look at your own heart and motivation.
Looking inward can be discouraging when you see faults, inconsistencies, and sin. My hope is that as you work through these areas, you won’t become self-critical but instead that you’ll look with hope, resiliency, and a desire for change. I believe the three following areas are ones many of us struggle with:
It’s possible to place value on your job, your desk, your way of doing things, your methodology, your teaching, your skill set, your ministry . . . But what gives you the right to have ownership over anything you do? The Bible says in Psalm 24 that the entire earth is the Lord’s—not yours. The idea that the items of this world are yours will cause you to become selfish, resentful, and indignant about change. That’s our hearts—our sinful natures—grasping and pulling at us telling us we deserve everything when the truth is we deserve nothing and are given everything.
Pride is selfishness coupled with arrogance, a critical attitude, and a judgmental spirit, which can be disastrous to your workplace, coworkers, relationships, family, and your heart. You may say that you take pride in your work because you were raised to work hard! Take some time to think about where that pride is rooted. Is it rooted in you, your accomplishments, your work ethic, your neat desk area, your ministry, the growth you brought to your program, the way you lead and teach . . . ? Or is it rooted in Christ? Do you say, “I’m proud because God has given me this work ethic, this job, this paycheck, this team, and this ministry”? Do you call everything yours, or do you thank God that he has allowed you to work for him?
- Lack of Direction and Communication
Do you sometimes show up and just get your job done without offering to do anything more? Are you content to meander along without any desire to grow? This does a disservice to others, because it says that you don’t have the capability to think for yourself. This mentality is rooted in sin—we started doing this at the beginning of time! It’s important to communicate, ask for help, and seek direction. If you do this well, many problems in your career or ministry might cease to exist.
Let’s be honest: sometimes the workplace won’t get better. You may be doing everything you can to please God and your boss (no, they aren’t the same—regardless of what your boss may tell you), and it is still a horrible place to be. If it’s truly a struggle to be in your work environment, here are some ways you can cope:
Do this a lot! Sometimes it’s possible to forget this in hard times. If you have a nasty boss, pray for that person. Pray for that lazy coworker. Pray for the janitor who never empties your trash. Pray. You never know what might be going on in another person’s life. Ask God to help you see them as he does.
- Talk to Someone
Go and find someone older and wiser than you. One of the greatest blessings in my life is having mentors speak into it. These people have helped me grow, called me on my inconsistencies and shortcomings, and have challenged me to be a better man, employee, and servant of God. A good mentor will listen and will have your back.
- Communicate with Your Boss
If you feel your work sucks, have you talked to your boss? Have you expressed your dissatisfaction? Have you done so respectfully, keeping your frustration in check? If you angrily approach your boss, that will contribute to poor communication and a lack of results. Be honest, but have a clear head. Share what’s going on, ask for change, and be willing to meet halfway.
- Take a Break
Sometimes you need a vacation—time to recharge your batteries. Take it! If you’re frustrated or upset, now’s a good time.
- Ask Yourself Some Questions
Is this the right job for me? What makes this place difficult for me? Why do I stay? Am I contributing to my own frustrations? What would my ideal job look like? Does that job exist? Being honest with yourself and asking hard questions might help resolve the situation.
- Don’t Take Your Anger and Frustration Home
If you’re married, have a family, or have roommates, they know when you’ve had a bad day. But you shouldn’t treat them as if they’re part of the problem. They care about you and want the best for you.
- Look to How Jesus Handled Conflict
Jesus spoke calmly, with authority, and with respect. When people were obnoxious (disciples and Pharisees), he spoke to them in a way that would teach them and help them be better. Maybe Jesus knew a thing or two about leadership?
- Write a Verbatim
A verbatim is a paper you write about a conflict you’re in. You write down everything that happened verbatim in script form (Nick: blah blah; Tom: blab blab, etc.). Afterward you ask probing questions and answer them. What could I have done differently? How did this make me feel? How did I contribute to the situation? How did I help the other person? What were the potential outcomes of the situation? What could I have done better? How can I fix the situation?
I’m no workplace specialist, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I hope my words were helpful and offered you some hope and encouragement.
Nick Mance is a youth pastor in Iowa and is married to his wife Elise. Nick has served in a variety of ministry capacities for over ten years and is a writer, blogger, speaker, and communicator specializing in student and family ministry. You can find him on Twitter @nick_mance & his personal blog at http://nickmance.blogspot.com/.