I never thought that I would one day end up working for a church. I’ve always liked going to church, I’ve always valued what churches do (both for their congregations and wider communities), but it never crossed my mind that I’d ever work for one – I’m just not that sort of person.
In fact, if I’m super honest, I’ve always felt a little bit on the edge of church culture. I don’t mean that I’ve never been welcomed or included, but I never felt like I was a proper “church girl”. I’m not super “nice” in the way that I think church girls are expected to be. Being on the welcome team is my personal idea of hell. I’ve been given strange looks when people realise how unromantic I am, or when I pull people up on gender stereotypes, and I get quite narky if someone asks me when I plan on having babies.
You’re right, I do sound lovely.
So when I sat in a church meeting, and heard about this new job, I didn’t think twice about it. As they went through the person specification, I mentally ticked off each thing on the list thinking, “Huh, I could do that. I could do that. I’ve done that loads of times” whilst at the same time thinking, “They’re never going to find someone who can do all this.” It wasn’t until months later, when I was chatting to one of the church staff about how they hadn’t found anyone yet, that it suddenly dawned on me: “I could actually do that.” (I like to think God leant down and yelled, “Finally” at that point.)
But it was still based on my qualifications. I could do the job, no problem, but when I went home and started making a pros and cons list – like the raging cool kid I am – one of my biggest reservations was that I couldn’t see how my personality was going to fit. Would I have to start smiling more? Would I have to dress less weird and hide my tattoos? Would I have to put the banter away and just talk about Jesus and the weather? I just wasn’t the sort of shiny-happy-person who ended up working for a church.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
For one thing, I had been going to church with all the people on staff for years, so even if I’d tried to do my best impression of a super nice church girl, I wouldn’t have pulled it off. But I knew from the beginning that if I tried to be anything less than myself, I wouldn’t last long in that job. On my first day I got stuck in and asked questions as though I’d been there for years (which someone actually commented on as unusual, but in a good way). I didn’t let “the way we do things around here” stop me from trying to change things. I discovered that, actually, banter abounds in most church offices.
And the longer I’ve been in this job – and as I generally get older – I’ve come to realise that I don’t need to change who I am, and it’s not just a list of abilities or qualifications that I bring to the table: who I am is what I bring to the table. The very fact that I’m not the “sort of person” to work for a church, that I’m not a stereotypical “church girl” (and, in truth, I don’t think anyone really is) is a good thing. It means that anyone else who feels a bit different can see me in the centre of things, and know that they have a right to be there too.
I bring a new perspective, a new energy, that no one else can bring. And everyone else brings their perspectives, their personalities, and throws it all into the melting pot. The best churches – the best families, communities, workplaces, you name it – are full of people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, relationship statuses, personality types etc. because everyone has something to give. Everyone has a story worth hearing, and the power to shape the world around them just by being the very person that they were made to be. You don’t need a long list of qualifications or skills or talents to validate your presence in the room. Who you are is what you bring, and no one brings it better than you.
In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, “I’m the only one of me. Baby, that’s the fun of me.”
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti