I recently read of an accomplished violinist who conducted his own informal social experiment. He began by playing for 45 minutes on the New York subway leaving his violin case open for donations. During that time four people stopped to listen and one clapped and he managed to raise 20 dollars. The following night the same violinist played to a full house in Carnegie Hall, one of the most recognized stages in the world, and charged a minimum of $100 per ticket. Clearly demonstrating that each audience placed a different value on the violinist’s skills.
There are multiple insights to be gleaned from his little experiment, but one stood out to me…. the importance of living, working and serving where your gifts are truly valued. The biblical corollary might be, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.”
As an artist I’ve learned a bit about perceived value. I show my art in three galleries in New Mexico. In a small community, in a mid-size community and in Santa Fe, unquestionably one of the leading art markets in the United States. Similar art is priced differently in each location based on the clientele. Not surprisingly, my art is priced significantly higher in Santa Fe. Why? The typical buyer in Santa Fe is affluent, values fine things, and collects high end art. In fact, you can lose a sale in Santa Fe by underpricing your work.
But I learned the importance of playing to the right audience early in my career. In my mid-twenties I was fortunate enough to be called to serve in a large, influential and prominent church. Yet, within the first year it became clear that I was not as valued, nor had the opportunity or influence I had experienced at my previous much smaller and less well-known church. Within a few years I accepted a call to another church that afforded me opportunities to maximize my giftedness and extend my influence. Before departing a sweet senior adult lady remarked to me, “I fear that we have not fully appreciated you.” I thanked her for her kind words, but what I really wanted to say was, ‘It’s not so much that I wasn’t appreciated as that I wasn’t valued, and thus not fully utilized.’
Subsequently, the move proved to be a good one and I was able to more fully utilize my gifts and was provided opportunities to expand my influence even outside my job description. After 10 years the church asked me to assume the role of Executive Pastor. I received a note of congratulations from my supervisor at my previous church. He concluded by saying, “you made the right move. If you had stayed here, you never would have reached your potential.”
As an Executive Pastor I can remember many occasions where we hired someone who was serving in a church where they were undervalued and not positioned to reach their potential, only to flourish and thrive when we placed them in a role that fully deployed and supported their skills and gifts. On the other hand, I can remember occasions where I helped an employee find another position because I recognized we were never going to be able to fully maximize their strengths, gifts, and passions.
Additionally, I’ve discovered that different audiences value different skills and gifts. When I served as an Executive Pastor I was appreciated and recognized for my organizational and supervisory skills and opportunities to exercise those gifts abounded. I was not though appreciated or affirmed for my creative gifts. It took moving to New Mexico, a state with more artists per capita than any other state in the country. In fact, 1% of the budget of all public buildings must be spent on art produced by New Mexicans. Now I am appreciated for my creativity and opportunities to show my art and develop my creative side have increased exponentially. Conversely, there has been little acknowledgement of my organizational, leadership or management gifts.
If you are undervalued, underappreciated, or lack opportunities commensurate with your gifts and experience don’t try to change your current audience, change audiences. The hard reality is that you can walk with and serve with the people of a church for years and they never will recognize how exceptional you are. Simply put, the extraordinary in an ordinary environment doesn’t shine. You usually have to change places to find an environment where you can thrive and grow and people who appreciate your worth. Don’t settle for less. You are worthy!
Posted on May 3, 2022