A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR EX-PASTORS
So you've left the professional clergy. Or you're thinking about leaving . . . but there's one problem that looms large over your head. What are you going to do to provide for your family?
You're having a less-than-easy time with the idea of getting a "regular" job and forfeiting that faithful clergy salary that comes in like clockwork. And the larger the church you have, the more difficult it will be to part with it.
Let's be honest. With the issue of money at stake, it's rather tempting to conjure up reasons justifying your clergy position. (It's not dissimilar to the Ephesian silversmiths who opposed Paul's message because "it endangered their craft.")
But deep within your own heart, you know you can't keep playing the religious game and ignoring that pink elephant that follows you to and from the church building each week.
Perhaps it's time to put all those sermons you've delivered on following Christ at all cost and really trusting God by faith into practice.
Make no mistake about it. Your dilemma is a real one. But following the Lord all the way often comes at a price, doesn't it?
The good news is that you are not alone.
Countless pastors have taken the plunge. They've given up their clergy professions to follow their conscience and be at peace with themselves and with their God. (If you have no idea what the last sentence means, please read Chapter 5 and 6 of Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna - Tyndale, 2008, as it will give you the context for this entire article.)
What follows is a list of real jobs that real ex-pastors have landed. All of these jobs were filled by people in the clergy who appeared to possess no employable skills except for preaching, performing marriages, and conducting funerals!
Here they are:
- Automobile dealership sales. This career is quite lucrative, and most pastors have inborn skills for this. Many car dealerships are looking for salesmen who are likable, articulate, and honest.
- Become a book editor. Many Christian publishing houses are looking for editors, particularly those who have some background in theology.
- Begin some sort of service-based business. Dog watching is a service that's always in demand. Lawn care. House and/or office cleaning. Painting homes, interior, exterior, and/or artistic.
- Helping senior citizens find housing.
- Take a teaching job at a college or seminary. If you have a master's degree, you can qualify for this.
- Real estate. A number of ex-pastors have become real estate agents with minimal effort. Anyone can take the required test and qualify.
- The mortgage business. Some have become mortgage agents.
- Get into the Internet Market place. Many have created web-based businesses where they sell a product online through a web site and a second-hand distributor.
- Get into book publishing. Some ex-pastors who are gifted writers have become full-time authors for a living. The WritersEdge (www.WritersEdge,com) is an online agency where you can submit a manuscript for publication. Book publishing is difficult to get into and it typically doesn't pay a great deal, so we would only suggest this as a side endeavor while you seek other forms of employment.
Granted. None of the above jobs are easy. They all require work, time, and energy. But they are all feasible jobs suitable for most ex-pastors, as experience shows.
If you are ex-clergy and you have landed a job that's not covered in the above list, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your story. We will add it to the list. Also, if you are someone who is hiring people who have the sorts of skills that an ex-pastor can fulfill, please let us know. We'll add it to this site.
What follows is a letter from one ex-pastor (Gary Welter) that tells a bit of his story and offers additional advice concerning employment. It's quite helpful.
"Regarding ex-pastors who are in need of employment: Part of their dilemma of course, is what to do in order to earn a living since most (if not all) of their professional training has been towards church ministry. This is a scary situation to be in. Especially for those (like myself eight years ago) who are husbands and fathers and therefore, responsible for the well-being of their family.
I know that after I resigned my position with the "church," I really wrestled with feeling like I had done something stupid. However, I knew deep down that I was doing something that the Lord had put in my heart to do. And indeed, He was faithful to not let me and my family fall into financial ruin. I hope that these insights pertaining to my own experience will be helpful to some who are facing this employment dilemma.
During the last eight years since I left my job as a "Pastor," I have earned an income in two different ways: 1) sales and 2) a service related business that I started myself (actually my wife and I started the business together, since we both lost our jobs when we resigned the ministry). While I'm sure that the Lord could provide for someone in ways other than the two I mentioned, I do believe that those vocation are the best fit for someone leaving the clergy; especially the second one, but more on that in a minute.
There are "pros" and "cons" to both of my suggested vocations, but here are some reasons why I believe they are good possibilities for former (or soon to be former) clergymen. Sales requires communication and people skills, which most ministers have some level of. Also, there are plenty of sales jobs available (most companies are always looking for salesmen). However, here is what I see as some of the negatives concerning the sales field:
- The hours can be long
- Often involve traveling to some degree
- Retail sales often involves evenings and weekends
- Some companies expect you to relocate
Nevertheless, there are some good sales jobs out there. I have had two different sales jobs since I quit the ministry. Both provided good income but eventually interfered with our desire to spend as much time as possible locally meeting with the body of Christ. From my own experience I think the best opportunities lie in starting some type of service related business.
Starting a service related business requires communication skills, a servant type attitude, and a good work ethic (diligence). Someone that is leaving the role of professional clergy probably has the aforementioned qualities. Here are the reasons why I feel starting a service related business offers the best opportunities:
- It can be done with minimal over head expenses and licensing
- It usually does not require a lot of training or experience
- Many people need (and are willing to pay for) services that they can't do themselves
- You are in control of your work schedule
As your business grows, you have the option of hiring laborers while you spend your time managing the business and contacting potential clients.
Four years ago, my wife and I started a painting business. She happens to be a very talented artist so she started offering her services as a "muralist." Within a few months we were both fully employed by our own business doing murals, faux finishes, and interior painting. This obviously required some specific skills that we happen to have. However, there are many business opportunities that do not require any talents other than diligence and willingness to work hard. Here are a few ideas that come to mind:
- mowing (general yard work)
- house cleaning
- construction cleanup (when a new house is built doing the final cleaning prior to closing)
- wedding related businesses
- pressure washing
- local moving or delivery service
- auto detailing
One of the best options may be "contract cleaning." Contract cleaning involves contracting with businesses to clean their facilities during the hours they are closed. Most offices banks, stores, etc, don't employ their own cleaning staff, they hire a company to come in and do the cleaning. By offering reliable and trustworthy service, a large clientele can be established in a relatively short time. I personally know two Christian men living in a small mid-west city who started this type of company. Within two years, they grew from a two-man company to employing over forty people.
There are many other businesses that can be started with a small amount of training, licensing, and over-head, such as:
- floor installation (carpet, tile, wood)
- swimming pool cleaning and service
- photography or videography services
- tutoring services
"The bottom line is that the Lord will provide a way for these men to earn a living while they learn the joys of being a brother in His body, the church!"
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