the pastor and the secular job

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workplace,ministry,secular,pastor

I am a paid minister. Ever since I became an ordained minister back in February of 2002 most of my income has been supplied from a local church or parish. Getting paid to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a blessing and a privilege and something I certainly do not take lightly or for granted.

However, I have also worked as a pizza delivery driver while I serve as a pastor. Sometimes out of financial need and sometimes for extra money.

Nevertheless, throughout this process I have discovered a treasured experience and education – the paid pastor benefits greatly from remaining in the secular workplace. Yes, yes, I know – what about career, time, and ministry? These are all important things. But it seems to me that ministry is enhanced for the paid full-time pastor when he or she stays connected in the secular workplace.

Let me explain…

Perhaps the best “job description” for any paid full-time pastor is Ephesians 4:11-12:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… (ESV).

In other words, one of the main functions of a pastor is to equip (or train) the saints (or the church congregation) to do ministry.

So where does the majority of ministry take place at for the congregation? Either school (youth), the marketplace (adults), or retirement clubs and functions (the elderly). It is the job of a pastor to equip these people in how to minister.

The point is that if a pastor has not worked a secular job in some twenty-years and finds the vast majority of his or her friends and acquaintances to be Christians, how does a pastor relate to the world of the congregation? How can a pastor who is so removed from the real world of the congregation connect, equip, and encourage the electrician, the lawyer, the banker, and pizza delivery driver to do the work of ministry in the work place?

As a pizza delivery driver, I find myself constantly confronted with attitudes, filthy language, competition between employees, gossip, and differing world views. I even had an intense conversation with a co-worker who was concerned that I was trying to take their deliveries by working extra hours.

Except for personal evangelism and large community outreaches I have yet to experience much of this in the church office (with the exception of attitudes and gossip). It seems to me that it is very easy for a “professional” pastor to lose touch with the society that the church spends about 40 hours a week in.

For myself, I have found that when I encourage people in my church world about ministry in the workplace, they enjoy hearing how I let my light shine as a pizza delivery driver. They are encouraged by my stories. They can relate with my experiences.

Even the apostle Paul stayed in the workplace as a tent maker (Acts 18:1-3). Some scholars propose that because Paul had the same trade as Aquila and Priscilla that this is how they came to know Christ.

There is nothing wrong with a professional pastor – just make sure your profession includes a connection with the world that your congregation lives in and ministers in.

So what about you? How can you stay connected to the secular workplace of your congregation?

Here are a few ideas that might help:

  • Do you have a trade or a skill that you can do. How about one day a week for a few months?
  • Are there secular charity boards, school boards, business boards, and such that you might be able to join?
  • Is there a small business owner within your congregation that would allow you to clean tables for a night at their restaurant, clean the store with the co-workers, or tag along on a house call?
  • Do you have a local pizza delivery place that needs a driver for one night a week?












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Mark Lafler

Mark Lafler

B.A., Global University; M.C.S., Regent College I am currently serving as a youth minister at our church in Sarasota, FL. I am married to Tera (15 Years +) and we have 3 beautiful daughters.
Mark Lafler

Latest posts by Mark Lafler (see all)

  • http://jezamama.blogspot.com Jezamama

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh wow. This is good. Seriously good. My Dad is a pastor and for few years he worked nights loading trucks for Fedex. Now part of that was to pay for my mom to go back to college, but I think a pastoring couple should find ways to work or volunteer (and not just faith-based volunteering). Really I love this. Makes me think and shake my head affirming. I think that if a pastor is interacting within the world in this way then perhaps the congregation will be willing to be actively involved in the world around them instead of living asleep. Work…even as pizza delivery guy, even as a truck loader is a high calling.

    As a stay at home mom I intentionally spend extra time at our kids’ school not to just be a presence for my children, but to love on overloaded teachers. Even if that means I am just putting books away or redoing a bulletin board. It helps me to see with my own eyes the hearts and intentions of those who are with my children many hours during a week. Even if I decided to homeschool I think that it would be important to find a way to be involved.

    No more HIDING behind that pulpit!

  • Mark Lafler

    Thank you for the encouraging comments. I agree a pizza delivery guy or a truck loader is a high calling. It is great to see that you help the teachers at school. Thank you for doing that! My guess is that they don’t get enough “active” encouragement from the community – let alone the body of Christ.

    Good comments!

  • http://www.soulmunchies.com Crystal

    I LOVE this! It’s so hard to stay connected with the “real world” … and yet that’s exactly what we’re called to do! Although I’m not a pastor, my full-time job is in the church, so I struggle with this too … how do I best connect with what my students and parents are experiencing day-to-day so that I can equip them to be a disciple of Jesus outside of the church building?

    Too many pastors forget that their job as pastor is more than just preaching the word or caring for people when times are rough. Although those are important tasks, there is none more important than helping people really become disciples in the places in which they live and work. We can’t do that if we don’t have a clue what they go through day after day!!

    Thank you for this post – it is MUCH needed!

  • Mark Lafler

    Thank you Crystal for the comments.

    It seems to me that one of the greatest struggles for pastors and church workers/ministers is getting the church to be the “light” outside of the church building… Lot’s of praying, thinking, and working to change this current trend in the church.

  • Mark Lafler

    Thank you for the encouraging words, Duane. I hope a lot of pastors read this column and consider its value to the ministry God has them doing.

    I think our communities would be much different if we had more “Pastor Pizza People.”

  • http://twitter.com/BeverleyB Beverley

    Very good.

    Our pastor was between churches for a quite a while and worked for several years as an IT guy at an accounting firm (I think). No one knew he was a pastor….so he heard them talking and learned a lot!

  • Mark Lafler

    A pastor can learn a lot about the community when they go into the work place as a worker. That was and is my experience.

    Thanks for the comments.

  • Duane Scott

    This post is so inspirational, Mark! I agree SO MUCH! And I follow a ton of pastors on Twitter so I’m gonna personally see if I can let them all read this.

    Pastors often think the only time they can connect with their church members is when they’re wearing a suit and tie.

    I like pastors who will meet me for coffee in blue jeans.

    Never lose site of this inspiration Mark.

    I’m proud of you, and if I were in the area, I’d want the pizza guy to be my pastor. What a beautiful, humble spirit!

  • Diane Lafler

    Great article, Mark! When my father first planted a church in California, he worked in a lumber mill. Hard work…but what an influence on those men who worked with him. Many of them came to a real relationship with the Lord because he worked alongside them, NOT because they knew he was a pastor! It makes me think of the politicians we send to Washington where they proceed to lose touch with the real world! And, a pastor teaches his flock by example, not just words!

  • http://www.somescenes.com Doug

    Great post. The only thing that worry’s me about these type of situations are when the Pastor has to go back to work because the church refuses to properly support them. Pastors should be paid a wage that allows them to support their family.

  • Andy Carlson

    Frequently the “church” fails to recognize the “working folks” for the ministry they do in their secular profession or in their community activities. There is always great praise for the Missionary in another land…as if that is the only “mission work” worth appreciating. Those of us in the “daily work of living” seem to be the overlooked missionaries. Those in the pews are the missionaries to the world around us….the relationship builders with the folks who feel the are “ok” in this world. When pastors are part of our secular working or community environments there is a kindmanship which develops…mutually beneficial conversation and encouragement grows between the pastor, the individual members…with the pastor finding worldly secular ways of conversation, action and relationships to spiritually feed (and to be fed)..the lost of our communities. Thank you for the encouragement Mark for both sides of the pulpit…

  • Mark Lafler

    Thanks for the comments. I agree – actions from the pastor teach as much as the words do.

  • Mark Lafler

    Great Comment! It seems right to me that churches support their local pastors with the means to support their families, as long as the church has the means.

    I remember debating in a class how to come up with a pastor’s income back in my undergrad Bible college. What is a just pay for a pastor? What is too much or what is too little? How should it be determined?

  • Mark Lafler

    I agree that the people in the pews or chairs in the congregation are more then the “missionary support people.” They are in a general sense of the word “self-supported” missionaries.

    Thanks for the comments!

  • Michael Hale

    This is so awesome. When I was in the Army, I remember promising that I would serve God full time when I got out. 9 years earlier than I expected, I was medically retired and found myself not needing to work. I’m in school pursuing a Bachelor’s degree, and there’s so many ministry opportunities around me. I know that God has me in a season of preparation while allowing me to actively minister His gospel in the college, doing what He called me to do. I stand in awe of His provision based on His promise. Staying in touch with the “real world” is more of a “ministry education” than an education of ministry could possibly provide!

    Above all, I’ve learned that we MUST stay relevant to a lost world. God takes some of us and tosses us right back into the world, and keeping our head above the water (and looking towards Him!) is a clear sign and a wonder to many!!

  • Mark Lafler

    Thanks for the comments.

    And thanks for serving in the Army and serving our Lord Christ Jesus.

  • JCMoss7

    Great article Mark, i agree it’s important for pastors too be outside thier churchs. For a pastor to be able to relate his own life experiences with those of the people within his congregation is beneficial for the growth of the church. Also if a pastor is not spending time involved with the lives of people outside his church, how does he reach the lost? You brought up some great points, and i enjoyed the comments pertaining to pizza hut situations. I look forward too your next article. God Bless!

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  • Mark Lafler

    Thank you JCMoss7! You bring up a great point. A pastor who spends time outside of the church in a secular job also has more opportunities for evangelism, let alone an understanding of where his or her church ministry culture is at.

    Thanks for the comments.

  • J. Armstrong

    You bring up some really good points, Mark. I truly believe if more pastors would take this into consideration, they would surely find not only their outreach, but also their personal perspective growing in both scope and depth. It is certainly evident in you. Our pastor has worked for some time as a computer tech (of all things), not because he needs the money, and certainly not because he has an abundance of time — far from it — but rather, because one, he enjoys it, and (moreover), two, he feels being ‘in’ the community (in the secular sense) is good for all the reasons you describe. I don’t know firsthand, but I’d imagine in your line of work (as in many, admittedly) it’s all too easy to become basically ‘cocooned’, or almost sheltered off (inadvertently) from outside realities without expressly seeking to not do so. This could then easily become — if perhaps ‘echo chamber’ is too strong a phrase — let’s say, a detrimentally insulated environment. Additionally, as ‘JCMoss7′ so eloquently stated, the overarching goal of reaching as many souls as possible is also better served by getting out there… how else will one find such persons unless they seek out the Church themselves? While that outreach is certainly a responsibility of the entire congregation at large, surely pastors, too, can (and should) participate… for if anything, they are the most qualified and the most prepared for such endeavors. I, for one, applaud your sentiment and your sharing of it here.

    Keep up the great work! Can’t wait to read more!

  • J. Armstrong

    Great points and well stated, sir!

  • Mark Lafler

    Thank you for the comments J. Armstrong! It does seem that too many pastors are wrapped up in their own local church without much of a sense for the community at large. Hopefully, this is changing with the breakdown of denominational walls and the advancement of an awareness of community issues within the local church.

    It is great to read that your pastor is actively involved in the work place. Great for him!

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  • Bill

    This concept makes a lot of sense for the vast majority of pastors who have less than 200 people engaged with their church.  However, a signficant percentage of people who are involved with a church attend one where the pastor has more than 600 people involved.  With that many people, programs and services how would having the pastor engage in something unrelated to their ministry play out?  For the pastors of larger congregations leading the church and caring for their family is more than a full time position.  Subsequently, their personal soul care suffers, hence the high rate of burnout for pastors overall.  What are ways a pastor could apply themself to the church, their family and themselves and still stay engaged with the culture without getting a second job?

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