Is Working at a Church Bad for Your Faith?


I have been away from weekly worship development since the beginning of 2011 (a little over four months now). This is the longest stretch without designing worship in a number of years, and maybe my second longest stretch since I graduated from seminary in 1995. And just like the last time, I am finding my faith to be deeper, my discipline stronger and love greater during the hiatus.

Why is it that working at a church is so draining on a person’s faith? Am I alone in this, or is there a strong correlation between giving yourself away in local church ministry and struggling to maintain an active connection with the God of the universe?

Maybe it’s just in the realm of worship design and production. My wife has always been concerned for me; she says if I’m always producing worship, I can’t ever worship. And she has been right. I am analytical by nature, so maybe it’s just my personality makeup. Regardless, this spring I have actually been worshipping again.

Is this just something for me to work on? Or, for those of you in local church ministry, do you struggle with your daily life of faith too?

 

About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).

9 Comments on “Is Working at a Church Bad for Your Faith?”

  1. This is a great question you’re asking, Len. I’ve been out of producing church services now for 6 years. For me, I don’t know any other profession where two concurrent challenges present themselves:

    First, you rely on SO MANY other people to pull it off. Much of the time, these good people are giving their volunteer hours.

    Second, you have to recreate something huge every 7 days, mainly with volunteers. And for creative churches, that means every Sunday might begin with a blank slate. Honestly, I don’t know any other job where something new needs to be the norm every single week, 52 weeks out of the year.

    So to not be in charge of that anymore has been such a large-scale relief for me. And I’m free to not worry about it anymore.

    I guess I wonder if the structure of our churches creates this?

  2. Good question Gary. I am ambivalent. On one hand, I very much believe in the power of art to speak to someone’s soul and move them toward Christ in ways that spoken and written word cannot. On the other hand, the level of craft and excellence it takes to create that sort of art makes, as you say, a weekly goal just prohibitive.

    I guess I could go off here on a tangent about a consumeristic, media saturated culture, because it’s certainly arguable that the shortened consumption cycle contributes to this problem, but what do you do? Some churches abandon the model altogether and then justify it with a bunch of theology (really, church leaders are just pragmatic and want something that works), but artists need freedom to create and experience art as worship. So I don’t know what the answer is. But the question is important.

  3. I totally agree with you that those who create art do so as an act of worship… but why does that need to be the church staff that does that? I guess ideally I’d see all the artists in the church (however many or few) actively engaged in creating in such as a way that it leads the church body to worship God for His creative glory. If the leaders of the church care about art as a means of worshipping God, then they can guide their church as a whole to use their artistic gifts… and not be frightened if the art that’s created doesn’t fit a certain model or idea of who God is supposed to be and how He’s supposed to work. I think right now most art is created outside the church because there’s no room for it in the church. People go where their work is recognized or celebrated or even accepted…

  4. Your question begs a deeper philosophical approach to leadership, namely, should a church operate from a centralized vision of its senior pastor / staff or should it exist to empower the vision(s) of its community? It’s easy for a church to respond, both, but much hard to implement. A lot of church visions for lay-oriented ministry break down when it comes to figuring out the practical applications of empowering lay people, especially in a worship context. It’s much easier to say, “here is what we’re doing, get in line.” This is the major tenet of the Reformation that never stuck, you know.

  5. I’ve worked full time in production in a large church for 8 years. Maintaining my faith has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever faced. Even though I’m there three services a week I feel like I haven’t been to a service in years. At the moment I would completely agree that working at a church is bad for your faith. And that’s a terribly sad thing.

    1. Amanda,

      A year + after writing this, I am back in church life, but the catch now is that while I design creative worship elements, I don’t have an active role in worship production. Instead, I sit with my wife and four kids. So far, so good. I pray that you find an answer.

  6. I work church maintenance and am in a very bad place right now! No longer want to serve no longer attending services. I am the door mat!

  7. I am a retired church organist/choirmaster – at the age of 51. My “real” job is that of electrical engineer for a large company. I have degrees in both fields including a Master of Music degree in organ performance and church music and a minor in choral conducting. With the decline in pipe organs and classical church music, my background is more or less useless – with the exception of churches where rich people not only go to church, but they run the show.

    I do not miss church work at all, but I miss playing the pipe organ. I thought I would substitute for awhile, but I told one church that I had not practiced organ in a long time and would need an hour a day for a month. They said “no” so I said, “Sorry, but I can’t do it.” I gave away most of my organ scores, and will probably never play the instrument again. (I am now a member of a small Unitarian Universalist congregation and I love it – although the UUA has had some problems lately, I am very active in my congregation in ways I never have been before. I sing in the choir as well.)

    I became a church musician as I felt that was my call to ministry. What I found out is that churches do not care about music as a ministry – they want a weekly concert. They want top performance – but are not willing to pay for it. By the way, in my group at my full-time job are three FORMER church musicians.

    Would I recommend this field to anyone? Of course I would. It’s just no longer right for me. You have to understand, however, that each individual church is run by those who make the biggest contributions. At the same time, I keep attending church because evidence based literature points out that people who participate in religious services regularly have a longer life and a better quality of life.

    At the same time, I have found religious organizations to be the most corrupt organizations. Corporations, at least, are held accountable for their bad actions. Just remember, my childhood church let their pastor get away with $100000 in funds in the 1970’s and those accusing him were shamed into silence. To this day my parents still won’t talk about it.

    Just pick and choose your church, synagogue, mosque, or temple carefully.

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