More than a web guy, a lesson for church staff

There are times when I realize that I’m not showing a ton of depth. Or maybe, it is that I get so pigeon-holed into being the person someone needs that I don’t get to exhibit depth.

I feel that way right now.

I’ve gotten ingrained here in San Diego as a social media geek. Within my world that may be true. But I recognize that within that skill is a tie to lifelong passion. But the passion itself is much more important than the method I’m trying to master. At work this is perfectly natural. I have no doubt that people there value me beyond my skills because I know that, in turn, I value their friendship beyond their skills or positions.

Let me restate what I’m saying. I care a lot about building community online. I care deeply about networking people and ideas. I have learned best practices, nuance, and supporting skills to make it easier to convey my passion in more effective ways. Ultimately, that’s a skill set that could be applied to a lot of genres and businesses. But my passion is for working with middle and high schoolers and encouraging/networking/sharing life with those who do the same thing.

Take the passion out of what I do and I don’t want to do it. I may be able to give some sage advice or share a few things about what works… but if you’re out there trying to network with me so I can help you build a social networking strategy, I’m probably not going to be that useful to you. I know you are just using me.

At the end of the day, I’m good at social media only because I care so much about the message I’m trying to convey.

The frustrating thing is that I think I am only interesting to some of the new people I’ve been getting to know in San Diego because of those auxiliary skills and not because of what I’m passionate about. It’s as if my only value is tied into some skills I’ve learned and that feels really, really shallow. It’s a slight that I see right through. Asking me about my kids or my hobbies to try to get me to share some tricks of the trade is lame. I don’t ever want to tie my value as a human being into the fact that I can build a website, or develop a brand, or tie that into a social media strategy. Lame. Lame. Lame!

I don’t think this is unlike people who become fake friends when you work at a church. You kind of know they are fake but you’re so desperate for friendship that a fake friend is better than no friend at all. When we worked at churches there were plenty of people who valued our friendship because of a socialogical positional thing. 24 months ago if I had written down a list of people who would be our friends if we stopped being their pastor and I would have have been 100% correct. Not to sound emo, but the shocking thing is how sincere people pretended to be all those years. You’d be surprised by how few people we hear from after nearly 10 years of full time ministry friendships. 10? 15? 20 tops.

For church staff, this is one shallow nature of relationship that makes the job so hard.

But, now that we aren’t there anymore we have no value to them and we’ll never hear from them again.

The flip side for church staff is simple. Open your lives up to those who are legitimately sincere in their friendship. Trust your gut. Just like Kristen and I have found real friendship over the years… a couple of bad apples shouldn’t catapult you into a life of keeping people at a distance.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.

9 comments

  1. I also think that there are numerous church attendees that are “leery” when a staff person wants to become friends.

    The church attendee believes (in some cases) that eventually, the “request” is going to come and they slide into a mentality ….

    Have you been working the “friend angle” to gain …..

  2. Jeff- I think that’s true as well. I always tried my best to be up front about my intentions. But there was ALWAYS that suspicion.

    Andy- Your “true statement” made my day!

  3. Hi Adam. I’ve worked in a lot of different circles, and I’m now a church youthworker, and in my experience it’s not just churches that this happens in.

    I’m sure that there is a difference between someone setting out to fake friendship and someone being friendly, and I sympathize that it might not always be easy to spot. How good are you at reading people’s intentions? When do you feel that common courtesy ends, and ingratiation begins?

    ED…

    PS – loved those angel wings in the podcast the other week.

  4. Ed- not sure if you are directing those questions at me or not. Those are definitely worth exploring.

    Thanks for the love on the angels wings. I think they are a natural fit.

  5. Hi Adam – and yes – I was rather directing them at you. I was just wondering if your “gut feeling” was a reliable guide? My own internal compass isn’t as finely tuned as it might be, you see. Was that rude? If it was, I apologise. Was your halo at the dry cleaners?

    Kind regards,
    ED…

  6. adam,

    first of all great post on interpersonal relationships in the context of church relationships.

    do you think relationships are seasonal?

    As a youth pastor who has minister in two church settings, i sometimes feel guilty that i am not constantly talking and communicating with my old students like i was when i was working with them. it is my worry that they view me as a fake pastor because our relationship was intense and some what intimate in that season and now since i got the next big youth ministry church gig, they may think i simply just forget about them.

    thankfully for facebook, i have been extremely intentional with at least writing on their wall or iming them.

    sorry that turned into more of a confession than a comment. thanks. how much do i owe you?

  7. Ed- my gut feeling is typically right. Having Kristen helps as she is a 3rd person perspective. Actually, one of the signs of a “using me” friendship as opposed to a “really wanna be friends” friendship is an interest in Kristen. Not interested… you’re just using me. You can’t really know anything about me if you’ve not met my wife!

    Like I said in the post, I think I’m pretty good at sniffing it out. Some relationships start as ingratiation and then develop over time. But, I think when you’re in the moment, you can sniff it out.

    Zach- Facebook is amazing for keeping up with former students! It’s an easy way to remove yourself from the politics of the church too… you’re not showing up on a Sunday morning to say hi. You’re just transitioning that relationship and keeping up. I do think that if you’ve been released from a church (either you quit or you were asked to leave) that you’ve been released from those relationships too. Kristen and I make small efforts to keep friendships alive… it’s really a test to finally determine one way or the other!

    And confessions are allowed. My post was certainly one.

  8. Being sincere leaves a lot of room for vulnerability and hurt but is worth it but only as time progresses. A relationship is something built over time.

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