How to Check Back Into Your Church Job If You Have Been Checked Out for a While

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Tens of millions quit their jobs during the Great Resignation. Beginning in March 2021, most areas of the economy experienced a mass of people leaving their current places of employment and seeking other jobs and careers. Over two years, a large portion of workers considered career changes and geographic relocations. The hospitality, education, and healthcare sectors were hit especially hard.

Pastors and paid church staff were not immune from this phenomenon. As a result, a Great Reshuffling also occurred in religious institutions. Many staff moved to other congregations or reconfigured roles at their current churches.

The Great Reshuffling is ending. While quit rates are still historically high, they are falling. A recession later this year could quickly pull us back to normal levels.

As pastors and church leaders considered a move, they entered a holding pattern. When an airplane is waiting to land, the pilot will make a circular path in designated airspace until a runway is available. The plane is still moving. The pilot is still working. But a holding pattern is a short-term (and necessary) maneuver used while waiting.

Many planes have now landed. Pastors and church leaders still in holding patterns are making decisions and will land shortly.

What if you decide to stay at your current church?

I recently spoke with a pastor who has been in a holding pattern for two years. He applied for two other positions and was a finalist for both, but did not ultimately land the role. After much prayer and advice from his mentors, he believes God is telling him to stay. Though the holding pattern was longer than desired, the process helped solidify his calling.

“The last two years, I have intentionally not made big leadership decisions,” he told me. “Now it’s time to re-engage with a vision for the church.”

While he was not wholly checked out, the holding pattern affected how he led. I imagine some have checked out more than others during the last couple of years. Given what has occurred globally, I can understand why. Regardless of where you are on this scale, how can you check back into your role if you’ve decided to stay?

Gather energy from the tasks you enjoy. Leading while in a holding pattern can be exhausting. You expend energy on working at your current church and looking for a potential future church. Check back into your church by doing the tasks you enjoy for a few weeks. You will gather energy for the more challenging stuff that will inevitably come.

Rebuild your support network with informal meetings. Likely few, if any, congregants knew the details about your holding pattern. But more people than you realize probably felt it. As a result, your key supporters may feel a slight distance from you, even if you worked hard to stay connected. Check back into your church by rebuilding support among the core of the congregation. These meetings should be informal—lunches, impromptu talks, fun outings, and dinners in your home.

Focus on solving simple leadership problems that have much visibility. As you check back into your church, go after some low-hanging fruit. Repaint the hallway that looks terrible. Order the new chairs for adult classrooms. Replace the fading projection system. Solving simple, visible problems will help build momentum for tackling more complex issues in the coming months.

Assure the church with your actions and do not make public statements about your decision to stay. You may be tempted to vocalize your decision to stay. No public comments are necessary. Indeed, they are unwise. While your core leaders may have felt your holding pattern, many in the congregation are likely unaware of your inner struggle. Do the actions of commitment without making dramatic statements about your re-engagement. I can understand the desire to say, “I’m back!” But most congregants never knew you were gone.

Dig deeper into local friendships. People start to withdraw from friendships when they believe a move is coming. It’s a natural part of making a transition. Check back into your church by digging deeper into your best friendships.

The Great Reshuffling is slowing. If you have decided to land the plane at your current church and not a new church, now is the time to check back in.

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