Looking for a Job

Talking to a buddy of mine today (who is also looking for a job) and we got talking about the ridiculousness of searching for a pastoral job versus other kinds. This year was quite the experience for me as I got to see both sides of the fence – the hiring and the searching. (I don’t recommend that by the way, but sometimes you just don’t have a choice in the matter.)

Here is what we observed…

*Please note – these are generalizations. They are not necessarily indicative of my current situation. Then again, it might!

1. Money
It’s okay to talk money early and often in the “secular” world, not in the pastoral search. Some of this, I understand. I definitely didn’t ‘choose’ this gig for the money. On the other hand, my kids are going to the same schools, playing the same sports, and eating the same amount of food as everyone else around us. They also like to wear clothes. It’s also not like there is a pastoral discount on gas, food, lodging, education, and recreation. It costs the same for us all.

On the third hand, a pastor’s salary is both a VALUE statement and a REALITY statement. We all spend money on what we value – same with churches. Personally, I’ve never ‘negotiated’ a salary. If I don’t like/want/can’t live on the salary, just say thanks but not interested. No need to dicker about the salary.

I’ve also learned this – the early a church introduces the ‘salary’ issue, the more likely they know it isn’t all that great of a salary. If it’s a fair wage and it really is – they’ll focus on everything else that goes into a hire. (General rule…)

2. Interviews
Churches get away with asking a lot more personal stuff than secular jobs. We’ve been asked about our marriage, our finances, our kids, our beliefs on all sorts of issues. We’ve been asked about our opinions on some hot issues. Secular jobs – can’t touch any of that. The argument is that those kinds of issues are not job related AND the information could ‘taint’ an employer to not hiring someone who is qualified.

The reality we all know is that marriage, finances, and beliefs DO affect a person’s job performance and focus. I think employers have a right to know some of that stuff. I’m okay with all the questions we’ve been asked. I wish secular jobs had a little more freedom than what they have to do the same.

3. Leaving
If someone leaves a company for a better position, better money, or better opportunity – it’s a ‘good move.’ If a pastor leaves a church for any of those reasons, it’s ‘abandonment.’

What is the same for both places is this – how one leaves that place will be how they are remembered. If you had 7 great years but pulled the pin on a grenade as you walked through the door – guess what? Kiss the good of the 7 years good-bye. Not smooth.

I’m sure there are more…but hey…that’s all we got to talk about.


8 thoughts on “Looking for a Job

  1. Grant,

    Not sure I find it “ridiculous” as opposed to a “secular” job; just different, and needfully so, IMHO. I’m in the same boat right now—hey, let’s just trade churches and be done with it, huh? You in a warm spot?

    Anyway, a few thoughts:

    MONEY – When it comes to this, I want to look at the folks on the search team, eyeball to eyeball, and say to them, “you know how much it costs to live here; are you going to pay in such a way that I’ll not have to take a second job, or that my wife will have to work?” If they say “yes”, then I’d honestly just as soon not know the exact dollar amount until AFTER the decision is made one way or the other. Radical? Sure…but I don’t like money clouding the picture any more than absolutely necessary. There is this thing called “faith” that comes into play…when I came to my current church over 13 years ago, I came knowing that they couldn’t pay me well (45 people; first pastor). As I look back now and see what we’ve accomplished financially, it’s incredible, even though I’m not paid a sum that is making us wealthy.

    INTERVIEWS – I agree; it’s appropriate for a church to ask those things; “secular” companies should be able to ask more, but this silly PC society we live in prevents it.

    LEAVING – Boy, I hope that you don’t ever leave a ministry for “better money” alone; “better position” or “better opportunity”, maybe. Now, if a church is consistently insensitive to a pastor’s financial needs, expecting much but paying little, then perhaps “insensitivity” might be a reason to leave, but just “more money”? I hope not.

    Thing I think about a lot is the whole “promote yourself” mentality that we can so easily fall into, even as pastors. I want my people to practice the trait of humility, and then I look at some resumes and see pastors puffing themselves up as though they were the world’s greatest at whatever. Sheesh. “Let another praise you, and not your own lips”, I want to say to some of these guys. Fine line, sometimes, I appreciate, but let’s not promote ourselves.


  2. Well, my hackles were raised from a point Byron made and what is considered on the edge of career/call searching. Money shouldn’t be a reason for looking for a new job? I can only think that people who say that have never been in a job that pays so little that there is no way to stay there. There is a phrase in some circles that says pastors should be “free from all wordly concerns” in regards to salary. That’s not for them to be able to afford a new car every year and the best schools for their kids, but they should be able to do their job without having to figure out how to be committed to their work without wondering how to pay the bills.

    I personally bleed about $800 a month and I don’t lead an extravagant life by far. Should I not search for a job that won’t put me in debt?

    OK, hackles going down. Taking a chill pill now. Sorry for the rant.


  3. Paul,

    That’s a little different than what I meant. If I’m in a situation where I’m in a job that pays so little I can’t stay there, then I have a long, serious discussion with the church leadership explaining the predicament. If there’s not money available, then I’d explain that I couldn’t be a full-time pastor and “bleed $800/month”, so I’d either need to take a part-time job (which I think ought to be “in play” as a possibility for pastors), and they’d need to adjust their expectations downward accordingly, or that I’d need to consider whether I was the right man for this situation (and suggest to them, say, that perhaps they’d need to look for a single man, whatever).

    What I mean to be concerned about is not so much pastors who can’t make it financially, but rather those who CAN make it financially but just want more money, and I do think that there are plenty of those around, who put “making more money”—when it’s not a situation such as you describe, Paul—at or near the top of their priority list.


  4. I would love the opportunity to test the theory that money wouldn’t change me. 🙂 hahahaa.

    Byron – you’d had a ball with some of the interviews I had this summer! Church in California where a 1900 square foot house is $800,000. Salary was $50,000.

    I’m no math major (or spelling guru for that matter) but house payment alone would be $4000/month. 48K of 50K already spent.

    I’m thinking – and you can’t figure out why you can’t keep a youth pastor longer than 2 years?

    I rambled more on today’s post.

    Thanks for comments and insights!


  5. SO I Haven’t stopped by your blog in a while, and I have the distinct feeling I’ve missed something. You’re leaving Grace? Maybe you can email and fill in the blanks for me (for no other reason than I’m being nosey).

    Okay, you dudes have so much to say about money and finances and yadda, yadda. To be quite frank that just makes me mad. Not miffed, unsettled or even angry. Mad.

    To say none of you has a clue would be this month’s biggest understatement. Quit trying to sound spiritual and admit it: MONEY MATTERS!

    If you want a deeper appreciation for ministry and its relationship to personal finances, try going bivocational. Try finding a career match in the secular world when all you’ve known your entire professional life is church work. You very quickly find yourself scrubbing toilets or flipping burgers late at night just to make ends come close to meeting.

    Grant, you say the south wasn’t a good fit for how you’re wired. I can identify with that. I grew up in the south, but vast personal experience has taught me that my ministry approach doesn’t fit the southern “Churchianity” culture. So I packed up the fam and headed west because I felt that “God Calling.” I am just as certain today as I was at the beginning of this journey that God did indeed call us out here, but what I’ve learned is the road doesn’t always bend the way we want it to.

    Church work isn’t always a charmed existence, and I’m sure we all have scars to prove it. But before you criticize and chastise over how “unspiritual” it may seem to be concerned about salary and money, try walking a mile in my shoes, or someone like me.

    Probably not my most eloquent post, but it is what it is.


  6. Well, Shawn, I’m not sure who you’re talking about when you say some are trying to “sound spiritual”, or who “hasn’t got a clue”; I can certainly guarantee you that you’re not the only one who has dealt with money issues in ministry, my friend, because I certainly have, and I’ve been doing ministry for a long time now. And yet what I’ve found is that God does provide and supply our needs.

    Further, if it was me you’re talking about, I’d encourage you to read Post #4; I thought I was plain when I suggested that no one ought to “bleed $800 a month” because of ministry. My sole point is that there are folks in ministry who elevate money to a position higher than it needs to be in the discussion. It’s not “unspiritual” to talk about it (who said THAT???), but it certainly isn’t something that ought to be near the top of the list either. Money does matter, as do other “unspiritual” things as well, but I DO “have a clue” that there are some people in ministry who are undoubtedly motivated by wanting to make a bigger buck when the buck they’re making is sufficient for their needs. It’s naive to think that there aren’t some in ministry for whom the love of money is a big problem. That’s MY point.

    Perhaps if this discussion gets you “mad”, you need to consider some other things as well…

    Grant, when it came down to it, I wouldn’t take a California church paying $50,000 in a market where homes were $800K either (well, under normal circumstances, I should say), because that would signal that there were some real issues in the church as to how to treat a pastor that would likely bite you in the butt in other, non-monetary ways as well. I’m sure not saying that money doesn’t matter, friends, but just that we have to put it in perspective.

    And you couldn’t handle the SOUTH??? Man, we DO need to talk about a straight-up church swap (and I don’t even know what denomination you are!!!). I WISH I was in the land o’ cotton!!!


  7. Be careful what you ask for!!!! hahahaha…

    Lot’s of good things about the South – that’s for sure.

    Ministry here is a bit different – like all places, it’s a fit thing. No regrets on my end.


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