This fall marks 2 years since Chris stepped out of full time ministry and if I'm honest, we still haven't fully integrated into the real world. Church work is all we have ever known.
Chris's grandfather was a pastor and Chris followed suit by jumping into being a youth pastor before he was even out of his teens. I came to know Christ at 16 and jumped in head first to leading and interning. Chris took a youth pastor position while we were engaged and so literally our entire relationship has centered around working at various churches. Which is both wonderful and not so great.
The territory that comes with working on staff at a church is huge. There's the whole leading people to God thing. But it goes deeper. Church staffers have to make adjustments to EVERY area of life. What it really looks like is the whole family is on staff (because we're all jumping into help and we're all being looked at with a microscope) but only one of us is getting paid for it. And don't get me wrong, it's not about the pay; honestly if it were no one would work on staff because generally the pay is very low.
We have had some smooth transitions to other areas of ministry and churches and other transitions have been absolutely heart wrenching in the worst of ways. If we were to write a book you'd wonder why we stuck with it; why we still even believed. And to that I can say that Jesus never promised an easy life and we have seen God move more in our lives than we could ever describe, and so walking out on Him was never an option/thought.
Leading up to stepping out of ministry we were experiencing some burn out. And that's sooo common among church staffers. You pour so much of all that you have and all your family has into it and there's just only so much you can give if not taking care to refill the tanks. Our tanks had been running on low for quite some time and I think we didn't know how to refill.
Chris and I both have spent more of our lives working in ministry than not, so this new life was almost like moving to another country and not speaking the language. It took a REALLY long time to find a church that we loved. When you come to the table with helping shape and run churches in your background, it was important for us to find one we weren't trying to "fix". Learning how to integrate into a church community has by far been one of the most difficult things we have ever done. And it shouldn't be. The areas that we COULD serve in wouldn't be beneficial because they were areas that we used to run. I don't think we know how let go of that (and I get it, that's our issue to work on).
I think when people find out Chris used to be on staff at a church, wheels start turning as to why we're not still working at church...was there a moral failure? There are other issues of course as well. Our friends had always been the other staff members, and it's just not easy to jump into a church and instantly be BFFs with the staff. It's hard not to "judge" certain areas that we were in charge of at our previous churches...things WE KNOW we could offer insight but have no place to go up to the leader of that area and say "you don't know us, but we used to do this and we can offer some advice to improve it". That just turns people off and away.
I'm just rambling now. Sorry. You're my shoulder to cry on dear interweb since none of our non church staff friends have anything to reference this to. Maybe in some ways we are experiencing grief. The church was our love for so long. Maybe our identity was completely wrapped in serving on staff because it felt like we were tangibly making a difference. One thing I know for sure, the church as a whole has to do better with how she treats her workers. I would just ask for you to pray for your entire staff at your church. They need it more than you know. They need to feel appreciated. They need to know they are making a difference; that the sacrifices they make (many that you'll never know of) are worth it.
And here we are, TWO years out and still feeling lost at church. Where is our place? What do we do? How do we make friends?