Bye, [Bye]Vocational

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s not easy marrying marketplace and ministry.

After all, when you consider secular expectations, the challenge of availability matching flexibility, how most church leadership models are structured…it can be tough-sleddin’.

Now, I’m not a church consultant or ministry life coach; however, in my brief ministerial experience, I’ve come to realize while tent-making is often praised behind the pulpit in an evangelism context, it’s rarely incorporated to the fullest in a leadership context.

Case and point: I work full-time hours (7:00-3:30 pm) for TDOT Monday through Friday, where at the start of each day, I take the day’s game script, stack it against my church load, and do what I can accordingly for both. For instance, on slower days I create youth discipleship content, plan events, design social media promotions, and field church-related correspondence on my breaks, whereas on busier days, I keep a running ‘to-do’ list to better tackle my gameplan after hours.

The problem is: whether or not my day at work is busy/productive, I still miss out on the life that happens at church (i.e. staff meetings, luncheons, offsite special events, etc.) during my shift.

raw.gif

Granted, I do have supervisors who meet with me on a quarterly basis to catch me up to speed with important information. Yet, while the communicational challenges can be frustrating, it’s the communal setbacks that offer the greatest potential for discouragement.

So while having flex or contractual hours would be ideal, I know in seasons like the one I’m in, I can only abide in what I can control, confront what I can’t, and trust God in both. Still…this doesn’t mean the divide is easy.

On one hand, I’m proud to represent the Gospel in a taxing work environment, to mature in my reliance upon God when I find my own strength to be nothing but weakness. On the other, I’m often downcast considering a) it’s hard to justify why I work where I do1  and b) to not experience deeper community due to a job I can’t stand on my own strength is a bitter pill to swallow.

So when it comes to the idea of a bye-vocational (i.e. leaving one job to fully pursue the other) life in place of a bivocational one, I’d be lyin’ if I said I wasn’t intrigued considering the struggle to put forth full-time effort in part-time hours is [super] real…not to mention I’m the first Fry male in three generations to not know what full-time ministry life tastes like.

*Sigh*

I guess what I’m trying to say is: it’s hard being bivocational when the call itself seems to rob you of relationship. ‘Cause while many think bivocational ministry is all about tackling two different jobs, truth is: it’s just as much about influencing community and inspiring culture change as it is achieving excellence. Thus, how we cope when we feel our ‘spread out’ lifestyle is diluting our impact is worth discussion.

Of course, you can count on me to drill down on this in future posts, but for now, let me just say: for those of you working multiple gigs striving to keep joy afloat, understand you carry difference-making potential inside you…and that potential is not only going to come to fruition in the territory God has given you to tend, but is also never contingent on what you can’t control. Again, that’s the beauty of trusting God. Whenever we reach an end of the line, God grants us the slack to press on. Whenever we reach an unscalable wall, God equips us to ascend it. And whenever we’re overcome by a particular lacking, God meets us in our midst, fills us, and goes before us to make a way (Isaiah 43:16-19).

Yeah, I get how hard it can be craving community and passion outlets in the arid seasons of life, but remember God specializes in showing His power in hopeless situations. So if you’re reading this today wishing you could swap out a bye-vocational life in place of a bivocational one, I encourage you: allow God to fill up your empty canteen with encouragement and fresh perspective. ‘Cause I submit: where you are now is not by mistake, but by design and by grace.

Think of it this way: If you’re thirsty, what sense does it make to cut your water bottle in half when you could simply remove the cap and fill it to the brim?

Pretty obvious, right?

Yet, how many of you reading this are essentially doing the same thing by denying yourself full-fillment as a result of wanting the ‘bye’, not the ‘bi’?

ipoufic

If you can relate, I encourage you: stop overfocusing on what you wish could be different in your life and embrace the fact God has you just where He wants you. Don’t fantasize about what it’d be like to customize your life. Instead, take joy in trusting the Lord’s lead and take courage in pushing through to the good stuff that’s coming (see Isaiah 58:11).

While I’m tempted to go on, I’m goin’ to push ‘pause’ for now and instead bid adieu with some parting questions:

1) What do you need to be filled with today?
2) What is capping the ‘containers’ God has placed you in?
3) Will you remove those caps and allow God to fill you up?

I’ll just let the mic drop there…

f5657ea6e8a5225a9c0c692817d5bf5c-micdrop07.gif

Footnotes

  1. in light of how I was created

Cover photo creds: ThomRainer.com 

3 Truths for When You Don’t Get the Job

Have you ever been minutes away from a peaceful night sleep only to be shell shocked by a last second ‘bad news’ barrage?

If you answered, ‘yes’, welcome to the story of my life last Tuesday.

Before I continue, for those who’ve been following our story the past few years, you’ve probably noticed how ‘perseverance in challenging work environments’ has been a prevalent theme; however, today…I’m going to talk about the other side of the coin (i.e. the roller coaster ride that is “job hunting”).

Now, I’ll be honest: I’m not a renowned expert in “job hunting”. In fact, since I landed at TDOT in April 2012, I’ve only been able to engage the search for eight months with hiatuses attributable to Master’s work and recent life changes1.

But while I may not be the greatest career transition consultant, what I can say is: such a road, while disappointing at times, can be rewarding if we remain steadfast in patience and determination.

Yet, for many of us, it bears discussion how to cope with the discouragement that comes when denials and ‘no calls’ start to accumulate…

…which finally brings me to Tuesday night.

So there I am sitting in my bed when a mental alarm reminds me to check a certain well-known Christian company’s ‘current openings’ page. By this point, it had been a little over two months since I applied to (what appeared to be) the most exciting position I’ve come across in a while. I’m talking about the prospect of working as a…

Youth. Ministry. Specialist.

Just let that sink in for a bit, consider my night gig, and then let it sink down even more.

‘Cause truth is: this had me written all over it…like ‘magnum 5.3 mm, chisel trip, permanent sharpie ink’ written.

I mean…the very thought of me not receiving a phone call, an e-mail…anything…didn’t even cross my mind back when I was carefully packaging my writing sample, résumé, references, and questionnaire.

But alas…’tis what happened.

 Thus, as you can imagine, my mind couldn’t help but wonder…

what did my references say…?

…what are my credentials lacking…?

…is it because I’m still involved in youth ministry…?

…is it because I’m not affiliated with sou…(cough)…a certain denomination2?

Seriously…I’ve been involved in youth ministry for eight years…pastoring the last five. Forget the fact I have the drive and required skills to succeed. I’m a young voice with fresh, ‘2016 perspective’ on where youth ministry is in America these days. Why not take a flyer on this alone?

Granted, I still have no clue how many applicants applied…or if the job simply went off the radar without any notification.

All I know is for a few dark moments, I felt ‘struck out’ knowing a golden opportunity was now nothing more than an expired dream of what could/should’ve been.

Nail in coffin, I softly whispered, ‘Lord, help me. This one is gonna hurt’ before graciously drifting off.

Flash forward to today…and I’m feelin’ better. A little sore…but at the same time, I know when you’re down, you can’t stay down. Fall down seven, get up eight. Such is the philosophy of our ‘carry on’ culture, right?

Yet I also know, with every hurt, there’s not only a way out, but a transition out. The difference being…a way implies direction, but transition implies process. Thus, it’s fair to ask ourselves, ‘How do we navigate the process of overcoming when the pain seems unbearable’?

CHn6z8T

Again, I don’t have all the answers. But based on recent experiences alone, I can confidently submit:

1. God’s ways are always greater3. 

Sure, we may not understand this in every situation. Yet, when we contrast our finitude in light of sweet sovereignty, we ultimately discover the refuge behind God knowing what is best for us, even when it doesn’t make sense. I’m not sayin’ you’ll never feel like a sinking sailor caught up in a sea of potential, but I am sayin’ this shouldn’t ever deter you from trusting your Captain.

2. We can’t assume how things would’ve panned out.

This one may seem obvious. Yet, how often do we assert the wrong declaration? For instance, I can tell myself, ‘Things would have been great there!’ Then again, I’m basing my rationale on a piece of paper…an image on a screen. Yeah…I might feel judged being judged by a piece of paper, but what’s the point in reciprocating by conjecturing? Truth is: Only God knows the coulda/woulda/shoulda’s of life. Thus, why not proclaim the veracity of God’s faithfulness as it pertains to what he shields us from? Just sayin’…

3. At some point, we must embrace ‘careerealism’4.

Whenever we’re notified of not being the best fit, to be upset is only human. But to be professionalism in our attitude when no one is looking? That’s the kind of ‘wheat from chaff’ attitude we should aspire to.

If it helps, remember the four pro’s and three per’s:

Four pro’s: professional, proactive, productive, proficient

(i.e. to be professional is to be proactive in being proficiently productive)

Three per’s: perseverant, perceptive, persistent

(i.e. to be perseverant is to be persistent in being perceptive)

Combine these all together and you got a solid recipe of getting back on track the way God would have you.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Perhaps you’re wondering what your next move should be or are struggling to process work/job hunt-related disappointment. If you can relate, we want to encourage you today. So if you want to share your story in the comments below, feel free to do so…or if you’d rather shoot us a private message, that’s perfectly fine as well.

‘Til then, keep looking up and know the best is yet to come!

~ Cameron

THE_BEST_THINGAVAILABLE_1

Footnotes

  1. Highlighted by pregnancy, Caeden’s birth & new home
  2. What is the official “religion” of Tennessee, Alex…
  3. Isaiah 55:8-9
  4. Inspired by http://www.careerealism.com

Photo creds: careerfaqs.com & http://www.bpodiary.com

Hold on to Your Why (Part 1)

We now know we have a why…an internal motivation that gives our ministry meaning. This why serves as our anchor when we are faced with the inevitable desire to quit, throw up walls or just go into auto-pilot. To often, that why gets lost in the urgent, monotonous or discouraging things we encounter as we serve. How can we keep our why front and center when all the white noise is looking to push it to the sideline?

Over the next couple of posts, we will take a practical look at some things we can do to elevate and re-embrace our why.

First, Identify your why.

Hold up-don’t we know our why? I can’t start on that assumption. Personal experience has shown me that when discouragement hits, I often have to rediscover why. Why am I serving even though no one seems to care? Why am I investing in people when no one is investing into me? Why am I putting in hours (that, let’s be honest, we don’t really have) only to have no one show up? If we are asking why questions, chances are we need to go back to the beginning and reunite with our why. How do we do that? Take those same why questions and instead of asking them in a reactionary way, ask them in the future tense. “Why would I be willing to serve even if no one cares?” “Why do I want to invest, even if no one is investing in me”?, etc.

For many of us, the answer is: People. For those called to ministry, it is liking having a beating piece of God’s heart deposited in yours. We want to see people know Jesus. We want to see them walking in victory and in the fullness that God has planned for them. We want to see a God centered community formed that then impacts the city around us and glorifies God.

I would be remiss if I didn’t include the contrary. If you why isn’t centered on service and glorifying God, it may not be a why that will keep you going. I can say that I want to change my eating habits to look good. But that motivation, that why, may not be enough for me to withstand the immediate gratification associated with a yummy bowl of ice cream. My why has to be bigger than me. As a mom, if I say I’m going to change my eating because I want to make sure my son grows up with healthy habits-bam, I have a why bigger than me.

Ministry was never meant to be about me. I have found personally, if my why has become askew, my what and how become labored and trying.

So, for this week-identify your why. If it is off, realign it and start fresh.

Next Week: Why be accountable?

Have you experienced a why that was off? Share in the comments. Let’s learn from one another. 🙂

Photo creds: paulmadson.com

Bivocational Profile: Papa Pastor

Meet Pastor Aaron. Pastor Aaron is the college ministry pastor at Your Community Church and assists the body by nurturing relationships and spiritual growth within the college and young adult communities. Having cultivated a committed track record over the years, Aaron is finally reaping the fruit of his faithful service.

However, this year, Aaron is having a much harder time delegating ministerial care, overseeing interns, and finding time to provide ministerial awareness and vision to the entire church in light of rookie paternal responsibilities and a more demanding work environment at the digital marketing company in which he serves. With more hours devoted to new work assignments and baby care, Aaron is suddenly struggling to make ends meet as efficiently as he once did.

Granted, Aaron still works with the same kind of integrity, leadership, and stewardship as in seasons past. The problem now is Aaron struggles to find time for the little things…remembering to make certain phone calls, responding to e-mails, making every staff meeting, and following up with team members with whom he’s had to rely more heavily on.

As a result, his students (and their parents) are feeling the early stages of disconnectedness. While Aaron preaches and shows up to personal events whenever he can, the downtick in occurrences, while understandable, is beginning to manifest in lower attendance rates due to the notable drop-off in ministerial effectiveness between Aaron and his subordinates who have stepped up in his place.

Thus, Aaron is starting to wrestle with hopelessness that he can tie loose ends in the face of tighter ultimatums at work and ‘at home’ priorities occupying once-vacant ministry opportunities.

Aaron has a devoted wife who works at a local bakery and thrives ministering alongside him. When he’s not working in church or out, Aaron enjoys hitting the tee at local golf courses as well and the lake on his wakeboard.

Challenges:

  • More time spent on work + family matters = limited availability/in-person interaction with staff/team members/church attendees
  • Has little time to directly develop and mentor
  • Over-reliance on delegating (and forgetfulness to follow-up) leading to cracks in the communicational infrastructure
  • Hopeless and inferiority

Opportunities:

  • Is able to inspire others by a relentless and disciplined work ethic
  • Has stable job to provide for family
  • Brings joy to his family and those within his inner circle watching him grow and mature in new roles
  • Relates better with those in his demographic
  • Is gifted in building meaningful connections with people wherever he’s at

The challenge is real, and so are the opportunities. Do you fit into this profile? What are some other challenges or opportunities you have encountered? Share in the comments below.

Photo credits: Odyssey Online

Hold on to Your Why (Intro)

It amazes me  how intertwined our lives are. As mentioned in a previous blog, whenever I learn about a new app at work geared toward organization or collaboration, my first instinct is how I can I use this at/for church. As a new mom, it is encouraging to see this overlap yet again.

When I was pregnant with Caeden, I had a goal of a natural pregnancy and birth. I refused drugs to help my horrendous morning sickness and turned to ginger ale and Altoids instead (to all my ministry mamas out there…Altoids = God send). I enrolled in a Bradley birthing class, which my champ of a husband attended with me for twelve long weeks. At this point, many of you may be asking why? Which is my point today.

Why?

A friend of mine once said, “If you lose your why, you lose your way.”

Why was I able to endure the worst kind of ongoing sickness I have every experienced for over three months? Why was I able to embrace a pain that society has raised me to fear and do everything within my power to negate? Why? Because of my son. Because I wanted him to have the best start to life that I could give him. Because the importance of my goal was bigger than my momentary desire for relief. My “Why” was firmly in place.

After walking this path, I am amazed at how much the birthing process is like ministry. With a heart full of love, we embark on a journey, armed with dreams and hopes for the future. We dream of people being reached and God being glorified. Inevitably, the sickness comes. We endure, we go on, but we eventually get tired and become aware that there is an option to find relief-be it quitting, putting up walls or giving in to our now jaded vision. For the bi-vocational, this is doubly the case.  In the middle of it all, it is easy to lose site of the end goal, the dream we embraced as we started down our path. If we do, eventually, we will lose our “Why”. If we lose our why, it is only a matter of time until we lose our way and drift from the course we have already given so much to travel.

In the middle of labor, I had to remember my why.

As you are birthing the dream and calling that God has placed in you-remember your why. Remind yourself regularly. Don’t be content to just go through the motions, because when push comes to shove, only your why will deliver your destiny.

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” ~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11

Over the next few posts we will explore some practical ways to hold on to your Why.

What is your why in ministry? Share it in the comments and let’s pray and encourage each other while it is still today 🙂