“There has to be a better way of doing church.”

“There has to be a better way of doing church.”

Our chat with Gene Quiocho

Former church planter and current seminary student/bi-vocational chaplain (yes, he’s busy!) Gene Quiocho hopped on Zoom with us to share a bit of his ministry story thus far. Power struggles, overwork, big theological differences, lack of mentorship… and hope. There’s a lot to resonate with here.

You can watch his whole story below, or read through some highlights (edited slightly for clarity) and a few reactions from our point of view as his friends and mentors!

“It’s a different game”

“Keep in mind, we’d been in ministry for years, but in the context of organizational church, institutional church, it’s a different game… you’ve got to take care of [all these people], and then on the other side of it, you’ve got to take care of the organizational part of it as well.”

The shift from ministry just because you love it to being a “professional Christian,” to ministry-as-vocation, is a big one that doesn’t get enough attention and support. These questions aren’t specific to Gene, they’re general issues we see all the time and have experienced ourselves:

  • How will you manage the shift in relationships as your pastor and friend also becomes your boss?
  • How will you know when you’re working and when you’re just doing life like usual?
  • Will it still be as joyful when it’s have-to as well as get-to?

Not to mention, so many church leaders model and demand patterns of overwork, instead of healthy rhythms of work and rest.

“There’s this weird power dynamic that happens… Co-pastoring, who’s who, like I had the title of executive pastor so that automatically means that I’m just second in command. But we had initial other conversations about our power sharing, so I probably just had a huge misunderstanding.”

Lack of clarity, perhaps over-promising, under-communicating, some clear power differentials Gene doesn’t get into here that weren’t surfaced and proactively addressed, perhaps because the white church tends to ignore those dynamics… Like we said, relatable.

“The denomination I was in was in this weird tension with the LGBTQ community. So one of my good friends, I couldn’t marry because of the bylaws or whatever laws they had according to the denomination…”

You know this story. You feel this pain. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Gene.

“There just has to be a better way”

“I started to feel like there just has to be a better way of doing church… I was questioning that theologically. And emotionally and spiritually I was just getting drained.

Sometimes leaving is what you have to do for integrity’s sake. Not just integrity in terms of your sense of ethics and moral rightness, though of course that matters, but in terms of protecting your soul, your sense of internal wholeness and relational health – your very self.

Gene and his family stepped back from ministry in the summer of 2021, though he’s still finishing up seminary at Azusa Pacific.

“I’m still on this search of figuring out what the true meaning of church is. There’s new ways that the Spirit is leading us as a country in figuring out what church really means, and I’m into all of that… I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the degree.”

“I was looking for guidance”

“I was looking for a mentor, I was looking for guidance, because I still had this hunch and this interest in the church. And it so happened that I was searching Google… your name [our little church] popped up.”

Gene notes that he’d had a lot of experience with mentorship in the corporate world – in the spiritual, religious world, not so much. Let’s take a moment to grieve that, and wonder how things might have been different if he’d had someone to walk along with him more closely as he first became a pastor.

(If you’d like to explore this idea of mentoring more yourself, you could check out a couple recent blogs: “Three Myths of Finding a Mentor (+ One Bonus)” and “The Constellation of Mentors.”)

We closed by asking Gene what he would tell his self from ten years ago if he could.

“I would definitely seek out mentors at a young age because it goes a long way, and it just makes the process of life a lot easier… Having some guidance, having some counselors around you will make the process a lot easier. That’s what I would tell my younger self.”

We’d be so curious to hear – where did you resonate with Gene’s story? What memories and questions did he stir for you?

🎙️ We love hearing people’s stories and giving other people the chance to listen in as well! We’re hoping to share many more interviews like this 👍