Unreasonable Service

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Fifteen years.

That’s how long I was on the last church tech crew I worked with. Fifteen long years. Four of those were as the staff Media Director. Paid position. Already covered most of those details in earlier posts, not going too deep here.

The moment when I had to step down, as a staff member, is still pretty vivid. My wife explained how my four year old daughter got excited when they pulled into the church parking lot one day.

“Oh! We are going to Daddy’s house.” Yeah. That’s what she said.

That came as a result of a long run of 60-80 hour weeks at the church. Fairly normal for me. She was under the impression that I actually lived there, and came to the house for visits. That’s a bad place to be, as a dad. There’s no amount of explaining or justifying to settle that with your kids. Perception is reality.

How does someone end up in that spot? How does an average knucklehead get so overcommitted to something that he loses connection with what matters? I had a strong sense of obligation to my church. I took those responsibilities very serious. I was determined to make everything there work. No excuses. Perfection is the only acceptable outcome. Make it happen. Do it or die trying. Yeah. Something like that.

Don’t get me wrong here. I still have that kind of work ethic. I still believe you need to to make things happen. I still don’t believe in making or accepting excuses. I am just a whole lot more selective about what I commit to.

Here’s the facts. I wanted to work there. I volunteered to work with, and eventually manage, that tech crew. I made the decision to give that much time and energy to my church. Nobody forced me. Nobody met me in a dark alley and presented threats from the mob. I was free to walk away whenever I wanted. I just didn’t.

I love the tech work. I loved making events happen. I loved almost every aspect of the work that I did. The big problem was my priorities. I allowed my desires and decisions to push my family into the background. They became a accessory to my life. They were in line for my time and energy, behind every other person and need at the church. It almost cost me my family.

I have spend the last four years salvaging my family. Scan through my other blog, and see what we have been through. I learned a lot over the last four years. Most of it will upset the guys that are running the hamster wheel like I was. Please don’t be that guy.

Yes. Your church probably needs you. Yes. They have done wonderful things and included your family into theirs. Yes. Some of your best friends are there and need you. Yes. The church is responsible for leading you to salvation and maybe you should feel somewhat obligated. Yes to all of that.

But.

That church would recover and be back to steady operation within days of you disappearing. If you didn’t show up, it might be inconvenient for a while. It might take them weeks to find a suitable replacement. Sure. But what about your family?

They wouldn’t recover so quick. The affects of you dropping out of your home are life changing. Some families never recover. Those kids don’t forget your name after a few weeks. Your wife doesn’t start looking for a replacement when you are late once. The church probably will.

This isn’t me bashing churches, either. This is me checking your perspective and priorities. If you could only chose one, your church family or your immediate family, who do you spend the next Sunday with? If you had to decide, which one wins? Just a question, don’t panic or start calling me names. Get over it and listen.

I do know what I am talking about. I made that choice. I chose the church. Not God. The church. I consciously decided to give years of my life in service to a building and a group of people. Years when my kids desperately needed me and my influence. I gave away countless hours that I should have spent earning a solid income to provide for them. It hurt them. It almost destroyed my family. It caused damage that still hasn’t healed completely. I did it wrong.

Except for a few Facebook connections, I don’t see or hear from anyone there. Seriously. Fifteen years of giving up almost every weekend, ruining my wedding anniversary and long hours and most of them don’t even remember me. Our Christmas production overlapped my anniversary about nine years in a row. Every year, I spent our anniversary working at the church. Yes, I did. I worked ridiculously long hours that occasionally meant sleeping there and not even going home. Yes, I did. And very little of it matters now.

Well dang, Erik! What are you trying to tell is? Glad you asked.

I am telling you that your service to your church is a part of your life, not your whole life. Your wife, your kids… They are your life. They shouldn’t accept excuses from you, either. They shouldn’t be pushed away because the church needs you. The church will never need you as much as they do.

If you are committed to the church, do it. If that commitment is straining your marriage, adjust it. Talk to your wife, talk to your pastor, find the compromise. Don’t make your wife compromise, everything else has to. She is first. Enjoy your service there, but don’t look for purpose from that position. She is your purpose.

If you have read this far without getting angry, read one more. Read my Proving that you love God article. It takes this to the next level.

I have plenty of respect for you church techs. I did my time and loved most of it. I just wish someone had told me all this when I first started. You might want to study the phrase “reasonable service,” too. There is definitely such a thing as “unreasonable service.”

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