It was the start of a typical Sunday. One of our church's lay leaders spotted me in my car, flashed a smile and a wave and waited for me to park. I had barely opened my car door when she began unloading her concerns about the auxiliary.
We walked toward the church entrance together, and I offered her a suggestion and a prayer. Inside the door, a young lady was next. It was clear this problem was too complex for a quick resolution so we arranged to meet during the week.
Then I headed to my office to check on some mail I'd been expecting. While there, a young couple walked in to pick up some information. Typically, this was my assistant's job, but I wanted to help. After scouring my assistant's desk to find what I was looking for, I discovered we needed more information and offered the couple an explanation.
When I finally headed to the sanctuary, I was drained. It was time to engage God in worship, but my mind was on too many other things.
Beware church employees! Unless your job description requires specific duties during weekend services, this is your time for worship not work.
Schedules that are more crowded and more demanding compel all of us to be efficient and hardworking. That means congregation members often attempt to clear their to-do lists at your expense--personally and spiritually. The word "employee" implies your salary is funded, at least in part, by their financial contributions. And some include you in their 24-7 concept of pastoral availability.
So what to do? You can start with the following five strategies for achieving balance in your work and worship life:
Ask the pastor for help: Even if office hours are printed in the bulletin or regularly announced during services, a gentle reminder from the pastor asking members to be sensitive to employees' personal time can go a long way toward staving off the sometimes inevitable spate of weekend questions, demands and requests.
Remain professional: People often want you to perform routine office duties--from duplicating a form to requesting an appointment with the pastor. Kindly remind them that weekends are also your time of worship and extend a cordial invitation to call or come by the church during office hours. Discarding old habits can be difficult, and there are, of course, exceptions. But do your best to avoid the I'll-do-it-just-this-one-time trap.
Fellowship of the saints is critical: A rough week at work can create bittersweet feelings about returning to the "office" for weekend worship and teaching. But no matter how many hours you spend working at church, you still need to participate in corporate worship, drink in the Word, and fellowship with your brothers and sisters. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is ... " (Heb. 10:25, KJV).
Craft two mental images of the church building: One is your place of work, your avenue of vocational fulfillment. The other is your place of worship and spiritual enrichment. Prepare your heart even before you leave home, particularly before weekend services, and anticipate an encounter with the living God. "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise" (Ps. 100:4).
Take solace in the sanctuary: During scheduled breaks or lunch hours, spend some time "alone" in the sanctuary. Let God clear your mind of the pressing issues and demanding paperwork that await in your office just a few steps away. These times of solitude will intensify your awareness of the significance of the sanctuary. "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).
Church employees wear many hats. But don't deceive yourself into believing that you're exempt from overload, stress and, ultimately, burnout. Keep your priorities straight and remember: There's a difference between going to work and going to church. "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Col. 3:2). *
Barbara McCoo Lewis is the supervisor of women for the Southern California First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction for the Church of God in Christ. She oversees the leadership of women in 250 churches.