7 Skills Every Pastor Has That Can Land a Job Elsewhere

May 13, 2014

I am a big fan of pastoral ministry, and I’ve written about that elsewhere. Yet I know that many people find the pastorate an uncomfortable fit and are quietly looking for a graceful exit.

The number is nowhere near the erroneous, unfounded, and gleefully over-reported figure of 1,700 pastors a month suffering burnout.

Man having an interview with manager and partner employment job

Even so, some pastors—like some lawyers, doctors, and plumbers—do want to change careers.

The problem is they don’t know how.

Some pastors feel trapped in ministry, but it’s not because of overwork or high expectations. They think there’s nothing else they can do.

Some believe they are over-specialized and therefore ill-equipped for any other work.

Others feel incompetent because they wrongly view their difficulty with ministry as an indication of their true worth.

Both ideas are dead wrong.

Even an average pastor has skills that are highly valued in the marketplace. You can successfully re-career. I know because I’ve done it myself.

To do so, you’ll need to recast your experience and achievements in secular terms. To do that, follow these three steps.

  1. State the work you’ve done as a pastor.
  2. Replace churchy terms with language understood in the marketplace.
  3. State benefit or result of your effort, not just the work performed.

Here are some examples of things pastors do every week that have direct relevance to the business world.

1. Operations Management

Mid-sized and small church pastors are especially good at this. You have to keep the furnace going, call the guy about plowing, check-up on the cleaning crew, and make sure the worship team isn’t scheduled to rehearse during the preschool program.

Managed operations for a non-profit corporation resulting in on-time delivery of six events per week.

2. Budget Management

All pastors manage money; some quite a lot. If your church was in decline or you pastored during the economic downturn, your experience could be even more valuable.

Successfully managed a budget of over $250,000 and realized cost savings of 5 percent.

3. Recruiting

If you can motivate somebody to staff the nursery during the Christmas Eve service, you can get anybody to do anything.

Recruited a staff of 15 paid and volunteer workers with a 90 percent retention rate.

4. Presenting

Most business presentations are incredibly boring and unimaginative. If people aren’t literally falling asleep during your sermons, you’re a better speaker than any corporate manager I ever had. If you incorporate media in your sermons, you’re a superstar.

Produced and delivered two original presentations per week, integrating technology into the learning process.

5. Training

Do you know how to lead a small group? Can you pick up a piece of curriculum and adapt it for your audience? Have you led people to a knowledge or skill outcome? You’re a trainer.

Created and delivered training programs that equipped more than 30 staff members to achieve success in new roles.

6. Communications

The ability to compose readable sentences is now an extraordinary skill, and many pastors are also communications directors.

Used strong written communication skills to produce internal and external communications in both print and electronic media, and successfully leveraged reader engagement through social media.

7. Staff Management

Every pastor manages staff, though they might be volunteers. That’s actually harder, by the way.

Recruited and directed a team of more than a dozen in producing weekly educational events for children.

You can do more that you think, and those skills are highly valuable in a world where time is money and the ability to get things done really matters.

Some pastors feel trapped, and that magnifies their feelings of frustration or inadequacy. Hopefully, you can already see that other paths are open to you.

Perhaps that knowledge alone will make you more content in your role. Either way, you’ve got options.

Lawrence W. Wilson


I blog about Christian faith and ministry. I've also written a few books including The Long Road Home and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering.