Today’s blog is a “venting” blog, but hang in there, I think it’s worth the read. Of course, if you’re one of the 3 people who actually reads this, it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot to you. But maybe you know someone you can forward it to.
So here’s the situation. I work as an IT consultant / network engineer for a tech company. We provide a wide variety of IT services to small businesses that cannot justify the cost of hiring their own IT network administrator.
One of the types of client that we have the least of is churches and small businesses running as a Christian ministry. (It could be a counseling service, a para-church Christian organization, or something like that.)
Here’s the reason why: Christian ministries and churches in general make for terrible IT clients. It’s not that we don’t want to service Christian ministries and churches, we’ll accept just about any type of client out there. But we’ve had to break relationships with Christian ministries because they (again, in general) are the worst type of client when it comes to paying their invoices, and are really difficult clients to deal with. Not that the IT side is too challenging or difficult for us, but that the people we have to relate to and work with are really difficult to work with.
Right now we have 2 Christian IT clients, (out of the several dozen clients that we service) and one of them is my church. I’m glad to say that as far as I know my church has been good at paying their bills, they haven’t complained about anything to us, things are going well. They are by far the exception to the rule in my experience. Perhaps it is because their IT provider is also one of their parishioners, and they don’t want to cause a rift in that relationship. This may be true, but I also know that they were very careful to relate well and did their best to be a good testimony to the previous IT provider as well. Like I said, the exception to the rule, in my experience.
Here’s a prime example. The other Christian ministry we have as a client is a return client that I went to see today. As typically happens during my visit, something unexpected came up. It’s IT, so it’s fairly common for unexpected issues to arise during a visit. This one happened to be the discovery that antivirus protection for their systems was not included in their contract, and thus changed the amount of money they would have to pay for our services. They had assumed that antivirus protection will be covered, but it isn’t. Nowhere in the contract does it state that antivirus is provided free of charge, it’s just an assumption they made.
Well the drama that ensued was . . . to be expected, actually. In fact, it fit very nicely into the bad experiences I’ve had with Christian ministries. Big dramatic sighs, several repeated complaints about the unexpected cost, etc. I finished my work and left the client as quickly as I could, promising to have one of my superiors call to resolve the situation, while still feeling like somehow it was supposed to be my fault that they had made a poor assumption and had not read their contract completely.
This may sound like a minor issue, and in fact it is. We had one Christian ministry client threaten to sue us a couple of years ago for not being able to rescue their data after a server crash when they were not getting good backups, and would not listen to us tell them they needed to replace their backup system because they were not getting good backups. That’s the level of experience we’ve had with Christian ministries.
I understand that small Christian ministries and churches are strapped for money. It’s almost the definition of Christian ministry in the world these days. Small Christian ministry / church = no money. I get that.
I also understand that people working for Christian ministries are often overworked and underpaid. Because money is so tight, and there is so much need and so much work to accomplish, workers are often stressed and stretched way farther than they should be. Trust me, I know. My wife is an elementary principal for a private Christian school. She works 60-80 hours a week and still has trouble figuring out how to get it all done and balance work and home life.
But when I left this client today, some Scriptures were running through my mind that I wanted to write on a sticky note and stick on her computer monitor:
Matthew 5:14 – “you are the light of the world”
I Thessalonians 5:16 – “be joyful always”
I Thessalonians 5:18 – “in everything give thanks”
Philippians 2:14 – “do all things without complaining”
I’m not perfect, I don’t have any of these commands down pat. I’m sure that I break them every day. And I realize the extent of God’s grace in my own life as a result of my own shortcomings. I don’t expect other people to have it all together and put together.
But when an outside vendor comes into your office, and the only thing that person hears and experiences is negativity and complaining, then they leave with a rather negative outlook on Christianity as a whole. The phrase that goes through their minds is “if that’s how Christians are, why would I want to be one?”
It’s a sad travesty to our testimony as Christians when we do such a poor job of portraying the grace and love that God has poured out on us. It’s also a terrible witness when we call vendors and complain about every invoice in order to try to get it reduced because we’re so strapped for cash.
Please, if you’re part of a Christian ministry, understand that every single interaction that you have with outside people who are possibly / probably unsaved is going to leave an impression about your faith.
This is a challenge for me as well. What kind of witness am I being to my coworkers and clients? When they look at me, knowing that I’m a Christian, do they find Christianity appealing or disdainful? We’re all human, we all have bad days, and we all get stressed out. As followers of Christ we need to lean on God for strength, and allow Him to produce love, joy, peace, patience, etc., in our lives.