Every industry has realities and aspects that differentiate it from other industries. What is normal in one industry is not found in another. There are industry standards and practices that must be followed in a certain way or at a certain time because that’s the way it is. People who succeed in those industries understand those realities and work with them. People who fall or fail oftentimes don’t accept the reality at hand.
In church world, one of those realities is that we work weekends. Weekend time is our prime time. This separates us from most of the rest of the culture. When other people are at home on Saturday afternoon catching up on chores, or catching up on sleep Sunday morning or relaxing Sunday afternoon, we are in the most important hours in the life of the parish. This time is absolutely crucial to us. We have to be present and we have to be “on.” It is our time, the time when parishioners show up and new comers and visitors are willing to give us a try.
It’s as obvious as can be and yet, it was something we had to learn. And it was a difficult lesson to learn. And anytime a new staff person comes on board, it is a lesson we see them struggle with too. Frankly some of our staff would admit that they’re still struggling with it.
Any successful church culture will understand its employees have to work weekends. I didn’t get that at first. When I first came to Nativity, I would try to fit social events and other activities into the weekend and work around them. I treated weekends as I always had. That was a big mistake that made my job more difficult and less successful.
Not only did I get this wrong personally, but when it came to hires I also got it wrong. I hired people who would try to manage programs that took place on the weekend without actually showing up on the weekends. That was always a train wreck waiting to happen and actually created huge problems for the people who were working weekends.
When you or you and your church staff…all of your church staff…don’t understand and accept the reality that what they do is first of all about the weekend, they’re operating in a deficit and it is going to cause tension at home and at church and it will become unsustainable. And it is amazing how many people who work in churches don’t understand this. People in churchworld burn out all the time because they can’t make this transition. And meanwhile the weekend experience they’re providing parishioners and guests suffers.
Now I have learned that except for vacation times or rare occasions needed for family events I work weekends (and oftentimes I need to remind family, if they’re doing weekend parties, I can’t come). So about 46/47 weekends out of the year I am at church working and there is nothing that gets in the way. I try not to accept any social engagements on Friday or Saturday evenings (Sunday evenings aren’t even an option).
Church is first and fundamentally weekend work. The parish has grown as I have grasped that truth and brought people onto our staff who have embraced that truth as well. At times it is a cross to bear. Other times it is a blessing because I get off when others are working (I can go grocery shopping while others are at work).
What are the realities that are unique to your life or work that represent a challenge you have to embrace?