An online magazine for pastors and church leaders.

For this month’s Sunday| Mag articles, we asked some of our favorite writers this one question: What’s one thing you’ve been learning all year long that you’d like to share with Sunday| Mag’s readers? In this article, Mike Sessler?talks about his sabbatical from church, and what it’s teaching him about keeping a healthy work life at a church.


One of the questions I get pretty frequently when people find out I?m no longer on a church staff is this: ?So, where do you attend church now?? I?m beginning to take a little bit of enjoyment at the reactions when I say, ?I?m on sabbatical from church right now.? Some people are rather shocked; others nod and understand what I?m talking about, almost as if they wish they could take a sabbatical from church.

It?s important to note that I?m not mad or bitter about church. If anything, I?m frustrated at myself for letting it get to this point. See, I realized on my last weekend as a TD, that in my desire to do an excellent job creating a distraction-free environment of worship, I let it become a job. A gig. It was another show every weekend that I had to pull off with excellence. Somehow, in my mind, going to church became going to work. And even though I no longer have to mix, light, or project on the weekend, I can?t walk into a church without feeling like I should be. And that?s kind of a problem.

I find it fascinating that this happened to me over about 8-9 years of being on staff. It wasn?t a problem when I served as a volunteer TD for over a decade. Perhaps it is because my last 5 years was in an unhealthy environment, and I didn?t realize how unhealthy it was until I left. Perhaps it?s because I let the thrill of finally making it ?big? in the tech world cloud my view of what we were really doing. Perhaps I?m just getting old and cynical. Maybe it?s all of those things.[quote]Perhaps it?s because I let the thrill of finally making it ?big? in the tech world cloud my view of what we were really doing.[/quote]

As I?ve had plenty of time to mull this over during the last few months of my sabbatical, I?ve come up with a few things that might serve as cautionary signposts to those of you who continue to faithfully serve every week.

Don?t Let it Become a Job

When I first started on staff, I was pretty good about taking a weekend off once a quarter to just go sit with my wife in church. After things got going well, I would leave the tech booth on the last service of the day and sit in church about once a month. After a while though, the thrill of live production took over and I found myself enjoying ?the gig? more than the service. Maybe you can relate.

It?s easy for us to become so focused on or enamored with the production that we forget that we?re still part of the Body of Christ, worshiping our Creator. When we start paying more attention to creating the perfect mix than we do serving our Lord, we?re in trouble. And I don?t mean we shouldn?t do an excellent job while we?re serving; I mean when our quest becomes mixing (or lighting, or projecting?) and not being part of the congregation that worships, our focus has been lost.[quote]When we start paying more attention to creating the perfect mix than we do serving our Lord, we?re in trouble.[/quote]

Don?t forget you are part of the Church. And part of the church. Get involved, fellowship, and be with the people. Be part of the Body, even when your job is to serve them.

Find Ways to Worship Without Working

In my last few years on staff, I would often say that my best form of worship happened when I was mixing. I thought that was a good thing at the time, but in the long run, it was damaging to my soul. I believe I lost focus of who I was giving my worship to. And now that I don?t mix when I go to church, I?m not really sure what to do. It has been so long since I just attended that I actually feel really uncomfortable in church most times.

I think all church staff?especially those who regularly work weekends?should take one weekend off a quarter and just go to church. Maybe every two months would be even better. I have said this before, but never really meant it?because I didn?t actually do it. I believe I would be much better prepared to re-acclimate to being an attender if I actually attended church once in a while.

Make sure you just go to church sometimes. Not only is it good for your soul, it makes you better at your job.[quote]Make sure you just go to church sometimes.[/quote]

God is Bigger than Your Job

This happens a lot to church staffers; we put our relationship with the Lord on autopilot because we work for Him. We figure we?re spending all day working in His garden, so we don?t need to be all that intentional about our relationship with Him. That?s a mistake. When we drift, it?s hard to come back. But it?s not because He doesn?t want us back; it?s because it?s now very unfamiliar.

The good news is that like the father of the prodigal son, God?s sitting on the hill waiting to see us come around the bend. From a long ways off, He will come running out to meet us. Don?t let your job take over your relationship. It?s easy to get caught up in the business of church. But more than being busy, we need to be connected to what God is doing in and through us.[quote]Don?t let your job take over your relationship.[/quote]

My goal for 2015 is to return to regularly attending church. I?ve been a few times and I feels less weird each time. And my hope is that my experience will save some of you from going down the same path.

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One reply on “Mike Sessler: My One Thing”

Thanks for this. Mike nailed it. The temptation is always to justify what we do because we work at “church”. Healthy rhythms are so important to have.

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