Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Your ministry - a job, a career, or a calling?

For a long time ministers viewed their work as a call of God upon their lives. Churches often talked about "calling" a pastor rather than "hiring" a pastor. This is beginning to change a little, and that isn't good. Words matter. There is a big difference in mindsets between calling a pastor and hiring a pastor.

Unfortunately, some ministers have also begun to view their ministry as a career. They go to college and seminary to have the right degrees that will get them hired. Many work the denominational systems so they can move up the ministerial ladder of success which always includes moving to a larger church with better salaries, benefits, and recognition.

We also see this in the way they approach ministry. Many have automatically ruled out serving in smaller churches according to various studies. When meeting with pastor search committees these pastors are quick to set boundaries for what they will and will not do. Numerous pastor search committees I've assisted over the years have complained to me that the ones they interview make it very clear that they don't visit people in the hospitals or in their homes. Other boundaries are set as well. Evidently, these individuals believe that their role is limited to sitting in the church office, preparing sermons, and directing others.

An excellent book I'm currently reading is The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. In the book he tells of research done by a Yale psychologist on how the mental conceptions we have of our jobs affect performance. He writes

"She has found that employees have one of three 'work orientations,' or mindsets, about our work. We view our work as a Job, a Career, or a Calling. People with a 'job' see work as a chore and their paycheck as the reward. They work because they have to and constantly look forward to the time they can spend away from their job. By contrast, people who view their work as a career work not only out of necessity, but also to advance and succeed. They are interested in their work and want to do well. Finally, people with a calling view work as an end in itself; their work is fulfilling not because of external rewards but because they feel it contributes to the greater good, draws on their personal strengths, and gives them meaning and purpose. Unsurprisingly, people with a calling orientation not only find their work more rewarding, but work harder and longer because of it. And as a result, these are the people who are generally more likely to get ahead."

When we understand our ministries as a calling the external rewards are not as important. If we need to be bivocational in order to serve in the place where we believe God has called us we will be willing to do that. If we serve in places where there is little recognition for what we do, that's OK too because we know that God sees, and that's all that matters.

Churches also need to recapture this idea of calling. When a church hires a minister they can also fire him or her. The minister becomes no different than a car salesperson working for a dealer. If he's not producing he gets replaced with someone who can bring in the customers and close the deals. Again, words matter, and so do mindsets.

If churches and ministers want to enjoy healthier and more productive ministries, both need to recapture the mindset of calling. To be called by God to a place of ministry is a wonderful thing. Let's not cheapen it by viewing this as just a job or a career.


Bob Bae. said...

Good perspective. As a Bivo pastor for many years (youth ministry , associate pastor ) I have always viewed my work outside of the church as a mission field and a resource for financial provision. The "work" I do in ministry has always been rewarding and something I would pay to do because I feel called to it. I'm glad ministry is is not my full time job simply because I get a perspective of living, working, and doing life among those who are lost and need to be reached, and it keeps me from viewing ministry as a job.

Dennis Bickers said...

You share the view of many bivocational ministers. We love what we do and view it as a calling. Our other work does provide us with a mission field, and because we have a relationship with the people who work there they are often open to our ministry with them. In the factory I worked I would have people share with me issues they were facing, and some of them would ask me to pray with them. Bivocational ministry is very rewarding in so many ways!

kit berry said...

I have been called by a small church to be a bivocational pastor. I am amazed that I am there. This was not my plan for my second career. God on the other hand has a plan for me and I have to follow it. I know this is a call from God, for the simple reasons that every obstacle put in front of my wife, family and myself have bee overcome in some amazing ways. I never planned on being a pastor, my goal was to become a chaplain instead. Although I had a plan to serve God HIS plan in much more exciting.

Thank you for your post it is encouraging for a new bivocational pastor.