Saturday, November 07, 2009

Le Sigh...

...Having a bad day.

I overslept today. Well, had it been a normal Saturday, I got up at the very reasonable hour of 9 a.m. However, I was supposed to be in a meeting in Mandeville, about an hour and 15 minutes away, that started at...9 a.m. I could have rushed and been only an hour and a half late, I suppose, but instead, I took my time and lazed. By the time I got to Mandeville, it was 12:30, and the meeting ended at 2. Oh, well.

I'm not broken up about not making it, as you can maybe tell...though I do feel a little bit guilty. It was a planning meeting for a junior high event for the Louisiana side of our synod. I wasn't terribly invested in the thing to begin with because the Baton Rouge congregations have literally no junior high students. I also wasn't terribly excited about the fundamentalist bent the thing seemed to be taking - the congregation that is hosting is probably the most conservative on our side of the synod when it comes to both theology, spirituality, and morality. And honestly, I was just tired of church stuff.

I wish someone had taught me to say no to clergy when I was a kid. I feel like I'm incapable of it now as a result. And that makes me sad and stressed. I end up with more on my plate than I can handle with a more-than-full-time job, and when that happens my brain and my body just want to shut down and give up on it all. And that isn't healthy, either.

And somehow or another, people have decided that I am the only person capable of doing anything with or even talking to our youth. That really ticks me off. If I were a paid staff person, things might be different (though I am doing the work of a paid, part time staffer now - I'm just paying for the privledge, instead of the other way around...more on that in a minute). But I'm not. I work a full-time job outside of church. I am not retired. I do not own my own business where I can make my own schedule. I can't be at the beck and call of whoever needs me whenever they need me. I just can't do it.

What prompted this reaction right now? The pastor sent me newsletter stuff on Wednesday of this week. I should have gotten it on the previous Monday. And when she sent it, she said, "I want the completed newsletter back this evening." I was ticked. I'm not an employee - I'm a volunteer doing the secretary's job out of the goodness of my heart because the secretary is a temp, and they don't want to pay for her to learn Publisher, or pay the agency extra to get someone who knows publisher. The pastor says I can give up on the newsletter "if" I give up a whole day of work to come in to teach the secretary Publisher. I don't have the time or the desire to waste one of my vacation days on that.

I still haven't done the newsletter, by the way. That is ostesibly one of the reasons I'm at CC's right now. It is going to be very, very simple this month, and I don't care.

Oh, and the other thing that ticks me off is that I got a little bit of a lecture because I am on council and I am behind on my pledge for this year. You know why I am behind on my pledge? Because I spent about $500 of my own money on the youth gathering this summer. Oh, and I spent about $30 to replace the sports equipment that got lost during daycamp. Plus about $75 to replenish the activity bags we have for the little ones. And $100 for the desserts for the first faith formation meeting (that the pastor invited another committee to, too). Not to mention $13 every week to buy donuts for the high school students and about $20 a week in craft supplies for my own class. That is why I am behind on my pledge.

I've decided that I'm not filling out a pledge card this year. Whatever I give will just be a bonus, I guess.

Am I being passive-agressive? Yeah, a little. And I hate that about myself (hence my, "I am a bad, bad person" status update on Facebook earlier this week, prompted by ignoring two phone calls from the church).

But you know what I really think? I think churches have to stop doing things like this.

I think sometimes pastors and staff people and committee chairs see people who are generally enthusiastic and spiritual and compliant, and they paint an invisible target on their foreheads. They go to those folks because they know that they are genetically incapable of saying "no." And they burn them out and frustrate them and make them never want to do anything ever again. Which is how I feel right now. Tomorrow, I want to just sleep in, skip teaching Sunday school, skip worship, and watch "Meet the Press" followed by a Doctor Who marathon or something.

But I won't. I'll let this resentment I'm feeling fester until the next time I dump it all on the internet for all the world to see. I don't think this is what God had in mind somehow.

Tune in tomorrow when I share with you the...fascinating insights...I heard on Jimmy Swaggart's radio station last night. Don't ask why I was listening, because I have no idea.


LutherPunk said...

So much to say here, because you have said so much about the nature of the church and why it drives people away. Even as a pastor, there are days when I would be more content in my deer stand on Fall Sunday mornings than at church.

I would say a couple of things that you need to do. You need to make someone aware that you are spending $20 per week in supplies for your class. If you are, chances are others are doing the same as well. This is a problem that perpetuates itself because the budget is never made to reflect that actual needs. Thus you end up with people spending money year in and year out and growing resentful, just like you are. That should come from budgeted money, not from your own pocket.

When it comes to replacing equipment for the church, ask for a tax receipt so that you have proper tax records and the church has a record of your giving.

As far as the gathering goes, the last two churches I have served have been expected to pick up the vast majority of costs related to be a chaperone on trips. You should not spend $500 if you are essentially working AND taking time off from your job.

Sadly it sounds like your pastor may have boundary issues if she is speaking to you as an employee rather than as a person who has volunteered to do a task. It will be up to you to draw those boundaries for her. You need to be clear with her about what your own time limitations are. If it takes you three days to get the layout done, tell her so and be clear. That way when she gives you stuff two days late you can tell her when she can expect to receive it back.

And you are right, there are some churches that will target people who have a hard time saying no. It is unfortunate because it can turn into taking advantage of folks. My advice: learn to say no even if it means practicing it in the mirror. God still loves those people who say no!As St. Augustine once said, you can't really learn to love God until you have learned to love yourself.

tomzgrrl said...

Quickly because I have to take The Dictator to school and I might forget to get back to this -- THIS is so true, this post. Why I quit the Finance Council before I was tempted to leave my church forever. However, I see it's the same everywhere. I erased the invisible target on my forehead and replaced it with a not-so-invisible "Oh, HELL NO!" and the pastor got my point. After he started talking to me again -- that took 6 months. Stay strong and definitely tell them what you're spending -- it's not right at all for them to expect you to foot the bill for all of this AND THEN nag about your offering.