The church can be a complicated place to be when all is not well in your life.

As much as it should be the opposite, too often, it seems, the wounded people sitting in their own chairs can get lost in the shuffle of the emphasis on programming and ministries.

When I started my job at a large church several years ago, I realized how easy it was to fall into that same trap.

With a tremendous number of people under me, a lot to supervise and juggle each week, and filling the shoes of someone who had a very different temperament than I had, I constantly left feeling drained.  It was only a couple of weeks into the job before I felt more like a firefighter or drive-thru window person than someone who was in full-time ministry, and I certainly didn’t feel like I was being “me.”

I spent a lot of time in prayer, unsure of what to do and how to both do the job well but also be true to who God had wired me to be.

God convicted me that He had called me to that job – to that ministry – and that He knew I wasn’t my predecessor or my much more extroverted co-workers and that I was who He placed there for a reason.

That next week, I did everything differently.  When someone’s, “I’m fine” seemed to be a ‘church answer’ and her eyes said what her words didn’t, I pulled up a chair, making sure she knew she was my priority, looked her in the eyes and tried again.  “How are you really doing?”

One tearful conversation, time of prayer, and hug later, it was as if a switch had been flipped for the duration of my time there.  I started being me and the dynamic with all those who served in the ministry changed.  Someone slowing down long enough to show that they really cared, following up on things they expressed concern about – whether in their own lives or the ministry – and striving to truly support, encourage, and empower them to do what God had called them to do changed everything.

Even if it wasn’t “convenient” or didn’t “fit in the schedule” or there were other things that “needed” to be done, I was determined to demonstrate compassion, both because that’s how God’s wired me – but more than that, because it’s what I believe He calls us as believers to do.

Years later, I ended up experiencing the what-happens-when-programs-and-principle-take-priority phenomenon first hand.  And maybe, just maybe, the sting is a little more bittersweet as a result.