Seven years ago, on May 8th, 2010, I graduated from seminary. It was an exciting time. I was done with my academic work for the time being and had finished a goal that I had set out to accomplish back in August 2002. I had earned a Master of Arts in Theology and now a Master of Divinity. To those who may not know, a Master of Divinity degree is a 96 hour masters program. I would liken it to the MBA (Masters of Business Administration) in the secular world.
Seven years ago, there was a great deal of excitement because now I could focus on full-time vocational ministry. I had wanted to go on and pursue additional education. I had applied to attempt to work on a PhD but was not accepted. I had thought about working on a DMin (Doctor of Ministry degree) most seminaries require that you have at least 2-3 years of post MDiv experience so that was out.
Back when I graduated from college in 1992 ( yes I am that old) I was basically told that because I was single and had no experience (outside of being a church layperson) that I had no right to expect anyone to hire me. Fast forward to 2010, I was excited because maybe things would be different than when I had finished college 18 years earlier. I was sadly mistaken, if anything, things had taken a different turn, now instead of using the unmarried and inexperienced argument, now I was facing the grim reality of being over 40 with no experience and recently married with a 4 year old son (our daughter was born July of 2011). I had actually started looking for a place to serve vocationally in January of 2010 which was four months prior to graduation. I decided to keep a log of places that I had applied or submitted resumes to so that I would avoid duplications and be able to track the results. I applied for four different jobs within a ten day time period in February of 2010. I was excited but soon to learn very quickly that churches and ministries do not always respond to resume submissions even though they request a resume. The first two places that I sent a resume to never even bothered to respond and I found out later that they had called someone else. I was unfortunately excited about opportunities and naive in thinking that somehow things were going to be different. By the time graduation rolled around, I had applied or submitted my resume to six different places and had received three no responses and three declines right out of the gate. This was going to be a challenge.
I graduated on a Saturday and unfortunately was back at work on Monday like nothing had happened. I kept praying and thinking this is going to be different than college was. I was in for a rude awakening. By the end of my first year after graduation, I had submitted my resume to 24 different ministries and churches. The rejections increased and I was wondering what was going on. Did I do something wrong? Is there something wrong with me? By the end of the 2nd year after graduation I had sent my resume to nine different churches/ministries and still the rejections increased. One church looked at my resume and after filling out two questionnaires rejected me and I emailed them back trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. They said that because my background was primarily in administration, that I would be a micro manager and they didn’t want that. That was hard to take especially since I myself resent being micro-managed. I never had an interview with them, they deduced it from my resume (albeit a false deduction by them) As I came to the end of the 2012-2013 year, the discouragement set in very hard and I stopped looking. I did not look or send a resume since 2/2/2013. I determined that from this point forward that I was not going to send another unsolicited resume because I had experienced so much rejection and discouragement. I was able to keep my mind off of it because I was working full time and was doing some traveling for my job. Also, I was able to do a fair amount of pulpit supply preaching and speaking during this time. That was going to change in 2014 when I was laid off from my job. I thought maybe this would be the opportunity to get into full-time ministry. I was sadly mistaken. I was facing the decision of either going out on severance and having that last maybe 6 months and hope to find a job while other large employers in the Minneapolis area were laying people off in droves or move to TX and move into a similar position. With a wife and two kids, we moved to TX in August of 2014. When we moved, my preaching stopped because I did not know anyone and no one knew me. I went from being fairly active preaching and teaching to nothing. Not only was there stress in moving, I was trying to deal with the issue of trying to find a new church and “start all over again” We went to a church for 9 months but it wasn’t a good fit and we left quietly. Now I was dealing with trying to adjust to not preaching or teaching any longer. We did end up finding a good church in January of 2016.
I received a letter from a church in MN April of 2015 and filled out two lengthy questionnaires only to be rejected.
Seven years later, I have sent out over 50 resumes and been rejected 50 times. At this point, some have told me that I should quit that it is apparent that God must not have called me into ministry because there is no reason that I should still be looking. I have met with several people in full time ministry looking for advice thinking I had done something wrong or had a wrong approach. I did not receive any new or different advice from any of them
The last resume that I sent out was in September of 2016. The emails and phone calls have just about stopped and dried up. Although I did recently receive an email from a church that I had never heard of before, only to have them tell me that I was not selected to be their assistant pastor. I was used to this response, only in this case, I had never applied for the position. It is hard to answer the question when people ask you what do you want to do with your career when you are 48 years old and thought that you would be able to serve in full time ministry, after all that is what I went to college and seminary for and spent over $50,000.00 on an education? Now, I am being told that I am too old and I have no real church experience (never served as a church staff member).
This morning, Monday, May 8th, 2017, seven years to the day that I finished seminary, I got up and went to work for the same company that I have been working for almost 15 years now (I started with them while I was in seminary) and came home and had dinner with my family like I do every evening. I haven’t preached a sermon since last summer and I teach in our Sunday School class about once every 4 months or so. I have to work hard to keep up my Greek and Hebrew skills because I do not use them very often anymore. I feel like the closer I get to 50 and the further away I am from when I graduated, the less relevant I am because I am not part of the millennial generation. Some of the guys I went to seminary with have already changed churches within the last seven years, some are still at the same place ministering, and unfortunately some have disqualified themselves from ministry.
I have prayed that God would open up the right opportunity for me since finishing seminary over seven years ago. I have done nothing to disqualify myself from ministry even though I have been treated like I have been.