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  • Writer's pictureAlice J Stewart

From Employee to Boss: You're Called

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Main Idea: We have responsibility - now let's step into our power.


When I was 16, I got my first job. I experienced a hard time entering the world of work. I didn't know how to get a job, and I didn't know how to behave once I was there. I didn't have many mentors in the world of work. At first, I thought I was expected to know already how to do the job and to follow orders.

My family and my schooling didn't help much as I entered the world of work. When I was a teenager, I was afraid of angering authorities and fearful of losing the job. I quickly learned how to be a decent employee, but it was a bit different than relating to teachers in high school or parents at home. Even as a young adult, I could feel my survival threatened and feel devalued if I got into a conflict with a boss.

And just being a good employee is not enough in the world of work. We must learn to be good leaders and managers as well. We must move beyond the need for a boss and learn to take up our power while working collaboratively with others who are in power.

This is a transition we all face, and there is precious little help out there. Likewise, church congregations have the same problem.

We expect congregations to be responsible for things. It takes ongoing education to get this across to congregations as a whole. Often, only a small handful of lay people grasp the depth of responsibility congregations genuinely have. This results in lay leaders burning out sometimes.

And then there is the problem of training and support for lay leaders and congregations as we take up those responsibilities. Oh, sure, there are some resources out there, but they're poorly deployed and insufficient.

Unless a denomination has access to real professionals willing to volunteer their time and energy, the Church pays so little that real professionals rarely abandon their professions to work for the Church.

This results in a brain drain, and Church leadership ill-equipped to run a large organization well. I know a few bishops and clergy who answered God's call from a background of professional education and occupation, but they are the exception that proves the rule.

And, frankly, lay leaders and congregations don't "hear" ordained and denominational workers very well. They are heard and seen as "bosses" instead of "peers." And as someone who can fire them or restructure them. Congregations of lay people with a burden of responsibility for their church need far more effective training, empowerment, and transition tools than most denominations and clergy can give.

We expect congregations to understand their responsibilities to make decisions for their church - their small nonprofit business in some ways - and there are precious few actual tools and trainers to enable groups of Christians to do this. What resources are available are shoddy compared to those of successful businesses and professionals.

Why should the Church get sloppy seconds? Why should lay people be treated like employees when they are expected to be The Boss of their Business? Yes, many parishioners just want to be "employees." No, we cannot allow that to continue. That's the leadership we are here to provide. If we fail to deliver it, we reap failure.

I've made a conscious effort to learn how to be an employee, learn what a business is and how it operates, and then made considerable changes in myself, so now I take up ownership of businesses while not alienating everyone else.

This is huge, and virtually no one can do it. Not everyone has the nerve to get the education and experience and internal development required of a genuinely professional leader. And it is even more rare to find someone like me who can, in turn, train and coach and empower people from "employee" to "boss."

You, my fellow lay people, are in a peer relationship to the head of your denomination. You are equal to the Bishop if you have one. You are a peer. You have the same responsibility. More so, in fact.

Three things are required. First, you must accept that responsibility. Second, you must be equipped to deal with it. Third, you must be valued and honored as much or more than a Bishop. Your Baptismal Vows sign you up for this, and nothing and no one - not even your denominational leaders - can absolve you from it. You are called to take up these responsibilities despite the leadership you think you are "under."

Most don't know how.

I can help.

Let's begin the conversation. Today.


Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

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