1. Join a Union. Why? Because sometimes church based work is tough, leadership changes or redundancy looms. A union will support you. Unite even have a dedicated faith workers team : https://unitetheunion.org/…/community-…/faith-organisations/
“Join a Union” is first on my list because it is important to just be prepared. One of the hardest things in ministry is to believe, even for a moment, that the church or organisation that employs you might mistreat you or make you redundant or change the goalposts of what they expect you do. You aren’t an employment expert – and neither are many churches, so having a union in your corner can be super helpful.
2. Get a Mentor. Why? Because sometimes church based work is tough, line management and supervision doesn’t always happen. A mentor will coach, encourage and journey with you as an objective sounding board for life and ministry. Interested? Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentoring is so helpful, it can be the difference between staying in ministry for the long haul or throwing in the towel. The reality is that ministry can be lonely – even in a team. You might at times feel that you are the only one who “gets it” when it comes to working with children or young people. You might not always be encouraged, so you start to second guess yourself – “have I got this right?” – a mentor can be anything from a sounding board for stuff you want to try through to a coach in a particular area of ministry. The key thing is to find someone you connect with, feel comfortable chatting to and who you know is there for you – they don’t come with the baggage of trying to make sure you are “doing your job” and should be an objective voice able to speak honestly to you and, if you want them to, in to your work situation to give you fresh perspective and aid your reflective practice.
3. Claim your expenses. Why? Because you can. There are expenses you should be able to claim – I’ve heard from some that say their employer doesn’t pay them expenses, not even travel. If you carry out duties not at your normal place of work you are entitled to related expenses.
Finance for anyone who is a salaried worker in ministry can be a challenge – but, sometimes there are things we just have to get a grip on. You shouldn’t be subsidising the ministry from your own pocket. For expenses I mean things like : books and tools for study and personal development; out of pocket expenses for activities and resources; travel expenses etc. I could have added a separate point of “Budget” but I’ll include that here as well, you should have a budget for your work – whether that is split across age groups or against particular clubs and groups you run.
4. Lead Yourself. Why? Because your leadership & development is likely to matter more to you than to even the most diligent line manager or church leader. Read widely, listen to podcasts, network with peers, develop spiritual disciplines – investing in YOU matters for longevity.
I’ve been excited in the past when I have worked in different contexts only to be disappointed. The time promised with a line manager doesn’t happen, the development opportunities don’t appear – space to grow as a leader evaporates in the hard day to day of just trying to stay on top and get things done! So – lead yourself, invest in yourself. Reading has been key for me – the latest ministry books with a smattering of the classics – it’s funny what is so often repeated, just in a more contemporary cover! Conversation with others is so good – peer to peer sharing the journey. If you can, get yourself to something like the National Youth Ministry Weekend (ideally this should be paid for – see point 3!)
5. Give Yourself Away. Why? Because 38% of salaried workers have been so for less than 3 years. If you have done this longer, hang out with others less experienced, share what you know, be a support for those around you – you’ll be amazed at what you receive in return.
I can honestly say that adding value to others is one of the greatest blessings of ministry. Taking my eyes off my own work and stuff to see what God is doing through the time and effort of others and, in whatever small way I can, encouraging them. It is good for your soul – it reminds you that this thing called ministry is not “all about you”. Give where you can, we are not in competition with each other we are brothers and sisters and we should all be in this for the Kingdom and for the glory of Jesus!
6. Work your hours. Why? Because a majority of those I know in salaried ministry don’t – they work WAY more. The thing is, you aren’t paid for it. A tiny percentage of salaried workers are on the equivalent of a stipend (get a house, council tax, water rates paid). When you work “over” your hours – and aren’t paid brilliantly anyway – it is super stressful + because you are passionate about ministry with children and young people, what happens when you want to start something new? Leave space IN your hrs for more.
I’ve focused on the need to leave space for more, because there is always more – but, I could just as importantly said leave space for you and leave space for others.
7. Take Guilt Free Time Off. Why? This is linked with the previous hours one. Take your time off AND take time off in lieu for residential and ultra busy seasons like Christmas and Easter. If you work more than your hours you might feel you can’t do this – another reason 6 matters!
I don’t know that there is a salaried worker that doesn’t feel guilty about taking time off – whether that is their weekly day off or a holiday. We might work for a leader or a church where there is a pressure to constantly be seen to be “doing” – where looking busy is important in and of itself regardless of whether what we are doing is fruitful! Young people don’t arrive in an “in box” where you then process them and pop then in the “out box” all done. The work is never finished – but you will be if you don’t take your breaks!
8. If you are required to be there – it is Work! Why? Because it is – but I’m often told by salaried workers that their Sunday morning ministry is a “gift” to the church & doesn’t count in their hours. It is wrong. If you are required to do it, it is work – only you get to decide what you will “gift” (otherwise, you know – it isn’t one).
There might be things you are expected to do when you start at a church as a salaried worker – BUT, if it is not part of your ministry role you should get to choose what that looks like. Sunday’s, where you are “on duty” whether you are running a session or preaching or not IS a work day. Being required to be at a monthly prayer meeting on a Saturday is part of your role as a senior member the church staff team – not an optional extra. If it is optional – then you get to choose. When you are encouraged to “find ways to serve” remember that everything you are doing is service – that is your calling, not just your job. What you gift to the church in terms of “extras” is up to you.
9. God anoints, people appoint. Why? God doesn’t make mistakes, he has called you and gifted you – whether your church values you or not, whether you are seen as a leader or “just staff”. People appoint to roles, but they don’t determine who you are.
Being made redundant is rough – I know from personal experience. However, if our entire identity and sense of value is determined by this particular role we are fulfilling at the moment redundancy can then feel like the end of the world. I went through a process of asking myself, and asking God, “Is this what I’m for?” Sometimes we can feel taken for granted – yes, we’ve been appointed to a role – but we have very little say, we aren’t listened to and are sometimes the last to hear about changes that impact the children or young people! This is soul destroying if we allow it to be – BUT, we aren’t the role. We bring who we are and what we have been given by God to the work we do and ultimately, we do it for Him and in His strength. God sees all that we do, whether our line manager or church congregation or even our young people (!) notice.
10. Talk. Yep, talk – be honest about where you are at and what is going on. Be frank with those closest to you, your highs and your lows. If redundancy hits or things are going very wrong at church, some places will tell you that you CAN’T talk to anyone about it – nobody – not even your partner (if you have one), don’t take it as read. Seek legal advice (see point 1) if they are making you redundant then they should :
– follow their process (should have one!)
– meet with you at least once to discuss
– give you information!
Again, I focused a bit on redundancy, but it is really good to talk. Don’t carry things yourself, don’t walk around feeling that it all rests on you – have trusted people around you that you can talk to. If you don’t think you have those – go looking for them! Talk stuff through, share your aches and you dreams – even just speaking stuff out loud to someone else can make a difference to your perspective and how you feel about a situation.
We can sometimes confuse being “set apart for God” with being “set apart from people” – this is nonsense and a mentality about being in ministry that needs to be broken. We are all vulnerable and weak vessels – in daily need of God’s strength and power to get through – and – we need each other!
There are obviously more things I could say, but these ten are really important and, in my conversations with salaried workers – come up again and again.
Do share with others – Thanks!