I’m not sure who invented the treadmill. I imagine it was someone who decided that a rainy day wouldn’t stand in their way of a long jog. Or maybe it was someone who wanted to go running, but didn’t appreciate the judgmental glances that were thrown their way when their out-of-shape body went shuffling down the street. Who knows? Nevertheless, treadmills have made their way into homes across the globe, as well as gyms and fitness centers galore. Miles upon miles have been traveled, and yet no one has really gone anywhere.
Sometimes I wonder if my faith is on a treadmill. I can push myself to the limits but not really go anywhere. Then, when it comes time to really put my faith into action, it’s like I’m traveling down roads I’m not prepared for.
A whole year has passed since I last posted (well, I just cleared out my “drafts” folder and posted old, unfinished posts, but those don’t count as “real” posts!) and in many ways it feels like just yesterday. Many lessons have been learned in this past year that might one day warrant a full explanation in book form, but I’ve found my attention span can’t quite handle book-writing just yet, so the condensed, blog-post version will have to do. Here are my words of “wisdom” for others leaving one church job for another:
1. Have your parachute ready. The emotional cliff of leaving behind deep-rooted relationships is not (nor should it be) any match for the new relationships budding. The trust and respect you had earned in your old church has to start all over at square one in your new church. The inside jokes, the acceptance of your quirkiness, the understanding of things that frustrate you…gone. As much as you try not to compare the churches, you will. Grieve the loss of what was, and try to be patient as the new is slowly forming.
2. No 2 churches are the same. The activities, lessons, retreats and ministry style that worked so perfectly at your last church will probably be a bust at your new church. Like custom-made mini-blinds for your first house, leave ’em all behind for the next person.
3. Every church is the same. The conflict, the “how do we attract new people?,” the customs and traditions that no one will admit to having but will rip your face off to defend…you’re not going to escape certain aspects of the church.
4. Somebody else always knows better. And it’s probably the parent of a kid that only attends 8% of your youth group activities. When you first arrive and are most impressionable, their enthusiasm leads you to believe they are going to be your go-to parent for popular opinion. Then you quickly (hopefully for your sake), realize that their embarrassment over their kids’ lack of involvement has led them to intense armchair quarterbacking.
5. Make sure you are being fed. It might be the reason you’ve made the move, but your own spiritual health cannot be overlooked. As you learn to deal with the fact that the search committee was not exactly accurate in their depiction of the church during the interview process, one area is non-negotiable: can you grow in your own faith here? If the answer is no, move on before everyone becomes attached. If the answer is yes, get ready for the long ride.