Great Expectations or Dashed Hopes?
Every week I get at least one phone call from a discouraged and overworked worship leader. Old news—we’ve already had that discussion. Let’s move on to more complicated issues.
Case Study: In 2005 a friend was placed on a “committee” to examine the efficiency of someone else’s department. He hated being asked and, heaven knows, he hated attending the meetings.
Three weeks into the “evaluation” he did something he felt compelled to do. It was simultaneously professional and unprofessional. He told the department head under scrutiny what he believed was going on.
It had become clear to him that the committee had been formed to facilitate a quasi witch hunt that would have led to this person’s firing. It was backhanded and wrong…and he was in the middle of it. In that precarious place, he learned a great deal.
He had breached a confidence and he was reprimanded appropriately. The falseness of the procedure, however, ultimately gave his actions credibility, earned his pardon, and ousted some toxic leadership.
Did this happen in a major corporation? No, it happened in a church. Churches ARE political, and not realizing that fact will work to your undoing.
So, what does this have to do with anything? Perhaps, everything!
The naiveté that accompanies the beginning of any new job is almost always counterbalanced by the disillusionment of time and reality. If this seems harsh, it certainly is. In my experience, it is also universal.
Here is advice that I have been giving for the last decade to would-be and/or frustrated church musicians:
1. Always keep your expectations for employment in line with the realities of working within an imperfect institution. Terms like “team” and “family” need to be tempered with a sense of the caution. Too many of us march into new positions thinking that there will never be conflict. That’s not real.
2. Be honest about everything but don’t volunteer things that have not been requested of you. Why is this important? Many people sabotage themselves with the use of information that was not part of their hiring. For example: Talking about politics should not be a part of the job, most particularly on Facebook. A longtime colleague has been recently “moved on” because he was making an assumption that his church was ultraconservative. He was quite surprised when his not so subtle blast at a liberal broadcaster on FB backfired on him in the form of one very angry elder. The issue was not which political view he held, it was about the appropriateness of the church and/or a church leader as a forum leader.
3. Value criticism as a teacher and motivator in your resolve to do a good job that is both competent and humble. Looking for constant approval—needing it to survive—is ill-advised. Assume, rather, that there will be things you need to learn and be grateful when you are required to learn them. Always present yourself as teachable. People who know everything don’t stay employed.
If this seems like a negative word to my good friends in ministry, it certainly is not intended to be. It is an admonishment to face the realities of working in the real world…in the real church.
We all need to get over the notion that working in a church is like some sort of social security that will see us through our retirement and beyond. That rarely happens. Things will change, should change, will change. Our job is to manage our expectations and avoid the shock of dashed hope that often accompanies the pilgrimage of all executives, not just church musicians.
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