Marketable Skills

For many would-be ministers, missionaries, and church planters, a full-time, paid position is not going to happen. Some might intentionally reject the paid-clergy model. Others might just not be able to raise the kind of funding that would allow them to quit their day jobs. Either way, lots of ministers are looking for ways to support themselves.

Here’s the problem, though- your Bible College degree in Religion and your seminary-conferred M.Div. may have prepared you for professional ministry, but business? Not so much. Your years of church work and missions haven’t exactly provided you with a lot of “marketable skills.”

Or have they?

In my last post, I pointed you to Apartment Life, a company that arranges free housing for believers who will commit to building a sense of community among tenants. I mentioned that community development would be a great platform for church planters and incarnational ministry. Beyond the creative access platforms they provide, however, Apartment Life offers us something else: An example.

What do you have to offer that people in your community might find valuable, important, or worthwhile? How about your leadership abilities? You’re a whiz at sensing needs and developing a plan to meet them. You can communicate clearly and motivate people to change their behavior. Integrity is important to you. You’re good with money (yours and other people’s), you believe in accountability, honesty, hard work, and sacrifice. You know how to gather and build community. You know right from wrong, and you know how to encourage people to do what’s right.

You have valuable skills! Why not use them to interact with unbelievers in a natural and beneficial way?

Frank Daly went from being a priest in the Catholic Church to being chief ethics officer at Northrop Grumman, a southern California defense contractor. Instead of waiting for people to come into his church to confess their sins, he went to them.

In fact, lots of companies are hiring ethics officers.  Many are setting up internal ethics hotlines, and others are outsourcing ethics counseling to independent services. Business are willing to invest lots of money to fight theft, corporate espionage, fraud, and lawsuits. Ethics officers make themselves available to counsel employees who might face an ethical dilemma. Identities and confessions are kept confidential, but eventually provide the business with reports on potential trouble spots that need to be addressed and recommend ways the business can keep things on the up and up.

Most businesses work to retain customers and clients- something you do every day by listening, teaching, encouraging, and meeting needs. Why not offer those services to a local coffee shop? Your community-building efforts could translate into regular customers and same-store sales, for the business. Apartment complexes, high school and college campuses, even local businesses, all benefit from a sense of community. Best of all, your services would provide you with a platform to build relationships with unbelievers and impact your city.

You’ve put together a thousand posters, flyers, and t-shirts. How many local businesses can’t afford to hire professional graphic design and branding services? craigslist is full of requests for charity fund-raisers, after-school tutors, or campaign managers. You could do those jobs in your sleep!

I’m not suggesting that we sell ethics, community development, or even pastoral care. I am saying that there are real-world applications for your skills and knowledge. Something like ethics counseling, community development, or  might provide a great part-time job for a church planter or a great free ministry your church can provide for your community.

Christians need to start thinking like missionaries. You can lead the way by putting your marketable skills into practice for something outside the church.

4 thoughts on “Marketable Skills

  1. I sometimes wonder what I would do if we left the field and returned to the US. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to work for a church….I’ rather avoid the frustration. So when I think of a secular job I rarely think of the avenue you mentioned….it’s something good to keep in the back of the mind.

  2. Great post. You’re right. We need to start thinking this way. If anyone comes to me and says that they are called to the ministry, I never encourage them to go into full-time work. For some reason, this is where God has me, but I think that it is part of my job to try and launch people into a missional future. We will always have churches of the institutional variety, I guess, but their number and the number of staff positions are going to decrease. And, not everyone is a cracker jack church planter. What you have outlined here is a better solution.

  3. Alan and Ernest, I am in Bulgaria this week. We have talked with quite a few national pastors and business professionals here and they all are saying that they would love to see more are business professionals who will be salt and light in the marketplace here. Alan, I like how you put it: “launching people into a missional future”. I hope more and more pastors will encourage their people to consider sending members into the international marketplace. I think it is the future.

  4. My specialty is in community development. I went to college knowing I wanted to serve God by serving others. I also knew I had the skill set to work in cross cultural settings. During high school and college I went on several mission trips and learned about various types of work being done by missionaries overseas. Mostly conventional missionary work. What really drew me were those with law degrees, business degrees who were using their professional knowledge to make a huge impact in a practical way.

    As much as I wanted to be in the field NOW, college was a place for me to discover my skills and interests. I didn’t plant churches or go into the field afterwards…instead, I worked in my local community to establish myself professionally. I learned a lot of skills along the way–graphic design; grant writing; how to collaborate and bring together residents, city municipalities, businesses, non-profits, and project funders to get projects done in the community; marketing, grass-roots organizing etc. When I save up enough money, I plan to get my Masters in Public Administration so I am able to use my leadership skill to continue development work in non-profits and public service in the US and overseas.

    The point is that having a “tent-making” skill is so important in the “ministry” today. The face of missions today is no longer like what it was. This is a great post, Ernest. I had friends who spent thousands of dollars in a private Christian college to be a missions major. There is nothing wrong with that, it would just be hard to put in a resume when you are applying for a job outside the church. I chose community development because of my strong calling to live and work in the community God has put me. Living, working, and building social capital in the community around you is what we should be doing as Christians…regardless of whether we are paid to do it full time or not.

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