5 Surprises About Transitioning To A Church Staff From The Corporate World


Leaving your job in the corporate realm to pursue a calling to ministry can be a very exciting and fulfilling time. However, while working in a church is rewarding, you’d be surprised to know the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the proverbial fence.

Churches, like secular corporations, face many of the same workplace challenges. If you are considering a transition from the corporate world to a church job, here are some things that might surprise you about working in a church setting.

1. Churches can be more like businesses than you think.

Many people come to church on Sunday morning for an hour or two, fill their cup with Biblical knowledge and inspiration, and then leave. But the reality is, a church is an organization that operates seven days a week. It has to take into account expenses, revenue streams, budget forecasts, budget shortfalls, overhead costs, etc., just like a business does. This means if you work on the business side of things at a church as the CFO or Executive Pastor, your work will not be that different day-to-day than the work you were doing in a corporate job.

However, the beauty of the business side of church is that you are doing your work to further God’s kingdom. Without systems and organizationally-minded people, churches can struggle to run smoothly or grow healthily.

2. There can be drama, even on church staffs.

Are you leaving your job in corporate America because you are tired of all the bickering, drama, and politics that goes on in your workplace? The truth is, people don’t always see eye-to-eye in the church setting either. Different ministries may disagree on budget allocations, the best use of the facilities, or even which ministry gets priority when there is a scheduling conflict. Church staff meetings can be as heated as corporate ones despite everyone having the common goal of reaching as many people for the Kingdom of God as possible. Humans are humans, and unfortunately, drama still occurs on church staffs. Be prepared for this possibilty before you transition into ministry to avoid being disappointed.

Smart church leaders know how to resolve conflict and disagreements in a healthy, God-honoring way.

3. Long hours may still apply.

Do you feel over-worked and under-paid in the corporate realm? Prepare yourself: you'll likely still feel stretched in a church setting. Churches, by their nature, are typically in operation seven day a week. More importantly, many church team members are required to pitch in and be involved on Sunday mornings. If you felt your weekends were full of work before, they may be even more busy if you work in a church. Besides weekends, many churches have programming that takes place in the evening hours as well. If your job involves those programs, you might be needed to work well into the evenings on multiple nights. No one goes into ministry to coast or take it easy.

4. You will still be evaluated on your performance.

While God is King, especially in a church, healthy church staffs have a reporting structure to help develop their team members. You will have to report to someone, whether it be your supervisor, or in the case of a Senior Pastor, the congregation, Elder Board, or some other church governing body. You will be evaluated on your work and ability to meet your goals. Many churches use the same evaluation tools and techniques that corporate America uses now. Your salary, raises, and bonuses may be based on these evaluations much like it was in your corporate job. Your weaknesses and failings (along with your strengths and accomplishments) will be pointed out to you, and you will be expected to improve upon your performance year over year. 

However, the beauty of working in a healthy church staff setting is that your supervisors care about your spiritual growth as well as your performance, and have the vision of building the Kingdom as the end goal.

5. Things sometimes move slower in the church world.

If you are used to a fast-paced, corporate environment, the lack of speed by which some churches move may be surprising at first. Many churches do not communicate as consistently or move as quickly as businesses in the corporate environment because many churches are governed by lay leaders. Sometimes decisions have to be approved by the board or voted on by the church before action can be taken, or sometimes there is simply less man-power to get projects accomplished. Knowing this going in will help you to set realistic expectations.

This isn't always the case, as many church plants and fastest-growing churches move and shift extremely fast. As you're interviewing for potential church jobs, ask about the work pace of the organization to get a feel for organizational speed.

At the end of the day, the two worlds, corporate and ministry, can be more alike than you realize. There are so many wonderful reasons for entering the ministry world, and you’ll need to figure out what exactly your reasoning and calling is first. Otherwise, you might end up just as disappointed in your church job as you were in your corporate one.

What are some differences that you've noticed between the church world and the corporate world?

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