Inside Clergy Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Lots Of Work Not Involving Children...
Being a children's and middle school pastor is A LOT of work, it is not near as much biblical and one on one work if you are alone in your "department" or age group, but a lot of organizing, planning, budgeting, and making sure you are working with the groups best interests in mind while trying to stick to your belief system. There are always a lot of meaningful moments, you just have to look in broad strokes and be very aware of when you are approaching your limits, and ask for help. Its a great job, if it what God is leading you to do." (Children's Pastor; 2013)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Nebraska, female
School: Studied Religions at University Of Nebraska At Omaha in Nebraska; completed Certificate degree

"Female Funeral Directors Are Now In The Majority...
Most people are surprised that I am a female working as a Licensed Funeral Director. It used to be a male dominated field but currently more than 50% of students enrolled in mortuary school are females." (Funeral Director; 2014)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Mortuary Science at SUNY Canton in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"Churches Are Filled With Many Broken, Hurting People...
I will say that one thing that surprised me the most was how challenging and broken most people really are. People have baggage, hurt, missed expectations, and lots of brokenness and that is something they really don't prepare you for in school." (Director Of Student Ministries; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, male
School: Studied Religion at Grove City College/Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"Keeping A Distance From Clients...
I was surprised at how emotionally connected one can get when counseling. It is very important to make sure that as a counselor, you are also receiving therapy so that you do not become burdened with others' emotions." (Christian Counselor; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in North Carolina, female
School: Studied Psychology at Lee University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"At Times It's Hard To Follow God...
I suspect that most people would believe that someone in Christian ministry has a "stronger" spiritual life than others. Like every one else, however, those in ministry face daily struggles and must consciously choose to look for God's perspective in given situations. Every day I must choose to follow God, and some days it's a more difficult choice than others." (Christian Minister; 2012)

Career: 7 years of experience, currently based in Texas, female
School: Studied Economics/Government at University Of Texas At Austin in Texas; completed Bachelor degree in 2000

"Being Available To Help Most Rewarding...
I was surprised about the tasks that I prefer in my job. The things I enjoy the most are pastoral ministry that deal with hospital visits, funerals, and weddings. The tough times of life aren't enjoyable for anyone, but the opportunity to help someone immediately is rewarding." (Senior Pastor; 2012)

Career: 9 years of experience, currently based in Kentucky, male
School: Studied Bible, Preaching at Johnson University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2003

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Pastor/Priest: "The best parts if my job is celebrating the sacraments particularly the Mass. I love to be with the people of God and to celebrate our faith together is awesome. I believe I am truly blessed to serve God's people in so many different ways and being able to be part of so many different people's lives in so many different and varied circumstances always keeps my life interesting and challenging. I never know what to expect from day to and what will be expected of me from one moment to the next. That also at times can be the most difficult part as you cannot plan for what is you are expected to address and help people get through." (2011)

Youth Minister: "The best part of my career is being a part of the growth and maturation of young people. I feel like I have a direct role in helping teenagers grow into adults, especially growing into mature Christians. Seeing a lot of teenagers stand up for what they know and believe is right is really rewarding for me. The worst part of the job is the number of bosses I have. Depending on the level of fortitude a person has, they may or may not think they know what is best and how to run my job." (2011)

Rabbi: "The best part of my job is the privilege of being granted entry into people's live at the most intense moments, both joyous and sad: births, weddings, sickness, death. The interpersonal connections that I am able to establish with members of my community are tremendously valuable to me and sustain me in this work. The worst part of my job is that the rhythm of my work week is somewhat opposite of the rest of the world. My weekends are rarely my own. As a consequence, I take a day off in the middle of the week." (2011)

Pastor: "The best part of the job is seeing that your efforts truly help people. When people come up to me and tell me that my message touched them or helped them to connect with God in a real way, that makes me feel great. I also counsel people a lot, and whenever you are able to help someone deal with a personal problem it is very rewarding. The hardest part of my job is trying to help people with serious issues and not having success. It pains you to see others who are hurting but who will not take the steps necessary to change." (2010)

Minister: "The best part of the job is the people I meet. They become like a second family. Baptisms and weddings are a lot of fun. People are usually in a celebratory mood and it overflows. The Christmas season with its decorations and lights always lifts the spirits of the congregation. I would say there are no worst parts of the job, but there are sad aspects, such as doing funerals. Helping people handle grief can be depressing. Difficult people can be a challenge. Conflict is alive and well in every church, but the way we handle it can lead to growth and change and prove a boon." (2010)

Rabbi: "The best part of the job is that I get to help people through the lean times and celebrate with them in their good times. I mourn with them, I can be present as they welcome a child into the faith. I can help them convert to Judaism, and we can celebrate holidays together. The worst part of the job is that people often take things out on me, that shouldn't actually be directed at me." (2010)

Church Associate Minister: "The best part of my job is working with congregants and volunteers. There's nothing like seeing a person have an "ah ha" moment or a healing experience when they attend a class or prayer group. I love to see people make connections and work on projects together. Collecting holiday gifts or gloves for the homeless neighbors are two projects that continue to bring people together. On the other hand, being distracted by "petty" issues like a volunteer's upset feelings about the change in decorations can be very time-consuming." (2010)

Clergy/Church Administrator: "Working with people is the best part of the job. I view the administrative, coordination and accounting as tasks that have to be done, but I find the details very boring and a form, in effect, of self-sacrifice. When I work with people it can be a very happy time of their lives such as having a baby, getting married or receiving a sacrament. But sometimes you find that you meet people when they are at their lowest: unemployed, in the midst of a family break-up or affected by death, sickness, drug addition or mental health issues. But that is when you find God and how He is working in our lives -- how He touches us as we touch our brothers or sisters. He gives to us, we give to others and we in turn receive it back. That's good." (2010)

Career Tips

"Negatives And Positives Of A Career Funeral Director...
Be prepared for long hours, phone calls in the night and heavy lifting but more so a rewarding career." (Funeral Director; 2014)

"Gain Experience Before Working In The Church...
My best advice would be to gain experience in a church or ministry setting. Before you consider a career as a clergy person, I would see how things work behind the scenes by either volunteering for your church or getting a part time job in a small church in a ministry setting." (Director Of Student Ministries; 2014)

"Protect Yourself Against Burnout...
It is extremely easy to get burned out, especially if you don't have any support people. Asking for help in an area where very few people actually want to help, it gets hard to not take a lack of volunteers personally." (Children's Pastor; 2013)

"Choose Your College Program With Care...
It is very important to check the degree program to see if it is what you are looking for. If you are interested in counseling, psychology may not be the degree for you. If you are checking into a counseling program at a graduate school, make sure that you are receiving qualification for licensure." (Christian Counselor; 2013)

"Know God's Will...
The most important part of being a priest is prayer. This life is completely dependent upon knowing God's will. It is a life that calls us to grow in humility and away from self-centeredness. It calls us to recognize that life is not about me or what I want but rather what life is actually about what God wants and how God is calling me to do it. So begin to pray. This of course is not true just for this vocation but for all that we are called to do in our lives depends upon prayer." (Pastor/Priest; 2011)

"Make Sure Your Life Is Stable...
1. I would first advise to make sure you are emotionally stable. There will be a lot of nights where people come to you with a lot of problems, and if you think you are going to be able to help someone else then you need to make sure your life is in order. 2. Spend a lot of time praying over the decision. If you could see yourself handling the worst of the worst situations then you will be able to handle anything. 3. Talk to someone who is already in a ministry role to get their perspective about the job." (Youth Minister; 2011)

"Make Sure You're Clear About Your Faith...
1. If you are considering becoming a rabbi of a congregation (and much of this advice certainly holds true for any clergy person), be quite certain that you enjoy engaging with people, that you have good reserves of patience. Each of your congregants will feel entitled to your total and undivided attention. 2. Try to find an internship that will enable you to "shadow" a congregational rabbi to see what he/she does on a daily basis. 3. Try to clarify for yourself, as best you can, your own faith beliefs and commitments before you endeavor to help others define theirs." (Rabbi; 2011)

"Have A Heart For God...
To be a pastor you need to have a heart for God yourself. Part of my job is spending time in prayer and Bible study so I grow in my relationship with God. You cannot share with others what you yourself do not have. You have to love people to be a pastor. That means being willing to sacrifice for them. You cannot be in it to feel good about yourself. Every pastor should have support as you can get tired and burn out. For instance, I meet with other pastors in my city every month for prayer and fellowship. I also meet with the other leaders in my family of churches twice a month. This provides fresh vision and the personal encouragement that I need to do my job." (Pastor; 2010)

"You Need A Calling Or Forget It...
I have been told, if you can do anything else but ministry, then do it. Ministry looks easy until you get into the field. You definitely need a calling. If there is no calling, then stay away from full-time ministry. Once the decision is made to go into the ministry, then you need to get a good education. It is important that the minister is able to write and speak competently. I would suggest to anyone who is starting out in the profession, to seek many opportunities to preach. If possible, videotape your messages and learn from them." (Minister; 2010)

"Take Advantage Of Being A Student...
Rabbinical school is a LONG process and can sometimes feel arduous. So take advantage of everything your seminary has to offer. You won't get this kind of access to professors and mentors again. You also won't get this amount of time to study again. Take advantage of the internships that are available. Once you leave school, you'll be expected to hold the same job for many years. But while you are still a student, it is considered advantageous to try out different things. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If pastoral care makes you uncomfortable, be sure to try it early on in your career as a student. If you have never taught in a classroom before, take education classes and learn how." (Rabbi; 2010)

"Take Business Courses Too...
A great way to prepare for working in the ministry is to serve in a local church as a volunteer. Working with children in churches can be very rewarding. Find a volunteer who has a lot of experience and ask to shadow or be mentored by him. Ideal classes to take during your college and seminary studies include business administration and HR classes along with theology courses. After seminary and ordination, becoming an associate minister is excellent experience in preparing for the work balance with family and the personal spiritual journey." (Church Associate Minister; 2010)

"The Right Spouse Makes A Big Difference...
A deacon's wife is so important. She helps keep me grounded and makes me a better person. You need to pray and have a constant conversation with God. You need faith and trust that God is present and working in your life and you must let go of your wants and needs and become dependent on Him. Be obedient to His will, be humble and be grateful for all His gifts. Know that He will give you everything you need to get His work done. Nothing happens by accident. You are where God wants you to be. Let go and have fun." (Clergy/Church Administrator; 2010)