Master of Divinity?
This post is part of a series with my reflections on the path out of pastoring.
I hadn’t assembled a resume for a job other than pastor for ten years, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing. As I worked through the different sections, listing my degrees, work history, and certifications I had the thought, “I’m screwed. I have no experience that will interest anyone and my highest degree is actually called a Master of Divinity.” I’d truly love to know what an employer outside the Christian world would think when they saw that thing on the resume.
I’ve heard something like this echoed by almost every friend I have who has walked the path out of pastoring. “How do I convince someone any of my experience is worthwhile? Is the fact that I’ve worked in religion going to keep me from getting any other job? I have 10, 15, 20 years of experience and my best hope is something entry level.”
I recognize at least two fears that underlie these thoughts in me.
First, I fear not being able to find meaningful work and provide for my family. My experience and degree aren’t even neutral, they are negative in the world of work outside the church. It seems to me that fear is not entirely true, but not entirely unfounded either. For friends who have taken the path out of pastoring and not walked into another Christian non-profit, their opportunities have been primarily entry level or entrepreneurial. And even many of these opportunities have come from some friend or family member who is willing “do them a favor.” This leads to my second fear.
The second fear is that I actually don’t have anything of value to offer outside of working in the church. I had a hard time putting together my resume because it was actually proof that I had lost the only thing I could ever do.
Here’s what I would say to those two fears. The first one is partly true. In my experience, being a pastor and getting degrees in “divinity” is not a positive for employment outside the church or Christian non-profit world. The second one is mostly false. The abilities I have and skills I’ve developed are transferrable to all kinds of roles and industries. However, there is some hard work to be done to actually apply them in another arena. The realization that I need to work hard to add both hard and soft skills for my life of work after pastoring is very tangible right now. So while it’s not true that I have nothing to offer, it is true that there is work in learning how to use my knowledge and experience in another context.
If you or someone you know has walked the path out of pastoring, I’d love to hear what fears you’ve encountered as you’ve found work doing something else.
Other Posts in This Series