First, let me get this out of the way …
I’m not a fan of the term “marketplace” … I think it creates an “us” and “them” dichotomy that’s really unnecessary, and honestly pretty harmful. I just had to use “ministry” and “marketplace” in the title because … well, that’s what people say.
That said, I’m grateful for my ministerial roots. I no longer make my living in vocational ministry, but I have found myself uber-equipped for business directly because of my experience as a pastor. I’m so grateful. Quick note to two types of folks:
Dear young leader / acolyte / world-changer / baby eagle / revival kindler or whatever-title-your-church-gives-you:
You will learn a lot serving in church. Stick it out.
Some of it will be good, some will be bad. Note: this is true of all organizations so if things suck at church, be an agent for positive change. If you can deal with challenges there, you’ll be able to deal with ’em anywhere.
Take advantage of the numerous opportunities to serve and lead. Really, I can think of very few places better than church to expedite your leadership. But please:
- Don’t be overly idealistic … you’ll be disappointed
- Don’t be a mere parrot of everything you’ve been told … you’ll just be annoying
- Don’t fail to engage your God-given capacity to actually think for yourself … you’ll diminish God’s call on your life
Just because you aren’t the top dog doesn’t mean you can’t have your own opinions.
Admit it, there are times you’ve heard your pastor preach and said to yourself, “That’s totally freaking stupid!” (Be gracious, that guy is human too.) Wisely, you did not Tweet such thoughts lest you find yourself in this category:
Dear person about to leave the ministry:
You may no longer be on payroll, or carry some letters in front of your name. This does not make you a second-class Christian, or minimize God’s call.
Anyone who says or implies otherwise is a … well, just tune them out. You’re alright. God is for you. I hope this list will encourage you, for they may be skills you’ve never considered you had:
1. Getting things done (despite having to be overly polite and make everyone feel good).
Pastors have it tough. If you’ve done so much as changed the color of the carpet in your sanctuary, you have accomplished a noteworthy feat.
“Marketplace” people can just say, “Using sea-urchin green for the carpet color is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Not happening.”
Pastors can’t just “pull rank” to make a decision. Nope. They’ve got to try to get everyone on board, field everyone’s suggestions (usually people whose tithes-to-complaints ratio is completely skewed), and cloak all their remarks in niceties.
And the carpet will still be hideous.
Think about all you’ve accomplished despite these kinds of quirks. If this isn’t a testament to your leadership abilities, I don’t know what is.
2. Dealing with umm, interesting people (i.e. counseling).
Jot down your top 5 most insane counseling appointments. I’m not talking about grief counseling, funerals, or other tragic events.
I’m talking about those scenarios where you’ve asked yourself, “Did I really just spend an hour talking with someone about why her head twitches only to the left when speaking in tongues?” (True story from a pastor friend of mine.)
The events on your top 5 list would make any mere mortal cringe … yet you handled them with grace and patience. No one can beat this kind of experience.
3. Making live events awesome.
In what other profession do you put on a live event every single week? Outside of Broadway, the NFL, and wedding planning, not many. Think about all that goes into making a Sunday “happen” …
- Coordinating a band of amateur musicians to play songs people sing to. Spiritual element notwithstanding, that’s the core of what most worship teams are. I was a worship leader; even I admit this. Seriously, I’m not worthy of holding the guitar picks of a Nashville session player. Amateur talent + professional ego = a dangerously potent combo, but somehow you get those guys to do it every week. Amazing.
- Getting people you don’t know very well to greet more people you don’t know very well … and smile! You must have some major inspirational skills. I try to get our sales team to smile. They don’t. And I pay them.
- Professional speakers just walk onto the stage and deliver a speech. Not you. You’re hand-shaking, body-hugging, baby-kissing, mic-testing, sanctuary vacuuming … all before the band even starts. And you still look good delivering the Word. Plus you can never preach the same message twice! Those pro speakers? They peddle the same message everywhere they go. Lazy bums.
Friend, you are a live event coordinating machine. Talk about a marketable skill.
Ministry disguised as a business …
Many pastors are discovering that their unique experiences are opening up new ways to impact people and communities. They’re involved in businesses that can provide jobs, starting their own coaching practices, and really discovering a new arm of ministry even while holding onto their pastorates. I think it’s awesome.
Since transitioning out of vocational ministry (I only occassionally preach or lead worship) I’ve rediscovered my faith in a special way. I’m spending more time with non-Christians, connecting with fellow Christians in business conferences, and being more of a witness to people that have never considered Jesus. I think of myself as having a ministry disguised as a business.
And yes, I sometimes meet these folks at the cocktail party during a business conference. (Oh no, sound the alarms! Mike must be a raging alcoholic!)
Bible school does not automatically equal “Pastor-4-Life.”
Attending or even graduating from a Bible school doesn’t automatically mean you must be a vocational pastor or minister. That’s a dangerous assumption. I’ve met way more people that have “left” the ministry than have entered it.
Do I want the number of pastors to decline? Of course not. But it’s happening, and we need to show these folks they’re still valued. There’s a huge segment of good people that feel ostracized, second-rate, and dejected. That’s not cool.
And yeah, I think it’s ok to be a pastor for a portion of your life, and then not be one. I did not “leave” the ministry because I couldn’t find another job, had a moral failure, or was tempted by a different lifestyle. I honestly believe that God led me down this new path.
Not everyone is supposed to be an Aaron (priest). There are Daniels, Josephs, and Davids, too. Even Jesus had a small business for awhile.
Some helpful resources:
Here are some resources I’ve come across for this kind of transition (listed in the chronological order I read them):
- Quitter by Jon Acuff (Jon’s journey to leaving the familiar to embrace the call … one of my all time faves)
- Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin (Biblical persepctive on money)
- Reinventing You by Dorie Clark (transitions in career, but still helpful for your situation)
- Platform by Michael Hyatt (gave me a framework for skills to build my own personal brand)
- Day Job To Dream Job by Kary Oberbrunner (Kary was also a former pastor)
If you’re thinking of leaving the ministry …
I have a special message for you. Nothing to sell or pitch … just my personal transition story. If you’re about to step out of ministry or have and are struggling with what to do next, it may have some insights for your journey. Click this button:
If you feel pulled to path outside of vocational ministry, I hope this post will set your mind somewhat at ease. You have a lot to offer, a wealth of experience, and God on your side.
Question: Have any thoughts on other transferrable skills from “ministry” to the “marketplace”? Would love to hear … leave a comment!
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