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‘If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s because you’re not praying enough’: Ex-members call out Christian church for labor practices in viral TikTok (updated)

'Most churches wouldn't be able to run without the exploitation of unpaid volunteers.'


Braden Bjella


Posted on Apr 11, 2022   Updated on Apr 13, 2022, 2:59 pm CDT

A woman has gone viral after calling out certain churches for their labor practices.

TikTok user April (@aprilajoy) posted a story about her time as a volunteer worship leader earlier this month, an experience she now regards as exploitative. Her video immediately caught the attention of the platform, quickly garnering over 432,000 views.

The video is a stitch with user Ryan (@deconstructeddad).

In his video, Ryan says, “Just a reminder that most churches would not be able to run without the exploitation of unpaid volunteers who are under the impression that they’re using their gifts and talents to serve the lord.”

Seeing this video inspired April to share her story.

“Not to mention overworked and underpaid staff,” she adds to Ryan’s video.

“When I was a worship leader at a large church, there were people on the team that were starting to feel really burned out,” April recalls. “Granted, we would have two to three hour practices on Thursday nights, we would have Saturday night service where we had to be there from 3 o’clock to 8 o’clock, and three services on Sunday mornings. So it was a full part-time job, and we were not even getting paid.”

“The worship pastor took these concerns to the head pastor and said, ‘Hey, I’m feeling kind of burned out. Our team is feeling kind of burned out,’” she continues. “And we had a leadership meeting that week where the pastor went up to say that, ‘If you’re feeling burnt out, it’s because you’re not praying enough. You’re not reading your Bible enough. You’re not giving enough to God, and it’s a ‘you’ problem.’”

“So yeah,” she concludes, “manipulation is a big thing.”

In comments, users shared similar stories.

“Not me, playing piano in church my entire life unpaid, SHOCKED when I got paid and then got a RAISE for the next church I started playing at,” remembered one user.

“My biggest regret of my time in the church was serving about 20 hours a month in a VERY wealthy area,” stated another. “What if I had served the needy with that time?”

“My Christian school teaching job didn’t budget enough to pay us and then gaslight[ed] us by saying we shouldn’t be upset [because] we were ‘urban missionaries’ — after giving us only a 5 day notice we weren’t getting paid until at least august,” wrote a third. “All this during the last week of school.”

Others chimed in to detail other questionable things their pastors had told them.

“That’s the go to [response] for every abusive pastor — ‘[you’re] not praying enough,’” shared a commenter.

“Our pastors [used] to say ‘your reward is in heaven,’” a further TikToker said.

“My previous pastor literally said the employees have ‘strong backs and weak minds,’” claimed another. “That’s why he chose them.”

However, others were quick to point out that many nonprofits rely on unpaid volunteers.

“Some churches are abusive. But almost every non-profit relies on volunteers. Not just churches,” detailed a commenter.

And of course, as one user noted, “There are well-ran churches out there with good leaders/pastors,” before adding, “I’m sorry you were mishandled by toxic leadership.”

April did not immediately respond to Daily Dot’s request for comment via TikTok comment.

Update 12:42pm CT, April 12: When reached for comment, April told the Daily Dot that while many commenters have been supportive, others have criticized her argument.

“I think the biggest pushback I’ve received on the video is ’you’re a volunteer, just quit,’” she said. “It’s a fair critique. but when you’re in it and the Pastor is telling you ‘you’re doing this for God,’ ‘your reward is in heaven,’ etc… it can be hard to see the manipulation because of indoctrination.”

She said that the numerous commenters with similar stories prove that this is an issue in many churches.

“I think the hundreds of comments on the video of similar stories of spiritual abuse [show] that it’s a deep, widespread issue in larger evangelical churches,” she said.

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*First Published: Apr 11, 2022, 9:30 am CDT