In the past week I’ve spoken personally with at least five men — good men who work hard — about their jobs. That doesn’t seem like a lot, given that many more than a handful of conversations take place in a given week. Yet, as the lead pastor of a church plant with about twenty-five adults these days, sitting down to talk with just about half the men in a congregation is significant.
These men have confided in me many of their hopes, dreams, fears, longings, frustrations, and prayers about what it means personally for them to be men at work. Some are at a crossroads in their career path, while others are seeking additional schooling and training to go further in their career or launch into a new field. While each situation is unique, there are some common threads:
- Men wonder if their work matters;
- they wonder if they’re in the “right” job, working for the best company or for the best cause;
- they feel unsupported and lack the tools to get all the work that’s expected of them;
- they find that few of their “higher-ups” adequately model a work-life balance they want to emulate, so if one wants to advance it’s implied families are sacrificed on the altar of the company;
- some men feel more confident and “appreciated” at work, so they might linger there rather than hurry home to do things they don’t know how to do (like be a present father);
- they feel guilty for working long hours (especially as overtime-exempt salaried workers);
- they don’t see their workplace as a “mission field” very often, and when they do there’s a lack of confidence and drive to act like a “missionary” in the workplace; and
- they wrestle with whether their job does more than merely provide for the material needs of their families.
What surprises to me is that these men would look to their pastor for wisdom and encouragement. That shouldn’t surprise me, except for two observations:
- Pastors are not known for their hard working ways. (There are many lazy pastors.)
- Pastors tend to be aloof, and don’t often show they care about supporting men in their work. (In the U.S., we pastors tend to lead people in such a way that they think that the work of a pastor is more important than the “secular” job others have. We can teach people Romans 12:3, but can we live it? Several men tell me that only recently did they feel that a pastor wanted more for them than from them.)
(Side note to pastors: Do we communicate to people that their “job” is to come support us in the good work we are doing for God? We might want to rethink that in light of the Gospel. And Common Grace.)
Of course, I write this as a pastor, realizing recently that over the last decade slightly more than half of my career has been invested as a full-time (and paid) pastor, and the other half was in construction management. While much of that time paid for seminary, it was in many ways more valuable than seminary in preparing me for what people face day in and day out. In other words, my own circuitous route to being a pastor was the best thing possible for actually being a pastor.
In the coming few weeks I’d like to post some quotes and thoughts on what it means to think deeply about our work. While I won’t attempt to tie together all possible lose ends, I hope the observations, principles, and questions inspire each of us to find meaning in our week, because we serve Jesus in our jobs as we contribute to the greater good in a broken and hurting world.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”
Image credit: Théolego on Flickr