In May of 2007 I quit my first job out of college and made the decision to pursue a life in church ministry instead of financial planning. It was a big decision because I had spent the previous 4 years getting a degree that prepared me for a life in financial planning. But within a few months of beginning my sales job I knew it wasn’t the right fit.
I decided to enroll in seminary, knowing I needed the formation and experience a good seminary could offer. And I also wanted to get a job at a church. Even though the economy was stronger then, it will still near impossible to get a ministry position within my area of experience (music and worship) at a church in my area. I had very few connections to local area pastors and my resume wasn’t anything to scream about.
I’ve been in many, many conversations since then with people wanting a job at a church and I think we’re going about this completely wrong. Based on the last 4 and a half years of my life, working and serving at the same church while attending seminary, I thought I’d share a few pieces of advice for those who are looking to get employed at a church.
- Church ministry happens in paid and unpaid roles. I know a handful of people who serve diligently at my church week after week, who probably do as much as some full time employees. It’s no knock on any co-workers of mine, it’s a testament to how much these “volunteers” (a truly awful word that diminishes how these people give of themselves) serve the bride of Christ. This idea that true ministry happens when employed at a church is so completely false.
- Don’t take the first opportunity to come your way. I’ve been in plenty of conversations with men and women who regretted taking a job at the first church that made them an offer. Go to a church you feel called to, and to a church where God can use you and grow you, not the first one to want your presence.
- Go to a church where you’ll be different. I realize that some of this is just my own personal preference but partially this just saddens me as I look at many my age make decisions about joining/working at churches. I made an intentional decision to attend and volunteer at a church that had very few people my age. I had been previously attending a church with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people my age. There’s certainly a role for churches who reach specific ages well, but I think we often want to hang out with out with people like us more than we want to serve the whole church (lots of people not like us).
And last but easily the most important:
- SERVE! When going to a church is about building a resume, gaining a specific skill set, or about collecting a paycheck before it’s ever about serving the body of Christ, we’ve completely misunderstood what vocation in the church should be.