Top 10 Reasons People QuitBy: hawkgrrrl
I recently read a list of the top ten reasons why you should consider quitting your job. I thought the article about reasons to quit your job had some relevant parallels to what I hear from people throughout various internet sites who struggle with a faith crisis or otherwise consider leaving the church.
First of all, I’ve heard the complaint that the church can feel like a job that you pay instead of it paying you! It’s a funny line, but of course people find a way to balance the costs and benefits in their jobs and personal lives, and the same holds true in our church lives. That’s what makes this comparison so apt.
Before I get to the list, I should quickly caveat that certain aspects of how we view our work and church lives need to be reframed to make them equivalent. For example:
- Pay & Benefits. In a job we are paid in salary and monetary benefits – it is directly tied to our financial support, and without an income, we have no means to survive. Obviously pay is not a factor in the church as we have no local paid clergy. This is not how church works, although there are financial benefits to those on church welfare (and a few people I’ve known have used church solely as a means to access this at a specific point in their lives). Another potential financial benefit is access to low tuition college education at BYU. But most people aren’t in the church for the money; however, most people don’t quit their jobs solely for financial reasons either.
- Soft Benefits. At our jobs, we also get soft pay in things like social belonging, accept to a support network, personal development, acceptance and a sense of achievement, mental stimulation, etc. These soft benefits are of a similar type in both organizations.
- Personal Investment. We invest our time, energy, emotions, and lives in our jobs. In some jobs, we invest financially in the form of education, certifications, clothing, commuting, or partnerships. In the church, we invest the same types of things as well as (specifically) our tithing donations.
What’s harder to quantify and compare are the “eternal” or “spiritual” benefits of church membership. It’s difficult to discuss these in a way that is universally appealing because there is a psychological component involved. Some people talk about the “hard” benefits to church membership in the form of ordinances (admittance to the temple, taking the sacrament) but I prefer to frame those in terms of what they signify to people: God’s love, personal satisfaction, a belief in an eternal reward, a feeling your life has purpose and direction, a striving toward the divine, alignment with your values or principles. Sometimes they grow to signify something negative as well (e.g. feeling your needs are not understood or met, feeling controlled, questioning arbitrary rules, distaste for Pharisaical behaviour), and whatever they signify to us is a reflection of our inner state.
Lastly, if I were talking to a friend about whether they should quit their job, these are the types of questions I would ask them. These questions extend nicely to considering exiting the church:
- Is it better somewhere else?
- Is what you’re experiencing a permanent, inherent issue or temporary?
- Can you make or negotiate changes that reduce the pain points?
- Are you reading the situation accurately?
- Company is not solvent or growing. Many are convinced that the church needs to be growing at a high rate constantly or it’s not what it claims. When they see that 14 million includes inactives and that growth rates are not as high as in the boom years, they conclude that it’s in a downward spiral caused by more open access to damaging information on the internet.
- Your relationship with your boss is damaged beyond repair. Sometimes either you or your bishop have said or done something the other doesn’t like. Even without any specific clash, you may have a personality conflict. On the upside, the problem is temporary as bishops have a 5 year shelf life. But it can be a long 5 years, even if you wait it out in inactivity (as some do).
- Your family or personal situation has changed, and the job no longer meets or supports your needs. At a job, the first step is always to renegotiate things as life circumstances change, and at church, the same applies. You start with setting your own personal boundaries, putting your family first, and making sure you can meet your personal obligations before you meet the time and energy commitments the organization requests. The key is to avoid becoming resentful. Unlike your boss, the church won’t fire you for dialing back on your time commitments. At worst, you’ll irritate a few people who forget it’s a volunteer organization.
- Your values are at odd with the organization. In a work context, it could be that you are selling a product you don’t believe it or that you think is harmful or that your job requires you to do things that you don’t feel good about. This kind of situation sucks your soul. Prop 8 was this kind of issue for many members. Between one’s values and an organization, one’s own values will always win out in the long run. It’s important to remember that religions have many values, some of which are conflicting. Although a vocal minority may dogmatically insist the values are their own, that doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence to the contrary from authoritative sources. And organization values have a tendency to change over time; organizational “values” are contextual and sometimes timebound.
- You’ve stopped enjoying it, having fun; you dread going to work. I’d ask:
- What changed? Is it a local issue? Is it temporary? Did you change or did the people around you change?
- Can you take a break? At work we take a break by going on vacation, taking a sabbatical, changing roles or taking a temporary assignment. Would getting away or changing what you do for a while change your experience?
- Is it more fun elsewhere? If you are an accountant who hates accounting, switching accounting firms probably won’t help.
- Your company has ethical issues. For many Catholics, the coverup of the sex scandals was this kind of issue. For some, whitewashing of church history has spun into this. Even the lack of ownership on the Priesthood Ban has caused some to question the church’s ethics. In every company, someone somewhere has done something unethical. Personally, I would want to know that the organization doesn’t reward unethical behaviour and that works to eliminate it when it happens.
- You’ve lost your reputation. In a work setting, this is a tough one because a change in assignment can sometimes clear it up, and the emotions of the moment may rule. In a church setting, this may be what people mean when they say someone left because they were offended. Maybe they felt disparaged at church. Changing wards is often the best recourse if at all practical.
- You’ve burned bridges with your colleagues. From a church angle, I suppose the only comparison would be if people in your ward are gossipy or you otherwise have a toxic relationship with your ward. Again, it might be best to change wards.
- Your stress levels are affecting your health. I only encountered this one time in my church life – when I was running a nursery of 19 kids and my helpers were unreliable. I didn’t consider quitting the church, but I did experience my first ever migraine, which was trippy and frightening. I lobbied hard for more reliable helpers, and help was slow to come. A ward split and some good help made all the difference. For some, church itself is hard. Unappealing doctrines, cultural norms, and family patterns can all impact stress levels in the church. We can’t often know what bothers others. For example, a member may make a judgmental comment in Sunday School about homosexuals. Obviously, they are in the wrong, and most members would realize the comment was uncharitable. But if you are sitting there and you are gay or have a gay family member, your stress could go up. Church may feel like a toxic environment that causes you pain.
- You aren’t challenged enough, stimulated enough, or you can’t grow. The aspect of this reason that makes me nervous is that it assumes that development is something that happens to us rather than a quest from within; however, it’s certainly true that environments can limit our growth or stand in the way of our development. And you also need to strike a delicate balance between acceptance and belonging (without getting complacent) and being challenged and provoked (without becoming irritated or feeling pushed). When that balance is off, neither work nor church feels right.
While some of the items on this list were not as good a fit (#2, #7, #8), others sound eerily similar to reasons I’ve heard that people quit the church, either permanently (even the term “letter of resignation” sounds corporate, no?) or temporarily through inactivity.
- Do any of these reasons resonate particularly well for you?
- Does the advice help? Why or why not?
- Do these scenarios help you think about both your work life and your church life?
- Is there similarity between our work lives and our church lives because it’s a corporate church or because it’s a lay clergy or is it just because it’s a human organization?