Questions for when things don't feel right...
We all go through seasons when it feels as though things are off. During these seasons it can be natural to start asking hard questions about our future in our church and whether we are being called elsewhere. It is easy to begin surfing the internet looking for churches that are hiring, but before you do that, take some time to wrestle through a few questions with someone who you trust will challenge you to be honest:
- Is your frustration seasonal? The rhythms of church life lend themselves to seasons of craziness and intensity like few other occupations. A while back, I found myself on a two-hour Uber ride across Alaska. The driver split time between Anchorage and far-northern tribal lands where sunlight was non-existent for much of the winter. One of the unofficial rules of the village was that no one made major decisions during February or March, when the lack of sunlight was at maximum effect. In the same way, don't make a major decision during Christmas, Easter, or a capital campaign. Wait until the crazy season has passed before you begin considering a major change.
- Is this something that can be changed? Todd Henry asks if this is a question of values or culture. Values issues cannot be changed, cultural issues can be changed with strong leadership. If you and your church no longer value the same things, chances are that it is time to move on. In the church, this question can be murky. We all say that we value seeing people embrace faith and living a Christ-centered life. The way that we approach these values will give us clarity on whether it is time to consider other options. If you and your church differ on the primary role of Sunday morning worship, you may need to consider moving on. If you share the same understanding of why you meet on Sunday, but have concerns about the quality of the service, this is something that you can work to influence.
- Is this a push or a pull? Thom Rainer talks about the push and the pull of leaving a church. Is there a situation that is pushing you to consider leaving (a relationship, a situation, or an unmet expectation) or is something pulling you away (a changing understanding of your call, a new ministry opportunity that you can't not pursue, or a clear sense of God's direction). Another way of asking this is "are you running from something or running towards something?" Be honest with this... as much as it can be hard to admit, many times we spiritualize the fact that we would rather leave than deal with a difficult situation.
All seasons come to an end. The challenge, for those of us in church leadership, is knowing whether this is the end of a season or a bump in the road. Take the time to wrestle honestly in this season with those you trust. Ask these questions and if you need an additional resource, Wade Hodges has a fabulous resource you can find here.