So today is my first full day in my new position.
(I actually started yesterday and, as my first official action, took care of locking the doors and turning off the sound system at the end of the evening. It showed the interesting and odd and fun nature of working in a church: on the first day you are trusted with locking up the facility.)
As I walked into the office today, there was no schedule. My position is still in the process of being formed. I needed to talk with a couple people about what they do, but they weren’t available until the afternoon. I’m starting to get to know people. I’m figuring out coffee and microwave and forms and … culture.
That’s the challenge of walking into someplace new. What is the culture? This is particularly true if you care at all about relationship or if what you are about IS relationship. What are the expectations? What are the boundaries? What are the things one never does? What are the things one always does? What kind of questions can you ask? What kinds of questions must never be asked? How much permission do you have to push back on ideas, on traditions, on how it’s always been done?
Complicating this search for many of us who start new positions is our background. We may have learned some lessons in our previous position about our own weaknesses, vulnerabilities, strengths, delights. We may walk in the door thinking, “I don’t want to fall into the trap of saying ‘I’ll do that’ to everything again.” And then we are quickly presented with the opportunity to have our identity be rooted in what we do, what we are willing to do, how we can prove our value to the organization.
Why is this process all so challenging for me this time? Why is a person who has started new jobs many times being so reflective about the process of starting a new job?
Because my new position is, at its core, about helping people become more like Jesus. And any process of growth or transformation or change which involves human beings must start be understanding who and how and where they are. Yes, you can tell people they have to change, but that often doesn’t work. What works far more permanently is starting with where people are, what they know, how they value, and then describing and explaining and modeling and living whatever the transformational process is.
And so I need to be mindful (and heartful) in this time of learning and listening and attending. I need to watch and pray. I need to be cautious of how often I say, “At ___ we did it this way.” I need to remember that my job is not making anyone better or like another church or more or less businesslike. My job is to help people become more like Jesus.
And looking in the mirror, that’s a challenging process to be in.