By Jeremy Resmer | Senior Director of Projects Change takes place everywhere around us. Most changes are small and go unnoticed, but it’s the ones that directly affect us and force us to adjust our patterns or lifestyles that we most often grumble about and even resist. Some people don’t like change. I do.
I like to create routines and systems that make things work better. When situations change, I’m usually happy to adapt, especially if, in the long run, processes will work better. I’ve never had much difficulty transitioning between big companies, small businesses, ministry, or between diverse audiences and personalities. I’ve learned to handle different leadership styles, corporate procedures, and even major technology shifts and software implementations. In a weird way, I guess I sort of enjoy the newness and mental stimulation.
All that to say, generally, I embrace change, with one exception. And it’s a biggie. I haven’t figured out how to gracefully accept change when…it involves people. And especially in ministry when I’m working with a passionate, gifted team that relies on each other and elevates the mission and objectives of the organization above their own, it becomes even more difficult. You see, people matter more than work. In other words, people should always come before projects. In fact, I go so far to say that people are the projects. I’m sure some people probably disagree with me.
Think about it for a second. If you work for a company that develops products and services, who is creating those products and services? People. And who are those products and services ultimately designed to help? People. So people create products and services for the benefit of other people. Simple enough.
Often times, ministry is the same way. Religious organizations and NGOs focus their efforts on ways to create programs, fundraise, drill wells, build churches, and accomplish other various projects on behalf of others. Sometimes, we develop incredible, lifelong relationships with the people we work with and serve. Other times, we become so focused on our work and getting projects done that we forget about the people and steamroll those in our way. Of course, none of us intend to do this but sometimes it happens.
No matter how these relationships develop and grow, one thing is inevitable. People will eventually leave your organization or ministry. I don’t know why, but for some reason, this always seems to impact me in profound ways and tends to leave a void, at least for a short while. When you’re working together, especially in ministry, and you’re truly united in vision and purpose while serving the Lord, there’s just something different. I can’t really explain it but there’s not the same me versus him and us versus them mentality commonly found in for-profit companies. If you’ve ever worked in ministry before, you can probably relate when I say that you’re seldom competing with someone else for a promotion or raise. Most ministries operate on a shoestring budget and always seem to be scrounging for a few extra dollars. The fact is, if you get a promotion that comes with additional responsibility, that does not guarantee an increase in compensation. Only in ministry! That’s understandable though as serving God should never be about the money. However, the relationships are where it’s at in ministry (or at least they should be). Relationships tend to be stronger and deeper with the common goal of working for God and serving one another. It can be a beautiful thing.
What I struggle to get over is when…
- Someone with whom I’ve worked closely, visited, and laughed with departs the mission field, due to the ups and downs of living abroad.
- Someone steps away from the ministry because, despite her best efforts, she was unable to raise enough support to keep going.
- Another opportunity comes along that is better suited to his passions and strengths.
- Someone decides to move on because this season of her life is over and maybe it’s just time for a change.
- A coworker is let go for various reasons that may arise.
It doesn’t really matter what the reason, losing a co-worker stings. And even though it might be for different reasons, people matter, so when they leave they are missed. In these moments, I ask God, “Why?” Maybe it’s because I feel like there’s something I could have done or said to help, something that could have made a difference. Most likely not. But just like everything else around us, these personnel changes are inevitable. And yet, they continue to impact me.
Putting these thoughts on paper has helped me realized how many times I have failed to take advantage of the opportunity to be more relational or spent enough time really getting to know my co-workers outside of just work or ministry. Maybe that’s why I feel the void, the emptiness. I’m now more convinced than ever that my personal motto should always be: People Before Projects; Relationships Before Work. We have but a few key moments and opportunities to really encourage and enjoy one another while we’re still working together.
So here’s my takeaway — during this season of your life, make every moment that you have with your team count. And if you can put your work down for long enough, maybe you can really get to know them.
Ecclesiastes 3: A Time For Everything has encouraged me to embrace every season of life and 1 Corinthians 13:2 has helped remind me to do all things with love.