In March, 2015, I met with the priest of a small Episcopal church in our area about helping them out in the office while they sought a permanent office manager. A friend of mine who attends the church had told me they were “desperate” and though typically, that is never a word you should use to attract good candidates, I felt I could keep things afloat for two or three months max. Then I’d be done. Out of there. Sayonara. Adios.
The priest didn’t like my proposal. She either wanted me permanently or not at all, so I took the part-time position, though I continued to say “I’m not a long-term solution.” Yesterday, I officially hung up my role as “Church Lady,” more than two years later. I had tears in my eyes when I let the priest know I was leaving several weeks ago.
So why did I stay that long? Certainly, the paycheck of a part-timer at a small church is not your path to financial security, though I did enjoy the money. But work is so much more than money, isn’t it?
- I appreciated that I could step in and immediately help with organization, clearly one of my strengths, along with providing overall administrative support. I’d been there, done that, but from the other side of the desk.
- I loved that I learned new skills like web site management and bookkeeping. I’m not kidding you, I could step in and do the books for most small churches or organizations and this comes from someone who had to drop out of accounting in high school. I could also probably do basic website stuff, but those skills will soon be beyond. Bookkeeping principles are the same as when my grandfather was a CPA. Not so much with technology.
- I enjoyed the structure it gave my week, though that is probably the biggest reason I left. I’d been retired for four years and I’m ready to have total control over my schedule again.
- But most of all, I stayed because I valued that I was valued. Not just by the priest, but the parishioners I interfaced with throughout the week. Now that probably says something about me, but I have to tell you, it felt good having people thank me and tell me how much they appreciated what I was doing. It wasn’t all gooey and syrupy and I don’t think I typically need a lot of this. My primary career didn’t include much of it, so it was a nice “value-add” to doing the bulletins and paying the bills every week. It also made me feel incredibly guilty for not letting the people I worked with over the years know how much I valued them enough, but working for the church helped absolve some of that guilt. Just know that if you were ever part of a staff team or volunteer group I worked with, I did value your contributions even though I’m sure I fell short in expressing it.
In closing, I want to challenge you – consider whose service you value and why? We tip hairdressers and restaurant servers because it’s expected and the norm. But when will a simple “thank you, you’re doing a nice job” or “I appreciate what you’re doing” make them feel more valued? I know I’m already treating the grocery baggers better.