Remember Y2K? The greatest anti-climactic disaster of the last century? A few days after 2000 started, the pundits started wondering what the big deal was since everything (for the most part) worked and the world didn’t disappear into a nuclear meltdown.
(If you weren’t in the IT field during that time you’d never know the tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work needed to get to reach the goal of things not descending into chaos.)
During my 25 years in my IT career, with the last 10 being in IT management, I never failed to be amazed at the utter lack of technical knowledge or curiosity about how complex systems were to develop and maintain. While the IT department had to learn to speak business, business people never felt the need to learn to speak technical.
In the same vein, those of us in the technical ministry have to understand the pastoral or business ministries, but very rarely does the pastoral or business ministries ever have the curiosity or desire to understand the effort that goes into making a service a technically stress-free environment.
At the same time, it’s easy to feel taken for granted and under-appreciated. Our role is and always will be, to operate in the shadows. If we do our job the way we’re supposed to, no one will ever know that we’re there.
Sometimes, you are assigned other duties that have nothing to do with your gifting or your tech ministry. Sometimes you get feeling so taken for granted and un-appreciated for your contribution to the service you start getting disgruntled and feeling burnt out.
What do you do?
What can you do?
I’ve been there.
As a matter of fact, I was just there and I got out.
My full-time position is being the business and technology manager for our district. On one hand, I handle the business end of the district. On the other hand, I function as a traveling Technical Director to all of our 40 churches. I assist them with all aspects of technology as well as train tech teams and, sometimes, function as the mediator between warring worship and tech teams.
My part-time paid position is the “technical director” at my church. I work a full 40-60 hours at the district and another bunch of hours for Saturday and Sunday morning services. I haven’t had a day off for over a year-and-a-half with the exception of 2 weeks of vacation.
I’ve vastly improved the tech ministry at the church since I started. Pretty much redid most of the equipment, rebuilt the tech team, advanced the production values. Even though I was part-time, I probably put in an equivalent amount of time on a volunteer basis.
During the last 6 months, I also had an additional job of functioning as the design/build project manager for our summer camp’s new center. I designed, developed and implemented a complete audio/video/presentation/lighting system with a $150,000 budget. It’s been a true highlight of my career and garnered rave reviews from everyone at the camp.
I do good work. I take pride in being in the excellence-is-expected zone. For the size church I’m at, I’m really overqualified but my family likes the church and it’s been fun and besides, it was nice of them to bring me on part-time when they knew that I needed some extra cash due to unexpected medical expenses.
But, I started to feel that I was being taken for granted. At first it was the pastor asking me to help his wife in the greeting/hospitality ministry every once in a while if she was sick. Then it became more and more until it got to the point where I wasn’t in the tech booth anymore but standing playing greeter/hospitality coordinator.
I don’t mind helping out. I’ll chip in whenever and wherever I’m needed. But, this was taking me far away from my gifting and my ministry. I decided to talk to the pastor who listened and did nothing. His rationale is because nothing is going wrong with the technical side of the service there’s no need for me to be in the booth watching over the team.
He doesn’t, and doesn’t want to, understand that the only way technology stays in check is because people like me pay attention to the little things and have thought through multiple emergency scenarios so that things don’t go wrong (at least as far as the congregation knows).
So I prayed on it for about a month. Everything led me to realize that I could either stay and keep on getting frustrated, mad, and burnt-out or I could bite the bullet and resign. I chose to resign.
I also chose to back away from the tech ministry for about 3 months to give myself time to get my head and heart straightened out. For the first time in over a year we didn’t go to church this weekend. It felt great to not leave the church.
We’re still members and we’re still planning on attending. The parting was amicable and the pastor thanked me for all the excellent work I had done in the technical ministry. Wish he had a clue about the work that was involved and why I needed to stay in the booth to maintain that level while I still worked there.
So now, I’m trusting in God to show me the way. Does He want me to stay here or does He have another church that needs someone like me and appreciates the effort required to maintain a state of excellence in the technical ministry? I don’t know, but I know that I did the right thing and left instead of staying and getting more bitter.
How about you? Have you felt taken for granted and/or under-appreciated? What did you do?