Should you take that job?

That is a question I regularly get asked by my friends in ministry.  And one I ask myself every time Doug (Fields that is) calls me and tries to talk me into working for him to help train his up and coming  youth workers. :) The truth is, I am a paid youth worker and I love my job.  And even if I didn't love my job, considering a move and all the dynamics involved in that decision seem to get exponentially more complicated.  Because of the secrecy of the process there seems to be little candid and open conversation about what sort of issues should be brought to the table when considering a job change.

The knee-jerk response is, "God is leading me." While, I would concede that this is of utmost importance when considering a job change, this is almost always used as a spiritual smoke screen which conceals other factors that are vital to address in this process.

Thumbs-Up-Thumbs-Down

Can we be honest for a minute and put our puffed up spiritual egos on the shelf for a minute and talk.

The truth is I am tempted to take every offer.  I love feeling wanted and valuable, who doesn't.  When a church pursues you they make you feel like a million bucks.  (Even though they want to only pay you $25,000)  You know how great it is when a committee calls you up and wants to hear your story, your heart for ministry and are so impressed with your revolutionary model of ministry!

It is especially easy to have the exact opposite feeling when you have been in your context for a while.  Because, once you are hired you are in the machine, doing the down and dirty ministry that you love and are called to do.  But no one is asking for your sage advice, no one is impressed with your model of ministry, and students are as fickle as all get out.  Depending on how dry you are feeling, anything sparkly gets attention.  And the dryer you are, the greener the grass will appear.  The trick is doing the spiritual discernment to figure out if this of God or of your ego, of both, or of something in between.

So, you have gotten the call:  A church is impressed with you and now wants to pursue you, should you take that job?

Lets assume that you are somewhat spiritually healthy and have prayed about it and want to be open to the leading of God.   This is all spiritually well and good.  But before you sign on the dotted line, let me offer up a couple of other pieces of the puzzle that you should consider, that are just as, if not more important than that burning in the bosom you are feeling by the oozing affirmation form the search committee.

TOP 5 NON SPIRITUAL ISSUES TO WRESTLE THROUGH WHEN CONSIDERING A JOB CHANGE:

1) Salary Package: I can't tell you the number of youth workers who psyched themselves and their families to follow the leading of God to some part time church position, trusting in God's goodness and faithfulness, only to find themselves bitter in the long haul because they are tired of eating Spaghetti Oh's.  What a church is wiling to pay says everything you need to know about the kind of person they want to hire and for how long they want to keep them.  If you are married with 4 kids, don't accept the entry level salary package.  Don't expect all the bells and whistles if you are just starting out.  Don't over commit for the duration of tenure.  If you want to stay long term, then fight hard for a salary that will work for you and your family for the long haul.  Or work hard for the two years everyone expects you to stay. :)

2) Geography and Demography:  Our country is large and diverse.  There are all sorts of micro climates and cultures.  Just because you were successful in one geography doesn't necessarily mean you will be as effective in the next.  You have to take geographic differences seriously.  Small town, urban, liberal, conservative, college town, rural, aging communities, all bring a different vibe to a church and to a ministry.  You are going to do the best ministry by finding a church a culture that you resonate with.  Don't take a job where the vast majority of the congregation and context have a completely different worldview than you.  You will find yourself beating your head against the wall or worse, being fired for having a Halloween party in a church that still believes Halloween is satan's day.

3) Distance from your wife's / your family:  Everyone laughs at me when I bring up this point.  But It is me who laughs last as I watch my friends start to crank out kids and feel the burn to have their kids know their grandparents.  For some reason (which I don't understand) women need to be in close proximity to their family of origin.  Soon it becomes too pricy to fly back an fourth and geography begins to play a much more vital piece.  If you are looking to plant some deep roots and be in a context for a long time, strongly consider doing it close to your wife's family.

4) Size of the Church: I know we say that size doesn't matter :)  But don't you kind of think that because everyone says it, it is because we are trying to convince ourselves of some non-truth?  Size totally matters.  The trick is recognizing that bigger isn't always better.  We have different capacities for ministry and that has to be ok.  The trouble comes when we are in a context that is too small for our capacity, or too big for it.  What is even harder to swallow is coming to the realization that your capacity isn't what you thought it was.  Every size church has different strengths and weaknesses, and need different skills from their youth worker.  Knowing what you bring to the table and finding a good match here will allow you to thrive!

5) Trajectory for long term ministry: Of all these issues, this one is the dirtiest, least thought through, and I think the most important to consider.  First of all, you need to die to the myth that you are going to do student ministry for the rest of your life.  Die to the myth that you are going to serve at this church for the rest of your life.  (If my God's grace you do one or both of these, then you are in the .0001% of all youth workers)  Every job opens and closes doors for other jobs.  Size of church, network of churches, denomination affiliation, opportunities for added responsibilities and upward mobility, are all considerations when considering a job.  Everything we do is a step towards another thing.  Sometimes a church that wants you and is wooing you, might be an incredible church, but because of its network affiliation, denomination, church structure, it will limit your options down the road!  Just a thought.

Have no fear, because even if you screw this all up, God is so, so faithful!

It is easy to over spiritualized this process and not think critically at all.  At the exact same time it is easy to over think it and let logic rule to the point of missing the spirit of God.  This process is truly a process of discernment and needs your best spiritual and intellectual work.  But it also needs the input of those closest to you.  And most importantly, we have to lean into the faithfulness of God and his grace to use all our feeble attempts for his glory, both now and forever more!