“Within 12 months you are going to fire me.”
My boss looked up in surprise. I continued, “You will, unless we change things before then.”
It was the first week of January, 2011, and our first meeting of the year. We were both returning from our respective holiday vacations, and I had taken some time to evaluate what I was doing. What I saw was trouble on the horizon.
When I first started at First Orlando, the Media and Communications ministries were separate. A short time after I joined the staff, the Communications Pastor was called to another church, Leaving an opening. About six months and a lot of conversation later, we restructured the Media and Communications Ministry areas. it was loosely configured into three strands: creative, experiential, and informational. Experiential included the parts that dealt with the experience of ministry and extending the ministry experience outside the walls of the church. Informational covered the ways people learned about the various ministry opportunities of the church. Creative was concerned with creative a consistent look and feel for elements needed to service the experiential and informational aspects. Generally, media and tech fell into Experiential while Creative and Informational fell into communications. There was overlap, but generally that was true.
Fast forward 3 years. The structure was still in place, but had been weakened by a few rounds of layoffs. The recession hit central Florida pretty hard. Every ministry across the church was affected. I had lost four full time employees and seen two full time jobs converted to part time. It was apparent that we were not going to return to previous staffing levels. Things were fine for a while, mainly because everyone was reeling from the reductions. The support ministries I was overseeing did not have nearly the amount of workload we had previously seen. But I knew that as the economy rebounded, so would the amount of work required to support new ministry initiatives. In fact, it was already building. I could see the cracks starting to form.
The long and short of it was that the current structure would not withstand the coming onslaught of work. We would either need to shore it up with more staff (Which wasn’t going to happen) or change the structure. So, I began to have very frank discussions with my supervisor and the Strategic Team member over Human Resources and Personnel. These were not comfortable conversations. I have both a BS and an MA in media and communications related fields. I had been doing this work for a decade. I know how to do it, but I was watching myself start to fail in leading these ministries. Most people wouldn’t notice the mistakes and missed items, but I saw them. I figured that if I put in another 15-20 hours of work each week I could keep everything going. But at what cost to my family?
It is very frustrating to be hemmed in by circumstances beyond your control. I did not have the power to change most of those circumstances, but I could change something. So we talked, and prayed, and thought. A few weeks ago I told my boss that I did not want to wait until there was some sort of major failure or mistake. If we thought that the changes we had outlined were strategic for future success, we should initiate them now. A few days later one of the Communications team members took another job. I knew that if the structure were going to shift, the new supervisors should be the ones to fill the vacancy. So this became the catalyst to shift responsibilities.
After seven months of conversations, the shift happened in less than two weeks. Communications shifted to the Support Ministry limb of the staff tree (under Administration), with a couple small parts splitting off. Media and tech remained on the worship limb. I put in for new business cards without the word “Communications” on them. Basically, I’ve gone back to what I was originally hired to do.
It’s weird. I spent the better part of two days giving away significant job responsibilities.
I had to deal with some pride issues. Frankly, any time someone has responsibilities taken away from them, the assumption is that they were removed because the leader could no longer handle the duties. In this case, that is technically true. I was the one pointing that out. The person pushing this was me. Still, I can’t take five minutes to explain why this is a good idea to everyone. So I know that people will be filling in the holes with their own guesses. I had to shove that part of my pride down for the good of the organization.
People don’t understand it. If another person says that we are doing this so I can be in my “sweet spot” I may slap them. While I will have time to do things I have not been able to do for a few years, that wasn’t the primary reason for this. I like a lot of things about the work of communicating effectively.
I still have not completely comprehended the full impact of this change. I keep remembering things I won’t have to do anymore. I experienced much more frustration related to communications than media. For every time I heard a complaint about something tech related, I received 20 related to communications. Most people don’t assume they know how to run a sound board, but those same people communicate every single day. With tech, as long as you provide the microphone, screen or projector for their class, people are happy. In communications you get to explain why their class of 20 people doesn’t get top billing in publicity pieces.
So I should have more time. I can finally fix some things and develop some things in media ministry. I’d like to think I might work less, but things don’t normally go that way. Still, I will have more time to work on my own dreams, to develop my show ideas. I’ve just got to get adjusted to the new reality.