When I went to work with the Garnett Church in 2003, I believed I was stepping into a ministry with tremendous upside. After being there for less than a year, I found myself in a mess I hadn’t signed up for. A key staff member, someone who was crucial to my effectiveness there, resigned unexpectedly. The leadership team that looked so healthy during the interview started manifesting old dysfunctions that we all hoped had been exorcised. I was angry. Angry at the leadership team for not being who it said was during the interview and angry at myself for getting caught up in such a volatile church system. As the leadership team continued to unravel I repeatedly said to myself, “I didn’t sign up for this!”
So what do you do when you find yourself in a situation that isn’t even close to what you originally signed up for? You have a couple of options. First, you can leave. If you’ve got the freedom and flexibility to move on, then get gone. Why remain in a miserable situation one second longer than you have to? Simple enough. Get out of there!
To avoid another hasty departure in the future, however, you have to make sure that the next job you take is exactly as it appears to be during the interview. Get an iron-clad guarantee that things at your new church won’t shift once you get there. This is easy to do. You’ll want to make sure that none of the existing staff is going to suddenly resign or accept a more attractive position elsewhere. You’re not signing up or that. You’ll also need to make sure none of the elders, especially the opinion leaders who are in your corner, are going to upset the balance of power on the leadership team by being diagnosed with a terminal illness or killed in a car accident. You’re not signing up for that either. Finally, you’ll want to check with a local meteorologist and secure a promise that there won’t be any natural disasters occurring in the first few years you’re there. A tornado or hurricane or brush fire that destroys the building could radically alter your job description and cause you to spend a lot of time doing stuff you didn’t sign up for. Once you get these assurances, you should be ready to step into your new position and do exactly what you signed up to do. I told you it was easy.
If leaving isn’t a possibility, then your second option is to stay and make the best of it. How? I’m not sure, but you might want to try lots of prayer. Prayer is more effective than cookies, although you’ll probably end up eating lots of those too. The best thing to do is start your new job assuming that something will shift just after you arrive, which means you’ll find yourself in the middle of a mess you didn’t sign up for. Count on shift happening. That way you won’t be overcome with bitterness when it does. Embrace the unpredictability of life. Assume that everything will change except the things you most want to change.
If you end up being one of the blessed few who get to do exactly what they signed up for and nothing more, then say “Thank you Jesus!” everyday and enjoy it while you can. It won’t last forever. If you are one of those happy few, I hope it turns out to be a dream come true. Sometimes, after only a few months of doing nothing but what they signed up for, one or two of the few are overwhelmed with boredom. Every day they fantasize about doing something new and exciting. The only reason they don’t leave for something more unpredictable is that they’re not sure what they’d be signing up for, if they were to stop signing up for stuff once and for all.