Can You Worship At Work?

Courtesy of janetmck/Creative Commons License

I was once at a gathering of youth ministers and the question was asked,

How many of you go to church when on vacation?”  

Out of the dozens of us who were there, only 4 hands were raised.  I was a little shocked because it never crossed my mind to take a break from church when on vacation.  Maybe it’s my Catholicism, maybe it’s a tradition ingrained into me by my parents; however, the more I began to think about the question I began to see a different one emerge.
I’m not sure how you would answer the question and for those of you who would say, “Of course I would go, we have to?” I would challenge you to think about what goes through your mind when you walk into a different church.  I’m willing to bet that you go into analysis mode.  You begin to think about the other church’s choices regarding music, message, and hospitality.  You cringe when thing aren’t the way you like them and begin the comparison game.  It almost feels like that you are still working even though you are on vacation.  The question is no longer about whether or not you should go and worship while away from work but:
Can I Separate Worship And Work?
The answer is yes.  Might not feel like it, in fact I know personally there are three areas that I struggle the most when it comes to being spiritually fed.  The reason I struggle is because I go from focused on God to focusing on what I need to do to bring other’s closer to Him.  Those areas are:

  • Scripture: I’ll start off reading the Bible for myself only to discover that I think about, “How great would this be for a message series.”
  • Ministry: Whether it’s leading my boys small group or mentoring a teen it’s easy to start thinking, “Would I do this if I weren’t paid?” 
  • Worship: It’s like a film director seeing his own mistakes.  You cringe over a mishap and worry over execution.  Your focused too much on the product and not enough on God.

Maybe you don’t struggle in those areas; yet, you feel like you are constantly pouring out and never being filled.  If this is happening to you, you should:

  • Seek Direction: Just as you are pouring into people each week, you need someone pouring into you.  You need someone who is going to give you resources and pray with you.  This can be found in another youth minister or a spiritual (or pastoral) director.  Find someone removed from your day to day operations.
  • Go Outside The Church: There was a season where I was a part of a men’s small group at another church.  Knowing that I could enter not as a church employee; but, just as a guy allowed me to grow.  The same has happened recently in ministry.  As much as I love serving the teens in my church I found that I needed another outlet of service.  Right now I’m serving as a mentor in prison ministry, this change of scenery has helped me refuel and approach my job in a new light.
  • Take A Break: Sometimes you just need to take a break.  Whether it’s from the corporate worship setting, or a night of ministry just take a step back and breathe.  You can’t worship if you are jaded, frustrated or burned out.  Sometimes we need to take a step back in order to take a step closer to God.

It’s not just about pouring yourself out until you are completely empty.  In fact we can do more damage when we are running on fumes.  Finding the separation between work in ministry and a personal relationship with God can be difficult; however, it is possible.  To truly engage and be filled in a corporate worship setting can be tough for the average youth minister; however, it’s possible.  As long as we admit that their is tension, that we need a break and we seek accountability, we should be able to go to church while on vacation and be filled.

How do you separate worship and work?