This time last year, I was working as a News/Sports Anchor at a local TV station, grinding out long hours and longing for a few days off over Christmas break. I loved my coworkers, but I did not love my workplace. Meetings felt like lashings. Encouragement was few and far between. If you were tired or stressed, it was seen as your problem and your weakness. You obviously weren’t tough enough to handle this job. Without any kind of support, I watched as coworker after coworker burned out. Some left the TV station, some left the TV business. All left wanting more out of their work and their workplace.
In March of this year, I moved back home to North Little Rock, AR and started working in Youth Ministry at my home church, Fellowship North. I’d worked here before, and maybe that had spoiled any chance of me enjoying work anywhere else. You see, here at my workplace, here at my church, we do things a little differently than we did in the corporate world.
– As soon as I arrive in the morning, I head down to my office and just sit (I know some of you do this too, constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure no one is watching you rest and get your bearings for the day, but I’m actually encouraged to do so). After a couple of minutes, I grab a book that I deem edifying and I spend 30 to 90 minutes in reading time. Sometimes it’s the Bible. Sometimes it’s Doug Fields’ “Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry”. Right now, it’s N.T. Wright’s “The Challenge of Jesus”. It’s always good, and it’s always just for me. This whole idea, this revolutionary concept of slowing down at the start of the day was surely something I conned off and sold my boss on, right? Nope. It was his dream.
– Once a week our entire staff meets together. But this is not the sit around a table and go down a checklist kind of meeting. This is a listen and encourage and hope and dream and PRAY and…support kind of meeting. It’s everything you could hope for in mandatory time with your coworkers. I wish every staff in every business could do this. And I’m not the only one. Gary Haugen, founder of the International Justice Mission, says his staff does this EVERY day, not out of desire, but out of need. He says we all should be involved in work that stretches us so much that we HAVE to come together to pray or else our work will not be done. Imagine my newsteam meeting together in the morning to pray for, or at least encourage, each other for just five minutes before running out the door to cover murders and fires and robberies. Imagine how that grind would feel like a grind worth doing.
– Sometimes my workplace does wonderful spontaneous things. Once we went over to a church family’s home out in the country and just hung out. No strings attached. Any workplace outing that eventually turns into some sort of square dancing thing with each other or playing a banjo and washtub/stick string instrument is fine by me.
Yesterday the staff receieved an email to “wear comfortable clothes” to our weekly meeting this morning. When we showed up at 9 am today, we were escorted into the foyer, where one of our dear employees laid yoga mats on the floor and left the lights down low. She then led us for 15-20 minutes in the sweetest, softest, strongest, collective-solitude you could imagine. Here I was doing some sort of circus balancing act next to an older man named Charlie, our church’s maintenance supervisor. This guy knows more about toolboxes than he’ll ever know about “tree positions”, but there the two of us stood in the dark, in our church lobby, our hands accidentally hitting each others as they swooped from the floor, to our left leg balancing on our right knee, to above our stretched-back shoulders, to the heavens above our heads. Here an entire staff reached out, listening to our instructor compare us all to “trees planted by streams of water.” Here I was breathing in and out. In and out. Slowing down. In and out. Just stopping. In and out. Simply praising.
Thanking God for a different kind of workplace. One that encourages us to be still and know each other and, even more, to know God. I wish you this kind of workplace. I pray you will experience this, just once.