I have worked in a Christian work environment virtually my entire career. My first ministry job was working at WMBI radio station in Chicago while I was in college, doing sound effects for radio drama. On cue I would close the door, or use the shaker to make rain sounds and so on. Once I played guitar for a radio drama theme song.
In 2009 it was my great privilege to visit the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea
I understand nonprofit structures and operate fairly well within the systems. But my friend Sandy Orzel recently switched from the secular work world to become the full time Executive Director at our church (New Song).
I asked Sandy to share some of the differences between ministry and secular work that she is seeing after about seven months into the transition:
Pros of Ministry:
1. I am working toward something far more important than I could ever do in the secular world. (Even working in healthcare where you are physically healing people doesn’t compare to being part of spiritually healing someone).
2. There is cooperation among churches. I have been amazed to see how willing executives at other churches are to share their knowledge, procedures, programs, etc. Also, the sharing of a common goal leads us to all pray and want what is best for other churches.
3. I am surrounded by people who truly care about me and my family and who I truly care about.
4. I get to pray at work as much as I want.
5. There are a lot of people in ministry who have wide varieties of talents (i.e. Pastors who know marketing, volunteers who know graphic design, etc.) and they are willing to utilize in addition to their regular jobs or serving.
Cons of Ministry:
1. Things sometimes take a long time to get done (which I am working on)—for example, I have never been at a job for over 7 months without business cards.
2. Disciplinary action can be difficult because there is such a sense of family rather than business.
3. Written policies and procedures are far behind the secular world (at least where I came from).
4. Working weekends sometimes makes it hard to stay connected at home with family.
5. Past companies I have worked for were large enough to have strong IT departments.
I am grateful to Sandy for sharing her helpful observations.
Here are my thoughts about this subject, for those who dream of ministry or getting out of it:
Bloom where you are planted
It is easy to think the grass is greener and easier on the other side no matter which side we are on. Every job has challenging aspects.
Younger people often enter ministry thinking it will be a continual spiritual high and that nothing will seem like real work. In fact, ministry work has much in common with the business world: there are bills to be paid, phones to be answered, financials to be analyzed, and policies to be created and implemented.
Make the most of where you are. Be like the Apostle Paul who wrote,
“I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in.” (Philippians 4:11 GW)
Salvation Doesn’t Mean Sainthood
We naturally expect more of Christians. But the fact is, believers are continually in the process of maturing, and sometimes the process seems very slow.
So don’t be surprised or dismayed in yourself or by other Christians. Instead, take the advice given to Timothy:
“Set an example for other followers by what you say and do, as well as by your love, faith, and purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 CEV)
It’s All About Your Calling
The most important issue is God’s calling. What is God calling you to do?
Sandy experienced a very significant decrease in income when switching jobs. But following God’s calling was the key issue, not her salary. So remember, whether your job is secular or in ministry, , seeking God and following His call is the critical issue.