Doing what you trained for

The title may be grammatically incorrect, but I want to make a point with what I am writing.

I was thinking about something while I was walking home from the train station yesterday.  I was thinking about a friend who recently completed his first year of full-time teaching and recently signed a contract to teach next school year.  In reading his Twitter feed and Facebook posts, he really enjoys his job.  I went back and thought about what I knew about this individual and his path to his eventual teaching career.  He had a desire to teach (not sure how far back this goes) but he graduated high school and went off to college to train to be an elementary school teacher.  During his last year of school he had to put into practice what he learned in the classroom by student teaching.  This individual, as part of his student teaching taught my son in the 2nd grade.  My son enjoyed his lessons, especially the science ones.  We were just talking about some of them the other day and my son really enjoyed his lesson on the water cycle and that was well over a year ago, but he still remembers it very well.  What this showed was not only this individual was well-trained, he had a passion for what he was doing, but he also was doing what he believed God has called him to do and he was given an opportunity to do it!

Contrast this with those who train for pastoral ministry.  Same process.  There is the call of God on an individual’s life, they make that call public and then it is off to Bible college and then seminary.  Sometimes an individual will be required to complete an internship within the context of a local church which might be the equivalent of student teaching but not quite because most pastoral internships never really let the intern do everything, it is like the pastor is afraid that the intern will mess up and ruin his ministry.  Mark Dever once talked about letting the new pastor mess up and make mistakes, he related to his own experience at Capitol Hill Baptist Church when he first came that he indeed made a few mistakes and the people were patient with him.  Student teachers do not teach their first day or week, but they get one subject at a time, do a lot of observing and then towards the end of their time, they will teach for entire days with the supervising teacher observing and providing feedback along the way.

I was wondering how many people are out there that went to Bible college and seminary and invested large sums of money for their education some in excess of $50k and they are not in pastoral ministry?  There are some who have disqualified themselves due to moral issues, etc.  There are some who after completing their training may have decided that pastoral ministry is not for them.  What about those people who have a passion and a desire (1 Timothy 3:1) to serve the Lord only to find themselves working in a job or career that they had no intentions of working in except to pay the bills while they were training.  Their heart is not in it and their desires are elsewhere, but a cloak of silence has enveloped their life with regard to ministry.  No direction from a mentor or encouragement from a local church, just silence.  The secular job market really has no use for theological degrees.  Most jobs nowadays are requiring specialized training and specialized degrees. Experience alone will not get you a job now.  You wouldn’t want a airline pilot performing brain surgery on you?  Then why is it okay for pastors to work other areas that they are not necessarily trained for?

I remember reading several articles regarding people with Phd’s wanting to teach in their fields but there were not enough openings in the academic world so some of these PhD’s were janitors, waiters, etc.  and not able to ply their trades either.  That was a few years back and I trust that things have improved somewhat so those people could find work.

I would love to hear from you if you have a desire for pastoral ministry and have finished your college and seminary training but find yourself working in a field that you did not train for.  Please comment below and maybe this can be a catalyst to help and encourage others to be able to find a ministry opportunity since other venues have been notoriously silent.  Where are the people who will speak truth into the lives of others?

Is there anything wrong with doing what you trained for and invested your life in?


13 responses to “Doing what you trained for

  1. Seminar training is still a valid investment. While I only pastored for 17 years, I’m still glad I went to seminary.

    There is a supply and demand imbalance in fundamentalism where there are many more graduates than paying opportunities.

    I know a guy who has a ThM and drives a bus.

    • Valid investment if you are using it. I am finding that most secular employers don’t care that I have two Masters degrees and it is getting more competitive and specialized in the secular workforce – not to mention having to answer the famous question – why aren’t you working in the field that you trained for. Who failed the guy with the ThM – his local church or the seminary that trained him? Then the proverbial elephant in the room – if there is such an imbalance within fundamentalism then why do seminaries keep recruiting students if there is such a backlog of people who are already trained for ministry? The secular workforce is expecting more specialization like the ministry is also – MDivs vs MBA etc. and it is getting tougher for people who were Bible college and seminary trained to find decent jobs if they don’t go into ministry immediately after graduation. I think that is why many guys have left fundamentalism because of the lack of opportunities – I am not advocating that or defending it – just stating a fact.

      • The guy with the ThM: it could be his own lack of foresight

      • Good point. I think that one’s local church should play a role in the life of an individual who has expressed a call to ministry.

  2. It’s not all that bad. After 30 years in “full-time ministry” I find myself for the past 5 years working in a field considered “related” but not with previous specific training. Those 30 years I was salaried by a church or supported by churches as a missionary. Sometimes I miss that. Now I work as a certified addictions therapist with drug addicts most of whom are ex-cons. My two masters and earned doctorate didn’t provide the knowledge I need for what I’m now doing but certainly contributed to who I am today and how I do it. I left a solid, well-paid position at church voluntarily and on good terms in order to work in urban church planting which may never provide a livable salary. I imagine it’s more frustrating for younger men who have all this training and can’t find a church or don’t have the gifts/desire to plant a church. All I can say is ask the Lord to teach you to be content and follow the advice from the title of the book “Just Do Something.” I never saw myself doing what I’m doing but God did. I don’t always like what I’m doing, am frustrated at times, but it has its own rewards and opportunities to witness in a place and to people that I never had when in “full-time ministry.” I am less concerned with what I am doing to make a living than living life for the glory of God whether it fulfills my ambitions or not. If someone has training and can’t find a church then find someone planting a church, get a job doing something you weren’t trained for (even if it means more training)and then use what you were train for in the church plant.

    • Steve, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I have heard of some of your accomplishments from Jeff Straub when I was a student at Central Seminary. Thank you for the reminder and the encouragement.

  3. I have a MATS degree. I have started two churches. So I have used the degree. But I have also always been bi-vocational. And today, I am the VP of Sales for a technology company.

    Interestingly, I have found my Masters degree to be the most interesting part of every interview for a job that I have been in. And I have found it to be a constant connecting point in business interactions. People immediately find me intriguing and unique. I use it to my advantage. And in most cases, it leads to conversations about faith and purpose and meaning with C-level people, people that would never hear me speak in church.

    Today, I spoke to 150 sales reps and executives at a partner company. My training made me real good at presenting. The CEO, CMO and SVP of Sales came up to me afterward and said “you are good at that.” And I said, “Yea, I had good training.” And I tell them my background. And they immediately trust me and want to talk more. It’s a great connection point with people who are nothing like me.

    All of us are in ministry. Some are more educated than others. Some do it professionally. Some do it even better than the professionals as they walk through life.

    Just my insights…

  4. Gillmore, thanks for reading and commenting. Most of my experiences have been the opposite. Most people that I have talked to are curious as to why I am not working in the ministry full time because I have two earned Masters Degrees and there was a 10 year gap from when I graduated from college until I started seminary. I have been able to use my presentation skills that I learned in expository preaching and homiletics – honestly I would rather be preaching or teaching consistently rather than an infrequent corporate presentation (I do them about twice a year). There are some people who are content in working a secular job. My desire to be in pastoral ministry (I Tim 3:1) has been a part of my life since 1987 for some reason I have never had the opportunity to participate. I have been done with seminary since 2010 and I will turn 46 years old next week. Most guys were well into ministry by the time they hit my age. When I graduated from college, no one wanted to hire a 23 year old single adult with no experience. Yet I watched my classmates get hired while I couldn’t even score an interview. I did work briefly in full time ministry for 3 years at a mission agency, but that was not a good experience. I didn’t let that sour me on ministry and that is why I went to seminary – to get additional training. Now I am 45 almost 46 with no paid church staff experience and no one wants to hire an old guy with no experience. Its the proverbial catch-22 – no one wants to hire you because you have no experience, but those same people are unwilling to give you opportunities to gain the experience.

  5. Your blog post generated quite a bit of interaction on Sharper Iron: here

    • I didn’t expect it to make Sharper Iron. I stopped visiting after Aaron Blumer censored some of my comments that I made about a situation that I was involved in first hand. Decided that if free speech isn’t really free… time to stop going to Sharper Iron.

  6. Terry,
    You are in a part of the country that has many church buildings, but where healthy churches are rare. You have the training and background to be able to make a difference. Why don’t you:
    (1) Start a Bible study in your home.
    (2) Lead a few souls to Christ.
    (3) Find a few more who are believers but who are hungering for the Word in that spiritual desert.
    (4) Disciple these people until you have men who are qualified to be deacons.
    (5) Organize a church.
    (6) Pastor it.
    If you have the gifts, the desire, and the qualifications, you should be able to handle this responsibility. If you need help with parts of the process, you know whom you can ask.

    • Kevin, Thanks for the reminder. One thing I am still trying to get settled is the church issue. If I were to attempt such an undertaking, I would need to do it under the authority of a local church. We have been here since August and have not found a church that we could join yet. Music and philosophy of ministry have been the biggest stumbling blocks along with church government. We are attending a Bible church that Sam Horn recommended but I am uncomfortable with the church government aspect (elder rule and no congregational government).

  7. Terry,
    Church authority is nice, but not absolutely necessary. Believers who find themselves in locations that lack biblical churches do not need to wait for permission to win souls, disciples believers, and establish a congregation. Why don’t you email me separately and let’s discuss the possibility.

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