Finding Work as an Ex-Pastor

resigning as pastorSo you want to resign from the professional paid pastorate so you can be a better pastor? There is only problem.

How are you going to get paid?

The simple answer is that you are going to have to find another job. I know, I know. I told you that by resigning from pastoral ministry, you would not have to leave pastoral ministry. That’s true.

But the reality is that you still need to get income, and so you need to find a job. And if you find a job, and still want to be a pastor as well, then you are going to have radially redefine “pastoral ministry.” But this is a good thing when you do. We’ll look at all of this tomorrow.

First, let’s focus on finding a job.

The trouble is that with millions of people out of work right now, it is extremely difficult to find work. If you are interested in resigning from the pastorate, I strongly suggest you move in that direction. Don’t just quit without having a job lined up.

I know, some people want to just “step out on faith” and quit their job, trusting God to provide, but I believe this is more foolish than faithful. But you make your own decisions.

jobs pastors can do

If you are having trouble finding full-time work, you might be able to work something out with your church board where you work less at the church, and find part-time work in the community. This has the added benefit of giving you some on-the-job training for a future career. If the board backs you in this decision, they should gladly provide you some time away from the church to prepare resumes, apply for jobs, go to interviews, or even attend schooling to get some education you will be better prepared for a “second career.”

Furthermore, if you get a job, but the pay is not comparable to what you were getting in the church, the church should consider supplementing your income while you gain more experience and knowledge and works your way up to a higher salary. This process may take a few years, but the end result is worth the liberty and freedom that both the church and the pastor experience as a result.

It will be Difficult

One of the difficulties we pastors have in finding a job outside the church is that all of our education and experience is frequently only with church. While many of us have lots of education and experience, but only the areas of Bible and Theology. There are not many businesses that are looking to hire someone with knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and difficult-to-read theological terms.

However, if presented properly, many pastors have knowledge and skills which many businesses are looking for: management and interpersonal skills being foremost among them. Also, one of the keys to running any business is communication, and most pastors excel in communication skills.

However, there still may be trouble at finding a job, even in a good economy. When I left ministry, I applied for over 100 jobs, and got only two interviews. At one point, a Human Resource Manager was kind enough to tell me that they saw my education and experience as a sign that I was overqualified for some of the jobs I was applying for, and so they thought that I would be leaving soon after I was hired.

I did end up eventually landing a job, and interestingly enough, I left after about six months. But the reason was because my body couldn’t handle it. I was working 80 hours per week, lost a lot of weight, and had two surgeries from injuries at work.

I eventually found the job I am in now, and I’ve been here for three years.

Jobs Pastors Can Do

There are a variety of jobs that a pastor could do in the community.

Jobs pastors can do

Some pastors find that they excel in sales positions, customer service, and office management, while others do well in technical writing, editing, or teaching. Some pastors enter the financial industry, becoming bankers, brokers, accountants, or financial consultants. Lots of pastors become counselors  at a high school or college, or even as a family and marriage counselor. For some reason, most of the pastors I know personally who have left the pastorate became salesman, selling cars, houses, insurance, clothing, home businesses, and timeshares. (What does it mean when pastors make good salesmen?) One area to seriously consider, and which will still use your pastoral experience and seminary education, is in becoming a prison, hospital, or military chaplain.

Quite likely, if a pastor explains to his church what he is trying to do, someone in the church knows of a job opening for which he is qualified. If not, then at least they might know something about resume preparation, or know someone in the Human Resources department at their workplace which can help the pastor market himself to local companies.

Are you aware of any resources, books, or websites which specifically help pastors find work? If so, please mention them in the comments below.




Comments

  1. says

    Good post, Jeremy! The former pastors I know, with one exception, all work in sales, usually insurance or cars. The one exception works as an administrator at a Christian college. He has told me about several former pastors who have found teaching positions at Christian schools or colleges, usually in the religion departments.

    As my wife pointed out last night, most of these former pastors felt God was calling them to pastor, and ended up very disillusioned. When plans to love and shepherd people turn into selling used cars, someone is usually hurting. We believe there is another way, and severing the dependence on the paycheck, as you suggested Jeremy, is a good first step.

    • says

      When I left the pastorate, I tried sales. I found out that I am a terrible salesman. Just terrible. I couldn’t even convince myself to buy what I was selling.

      But it does seem to fit with a lot of pastors.

      I forgot to mention real-estate agents, though right now with the real-estate market the way it is, this might not be a good option.

  2. says

    Wowzers. $84k the average? Seriously??? I have a hard time believing that as an average. For Megas, sure, but most churches are small neighborhood churches with modest budgets.

    And then there’s my church, barebones, minimalist budget. Our three leaders who co-pastor each get a stipend of about $500 I believe. That’s it.

    This is a good post. I have watched men who have pastored for many years suddenly become displaced…they sometimes try to start their own church – with mixed results – or get on board some kind of ministry or launch a new ministry. Most of the people I’ve observed who left or were fired from their pastoral post did not enter a new vocation…and it is rare, by the way, for me to meet a pastor who is bi-vocational, though the debate rages that Jesus devoted himself to singular focus those last three years of his life….in any case, each person has to find their way and each church their model of supporting their leadership, whether with a stipend or a six figure annual plus 401k. Context…

    • says

      Hi Pam,

      I know. I think $84k seems high as a national average. Most pastors I know are not making anywhere near that. But it is what the website reported. I wonder where they got their statistics?

  3. Josh Meier on Facebook says

    I have worked in sales support quite frequently as both a bivocational element alongside ministry, as well as my sole employment. Based on what I have seen out there, frankly, I find it very suspicious that these former pastors are finding “success” as salespeople. What aspect of ministry were they disillusioned with that they find fulfilling in sales? Maybe they were better salesmen than pastors when the roles were reversed…

    I have also been in direct sales, and frankly, wasn’t good at it, both consumer goods and real estate (though I was good at other aspects of the real estate business).

    Part of the problem, as you pointed out, is that they’re not qualified to do anything else… but that goes deeper than the ministry prep that most of us have done. Our culture as a whole suffers from it… we don’t produce things, we consume things. Most young men think there fingers are only there to run an X-box 360 controller. When you look at the New Testament model, Jeremy, as you have done in this series… one cultural difference that I think most people fail to really account for is that those men, Paul and others who worked, generally worked in a modern day trade equivalent. Making tents etc.

    This goes beyond “what am I going to do if I’m not a pastor.” I have five sons, and hope and pray that at least one will be a pastor. But the preparation I’m doing for them right now, in most cases would not be recognizable by many as “ministry preparation.” Like my dad did with me, I am making sure that no matter what other education they receive in their lives, that they are well equipped with life skills that at the least are capable of providing for their needs without any employment at all, other than self. As far as a trade, I am a woodworker, and have somewhat less experience in many other trades that I could make a living from as well.

    We grow a substantial portion of our own meat, hunt for another substantial portion, and grow many of our own vegetables, grind our own wheat (bought from a coop) (no, we don’t live on a farm, we live on a rented fifth of an acre in the desert in El Paso, TX).

    I receive a full time salary from the church (less than $84k) , but much of the freedom that you have described as a benefit I feel I experience, because I know if tomorrow things changed radically, I have my hands and my tools, and my knowledge.

    Anyway, that’s my $.02 (x 1000, perhaps ) :)

    • says

      Josh,

      That is a great way to raise your sons, and a great suggestion for all people moving toward pastoral ministry. They must and should get education FIRST in some sort of trade, and THEN go to Bible College or Seminary if they want to.

      I really wish I had done so. It would have made my transition back out of the pastorate so much easier.

      You are in a good spot knowing that you can get a job elsewhere if needed.

  4. Ant Writes says

    I had a career before pastoral ministry. In a way, I can thank the pastor I had as a child. He taught me that the Sanhedrin all could work with their hands in a career, so if times were tough, they could always go out and do real work for a living. He was a mason. (Not a Freemason :)) I was a computer programmer and network administrator for 10 years before I became a pastor. (Another problem..they preferred people who were young so they could do Youth ministry, etc.) , and I was still programming while I was pastoring. I was a linguistics major in college, but there is no “job” for polyglots, so I just stuck with what brought in money. Pagan Christianity really ruined things for me…so I stepped out of the clergy and then I got MS literally 1 month later! Boy did I have doubts then! I was also in backwoods South Carolina where none of my skills were needed. (No need for a Russian speaker in Socastee, SC) and the IT industry was zero. So what did I want to do? Go home and cry to mommy. I praise God that my wife stayed with me! A secular person would have walked! “You spent HOW much on divinity school and it got you nowhere?!”
    I suggest to anyone who is in this position to learn programming…Java, PHP, Ruby or .NET. (I suggest PHP) They’re all relatively easy and they’re needed badly. No one goes to school for those, everyone I’ve worked w/ taught themselves and made 6 figures a year easy. That way, you can focus on community, and being the body :)

      • Ant Writes says

        That’s great! W3schols is perfect, then you can supplement it by visiting my other blog http://php.halfageek.info
        I’ve got plenty of PHP books if you’d like. I made this site when I first got out for a local company: xprinters.com
        and I made this for another ex-pastor who couldn’t handle being a pastor: localtournaments.com
        What he did was make church websites for people in his area. He did pretty well. Sort of what you did with graceground

  5. says

    I really thank the author of this article and all the people who replied with their comment on it.I am just another a pastor whose been out of job for almost 3 years. I felt that I have a vision with confirmation from the Lord that I have to build a new church with new perspective. However, I need to support myself first before I can do that. As a matter of fact, it is do difficult to get a job in my city . No matter how I tried, I could hardly get a job even I have some interview.I used to be a counselor for the developmentally handicapped adults for few years but just couldn’t find the same old job again.Right now, I have just got a license and will become an insurance agent in a few weeks. Frankly speaking, I really don’t know if I can find someone to to do my promotion due to my pastoral role. However, I am trying to make a living by searching for new prospect which is even harder for me in the beginning. Anyway, I just want to fed my self and able to pay my family bill and not even thinking of getting rich. I just want to build up the church from zero and that’s all my vision is all about. It has been hard for me in this few years and I will do my best to hang on there until I reach my goal.I am not sure how long would it be for me to stay in the insurance business since there is many uncertainty about this kind of job. I will do my best in this two -three months and see how it goes. I hope it can work for me since I don’t want to live another year like that even I have prayed for three years about this problem with all the prayer knowledge I have in the past.Although there are still many things I don’t understand about my situation, I will keep on trusting my Lord that he will make everything works out for good.If anyone can see my reply, please pray to Jesus and ask Him to has more mercy on me. I also pray that if any pastor who is facing any job problem, I pray that God will prepare the job for this servant of God and provide everything to them as soon as possible.Thank you and May God bless you.

    • says

      I really hope you find work. It is very tough out there right now.

      Where do you live? Maybe there are some people who read this blog who live in your area who might be able to help you find work.

      • says

        Jeremy,I am living in Hong Kong and I wonder if anyone from my city will read this post since most of them are not good in English.Even they are good in English, they probably won’t help a stranger over the internet.It is because there are already many scam cases happen in my city and face book as well.Many people are afraid of that already.Anyway, I think if anybody has nay good information, I am willing to listen and I am looking for more prayer support as well.Thank you for your reply and may God bless you more everyday.

        • Ant Writes says

          I’m assuming you don’t speak Cantonese? Were you a missionary? I have a buddy that is a missionary on the mainland (Shang Hai), but he’s a tent maker (surprisingly). I can give you his name if you’d like.

          • says

            Jeremy, thanks anyway. Whenever you will remember , just pray that God will bless me and I think it is good enough.May God bless you too.

  6. says

    @wildlittlefan, I lived in Hong Kong for nearly seven years. We moved back to the States in 1992 so it has been a long, long while. I met my American husband in HK. We married there in 1988. In 2007 we took our two kids back to HK to show them the places we used to go around to. I love HK and will always have a place in my heart for HK people!

    I hope the insurance business works out for you. If not, perhaps it will lead to another door of opportunity. I will pray for the right connections for you when you come to mind! Being in the right place at the right time with the right people often brings the plan of God to the surface from hiding. I hope this happens for you soon. Give Hong Kong a big hug from me. (How old are you? Perhaps you remember the gweilo pop music band City Beat from the late 80’s early 90’s? My husband was a member of this band. They had some great success in the HK music scene and even shared the stage with Alan Tam a couple of times)

    • says

      Pam, thanks for your sharing and yes, I knew city beat.It is also good to know that your husband was one of this music band member as well.I am not sure whether the insurance business will work for me or not, But it seems like I only have this door open for now.I do have conflict within myself that it seems it is hard for me to promote this insurance benefits to the those I knew in the church before. For them , I was their pastor and I really don’t feel easy to talk about insurance with them since it will involve my own benefit(my commission that will make me survive, so that I can start up a new church from zero since I didn’t want to rely on donation from others.).But if I don’t talk to those people I knew from the former churches that I have worked before, it is going to be really hard for me to make any sell in order to meet the quota from the insurance company. When I talk about insurance or all those investment plan with others, I have to take the role of an agent and not a pastor anymore. But if I talk to some of the Christian I knew before about insurance or those finance issue, they may help me by sign up for my insurance plan.That will makes me that I am using a pastoral role to promote insurance products which I really do want to.But if I want to promote the insurance products to all the strangers, It is going to very difficult in the beginning and I wonder if I can meet the monthly quota with such a way to do my business. That’s why I am facing a problem at the moment and I probably have to start up my insurance business promotion in this few days and I really don’t know what to do.Well, if you can ask the lord if he has a word for me or if you have any opinion to share with me, it maybe be helpful to me. Anyway, I have to do something in this few days and please pray for me whenever you will remember. May God bless you and your family as well and enjoy your time in USA.

  7. Ant Writes says

    @Pam Did you teach English there? And did you learn Cantonese? Most of the people I know in Hong Kong teach English, and they didn’t learn a word of Cantonese, which is a shame, considering Spoken Chinese is actually very easy to learn.

  8. says

    Thanks for this post. Currently I am a pastor but I’m looking to get out of professional ministry and really feel lost. Writing is attractive to me, and I’ve started a blog or two but it’s difficult to make money as a beginning freelance writer. I’m definitely not looking forward to job hunting. It’s brutal.

    • Matt says

      I’m with you, bro. Resigned my post 2 months ago and am trying to find a way to make ends meet for my family of 4. Talk about a test of faith. Thank God for antidepressants!

  9. JR says

    Sales jobs don’t require education. I know an guy who trained as an accountant, and hated it — so he’s in sales today. There’s lots of sales people who trained to do all sorts of other things, but they’re in sales because there are no pre-requisites. Taxi-driving is another favourite (though not usually for former pastors). Good salespeople base their business on repeat sales, which is built on relationships, and lots of pastors are good at relationships (they also tend to be more trusted than an average salesperson by people who know their former profession).

    Bi-vocational ministry is very common in small churches — but I have yet to see those churches grow much, because the pastor has so little energy to invest, even in discipling the leadership.

    For a biblical rationale for paid pastors, I think you need to look again at the apostles. Not all of them travelled — in fact quite a few of them stayed in one place for long periods of time (James, Peter, John, for instance). Paul was a travelling apostle and HE was the bi-vocational tent-maker. You are going to get much when you’re church planting — the reason you’re planting is because there isn’t a church yet. The disciples fell back on their bi-vocational skills after Jesus died, and he called them back to full-time ministry (I know it’s a stretch, but I’m just pointing out that they all HAD skills, unlike many pastors, but they didn’t use them).

    The apostles appointed deacons so they could devote themselves to the “prayer and the ministry of the word.” Neither of those needs are unique to apostleship. They were basically saying, “the church needs some leaders who can focus, who aren’t weighed down by a lot of administrative detail” – bi-vocationality certainly adds another whole load in addition to administrative detail.

    The truth is, today we have a lot of paid “deacons” – pastors who mainly administrate and don’t have time for “prayer and the ministry of the word.”

    • says

      JR,

      You make some good points. I will need to look at that passage about Jesus calling the apostles away from fishing again. It is an interesting question.

      Either way, you are right though. Most of those called pastors today are basically paid deacons, but this is partly due to our “business model” approach to church. We wants business administrators and CEO’s to head our churches, not men of God who can speak the truth with wisdom, clarity, and power.

  10. Caleb Luke says

    Jeremy, I appreciate this approach to a blog post. You are not just stating what you believe but also providing care as men and women step away from vocational ministry. I recently (within) the last year resigned from a vocational position (youth pastor) as I sensed God calling me to a new expression of “church”. I want to offer my difficulties as well as victories.

    1- I have seen God provide in miraculous ways that my family and I can only credit God. We have secret donators that provide funds on a monthly basis, which conveniently come at the perfect time. We have seen God provide loose end jobs and tasks that have provided ways for my wife and I to buy Christmas gifts etc for our kids and family. This has shown the faithfulness of God in completely new ways that we would have not known outside of these circumstances.
    2- I have been freed to pastor in the liberty of Christ as opposed to an environment of expectation and pressure. This has allowed me to grow in areas I never knew I needed growth. One example is the program side. I used to believe that I was generous and benevolent because our church provided these things. I now see that I need to be stretched and challenged in these areas as I cannot rely on others.
    3- I found that relying on the church for my income forced me to respond to God with a mediator that was not Jesus. I responded to needs on a basis that put out board and other staff first. I wanted to please men not God. This has been revolutionary to me.

    I am no salesman or realtor but had previous construction skills and have put those to the test this past year. I have been roofing primarily but in addition learned carpentry skills etc. I absolutely LOVE where God has led me and those I am in community with. SImple faith, simple life, GREAT God!

    • says

      Caleb,

      This is very exciting for me to hear! Your sense of liberty and freedom is what I have experienced as well, and so many thousands of others who are on the same path.

      Is your wife as excited about this new direction? Sometimes the uncertainty of finances and a future is very difficult on spouses and children.

      I am going to make a major announcement on my blog later this week which I would like your input on. Stay tuned!

      • Caleb Luke says

        My wife is an extremely supportive woman. She is always standing firm beside me and we are in this together. I do think she loves how much time I now have to spend with the family. We have found ourselves in a much better position to actually minister to people and she is thriving in this environment.

        I look forward to your announcement!

  11. says

    Hi Jeremy,

    I know this blog post is a couple of years old but still completely relevant. We first chatted through my old site After the Pulpit. I stopped blogging at ATP because, frankly, I became afraid of being ousted prematurely from my position as a paid minister (still had bills to pay). Now that I’ve fully transitioned out of ministry into a new career as an Employment Counselor, I’ve resurrected the blog in the hopes that it might inspire other befuddled clergy hoping to find and follow new callings in life. The primary objective is to produce a podcast with interviews of clergy/faith leaders who have transitioned into new livelihoods. To that end, I’d love to interview you and perhaps some of your readers for the podcast if you’re up for it. I’m sure ATP’s listeners/readers would certainly benefit from hearing of your own challenges/successes!

    Be well,
    Peter in Vancouver, BC
    peterfischer(at)afterthepulpit.org

    • says

      Thanks for the update! Glad the blog is back up and running. I think there are many pastors who would like to leave full-time ministry, but don’t know what else to do. Hopefully you can provide some guidance for them.

  12. Eric L. Morgan says

    I’m sorta in a unique position. I was able to finish (or will finish in July) my Master’s degree in information technology (information & communication sciences to be exact) while still pastoring the last 7 years. My transition is finding what I enjoy more than pastoring which has become a bit challenging. Frankly, I’m not sure what I would like to do. I have gone through some assessment testing and will be getting some advice based on that.

    So although I’m just beginning my journey into the regular work force I would encourage anyone that it IS possible to get a higher education degree on the side. It’s taken me 10 years to do this and a church that has supported my efforts (we’re a very small church so the needs are limited).

    I appreciate the suggestions listed in the article and hopefully I can find my niche outside the pastorate.

  13. Frequent Visitor says

    I’ve successfully navigated out of the vocational ministry world, and I wanted to thank you for this website. I have referenced it over the course of the last 2 years, as I’ve planned and plotted my escape. I was able to build up some savings, start a side business, and begin marketing myself to potential employers. I was offered a new job this morning… in, you guessed it, sales.

    A suggestion for pastors looking to build a side income. Clergy often seek to help their parishioners find value – within themselves, and from God. Being able to spot that value actually makes pastors marketable – for me, I started a successful side business re-creating resumes and cover letters that effectively communicate the applicant’s skills/experience/accomplishments. That grew into offering job search assistance services — helping applicants locate and apply for job opportunities.

    In a sense, I guided people in their job search as I went about mine. I gained a lot of solid experience/insight by doing this.

    Biggest suggestions: you can do this. It will take time. Have a plan, and move wisely. It’s worth it.

    • says

      Excellent, excellent advice! Thank you.

      You went about it the right way. Go slow, take the time, and be working toward a goal. It can take years to build up a business or find the right connection, but it will happen, and is worth it when it does.

    • Needing Direction says

      Dear “frequent visitor” – are you still doing any work in helping others transition out of the ministry into other vocations? If so, I would be interested in talking to you about enlisting your help. Thanks!

  14. Needing Direction says

    I’ve been to this site a number of times now – as well as some similar sites – and I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. My situation is I’m a full-time pastor and I’ve known for some time, this is not the vocation for me. The reality is, I have a family of 6 (including my wife and I) to support. I’m not paid anywhere near $84K, but I’m not complaining either. Our needs are met, we live in a parsonage provided by the church, and they cover our health insurance. I was very close recently to saying “I’m just going to announce my resignation and make a clean break,” but I hesitated because I didn’t know how I’d provide for my family. We have a decent amount of money saved up, but it wouldn’t last more than a couple of months.

    As I alluded to, my biggest frustration is that I don’t know what I want to do. Or, as I’ve put it somewhat tongue in cheek, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have some ideas of things that sound like they’d be interesting, but I hesitate because I don’t have the training and I really can’t afford to go back to school at this point. Even if I did have the means, I’m not even sure what I’d want to go to school for! Any suggestions on some sort of assessments or something I can do to get some direction? I keep seeing sales and I don’t think I’d mind that, so long as I’m not selling my soul in the process. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!

    • Natural Faith says

      What to do is a philosophical and cultural question. So, situate yourself within your community in this historical moment an ask what needs protecting and nurturing, and what needs transforming. Your answers will help you identify what’s important to you and hopefully open avenues for finding others who’ll want to collaborate.

      I’m terrible at giving advice, but I hope this helps. You’re certainly not alone in your dilemma.

    • says

      Needing,
      You sound a bit like me. For me, I don’t really enjoy my work, but it pays the bills. So if you want to leave the pastorate, the question may not be “What do I want to do?” but rather, “What job can I do that will pay the bills?” If you are leaning toward sales, I say go for it!

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