It was finally here! It was the day I had been looking forward to since I started looking to be on a church staff as a paid youth worker. It was my first day on the job; and to make the day even better, we were going to have a staff meeting that day! If you have ever participated in a church staff meeting, you know how disappointed and disillusioned I was in just 90 minutes.
After just a month on the job I started to come to the realization that being a paid youth worker for a church is much more complicated than I first thought. What I envisioned as a job for which I was going to be paid to love students and help them love Jesus was actually a job with expectations, politics, meetings, evaluations and tasks to be assigned by pastor.
With 15 years of vocational youth ministry under my belt, I have come to realize the great bureaucracy of the church is not the awful boogieman that is thwarting the advancement of the kingdom. I have watched many of my colleagues get swallowed up by this bureaucracy and become disillusioned. I have seen others attempt just to survive in spite of the bureaucracy. Now, I am convinced a youth worker doesn't have to settle for surviving the inner workings of a church and simply attempt to have an impact on students despite all the red tape. Rather, if you understand it, the bureaucracy of the church actually can be fertile ground in which you'll thrive.1) The Church Is a Corporation; You Are an Employee
I know this sounds unspiritual, but it's true. There was a budget that was proposed and a committee that was formed just so you could be on staff. From our perspective, we are called by God Himself to minister, pastor and care for students. This is an amazing truth and gives us a larger purpose than a simple paycheck. This calling is the thing that also gives us hope to push through when we get discouraged and doubt our effectiveness. In order to thrive, we have to temper this view of calling with our earthly position as employee.
From the church's perspective, you were hired. There is an organizational chart in which you fit. Because you are a youth worker, I can guarantee your name is not at the top of that chart. In a bureaucracy, you are a piece of the pie, a placeholder in the chart. This means we have people above us to whom we are responsible, people to whom we report and are accountable. When we settle in and realize we are not God's gift to the entire organization, but a simple member of the body of Christ, we can begin to thrive.
Just as easily as you were hired, you can be fired. This may or may not impact your calling, but it is a truth just the same. We must live by the same standards as our friends with secular jobs. We are to work hard and submit to the people above us and support the people below us. We come to respect the processes and systems that have made the church run long before we got here and will be in place long after we leave. You are an employee, so get to work!