I remember it like it was yesterday. Walking into that large church for conference, looking around at the amazing auditorium, seeing all the gear, marveling at the lights, the sound, the production level. It was at once a magical and utterly depressing experience. All week I sat there thinking how wonderful it must be to work at such a place. At the time, I was a part-time TD at a small church with almost no budget. Having come from corporate live production, I knew what was possible, but we just couldn’t pull it off with the resources we had.
But here, at this mega church, well it was the utopia. Clearly the land flowed with milk, honey, and a lot of greenbacks. It was obvious that there was never any discord between the tech staff and leadership. The technical team got whatever they needed; all resources were at their disposal. They could do whatever they wanted and it was amazing! At least, that’s what I figured.
Fast forward a few years, and I have had the opportunity to meet, get to know and become friends with the tech director at that church. And it turns out my impressions were slightly…off. Yes, it is a great place to work, and yes they have resources. But I learned they struggle with many of the same things I struggle with. Only their problems have more zeros on the end.
It’s easy for those of us in small to mid-sized churches to look with envy at our brothers and sisters serving in larger (or just other) churches. We may think they have it all together, that problems never befall them, and they have unlimited support of leadership to do whatever they want. I can tell you this is not always the case.
I am at a much larger church today than I was four years ago. My budget is bigger, and we have many more resources. And I still have volunteers that don’t show up. I still have to lobby and sometimes fight for the funds to upgrade equipment. I still get told to turn it down when we mix “too loud.”
For much of my professional church tech career, I’ve wanted to move up to a larger, more “successful” church, thinking that would finally free me up to do what I’m called to do. Yet every time I’ve moved up the ladder, I learn the same problems (or sometimes different ones) continue. And when I talk to my friends at the bigger-still churches, they tell me stories that make my problems seem small and insignificant.
Which is not to say that working at a large church is bad. In fact, it can be a lot of fun, rewarding, challenging and exciting. But so is working at a small church. I know—I’ve done both. It’s easy to think that moving on to another situation will be better, when in fact, it will simply be different. Sometimes better, sometimes harder.
What I’ve learned over the last few years is that I can determine how I approach my job each day. Will I start each day frustrated by the lack of money, gear and support, or grateful for what we do have? Will I continually scan Church Staffing looking for that “ideal” gig or pour into my volunteers? Will I grumble about my boss behind his back or sit down and have a conversation?
More than our situation, we create our own attitude. If you’re struggling with something, know that the guy at the bigger church down the street probably is, too. And instead of being envious, perhaps you should grab lunch with him and encourage each other. We all have a lot we can learn from one another; how much better to build one another up than be bitter with envy? Just a thought.