Moving from Secular to Sacred Employment

///Moving from Secular to Sacred Employment

Moving from Secular to Sacred Employment

Working as a Town Planner, my work often varied and was rewarding as I helped shape and establish existing and new communities. After thirteen years and working for four different local government authorities, I had climbed the corporate ladder to be a manager of a department with half a dozen staff under my direct supervision. My professional opinion was respected and I found it to be a positive and rewarding environment. Unfortunately, I ended up working long hours as I was travelling into the city and I had to experience peak-hour traffic. I can’t believe how quickly you can numb to commuter traffic and get trapped into being consumed by a worldly job. I’m glad God had other plans for me!

During that time, Mark O’Brien, the Senior Pastor at Warnbro Church, gave a couple of sermons that hit my soul to really question the direction I was heading. I remember one was titled, “Bold Faith Actions—Doing the Hard Thing.” Even though I was doing well in the corporate world making money for other people, it wasn’t having any heavenly rewards. My heart was churning knowing that the majority of my efforts and time were being wasted.

Also during this period, Warnbro Church was employing people as “Kid’s Coaches” and sending them into government schools to build relationships and be positive role models for children. This was amazing as the schools invited and wanted this service from the church. This sounded rewarding, but was it for me? I met with Pastor O’Brien and asked what may be next for me. He advised that the church had a full time position available to oversee the finance and administration, but it was also a strategic type of role and they weren’t necessarily after an accountant. He mentioned that I was one of the people that God had prompted him to consider to possibly fill the role.

That next day I received the position description for the role. As I went through it, the skills required almost perfectly matched up with my abilities and experience. I then spent a few days giving the opportunity to God and meeting with Pastor O’Brien again. I realized that in taking the position, it would be a huge step of faith and, in many people’s eyes, may not make sense. I would be taking a significant pay cut; my wife and I confidently trusted in God as He had blessed us so much in the past in tight financial situations. A couple of days later, I met with the church Leadership Team. Although I had been exposed to budgets and financial reporting, they still had some questions, knowing that I had no formal qualifications in accountancy. I think my testimony and my willingness to serve God in this role shone through. I was offered the position and advised the church Leadership Team that I would be able to start in six weeks.

Surprisingly, when I broke the news to my employer, he was disappointed but said that he “couldn’t compete with two things—God or my wife.” I left the company on a good note with the opportunity to continue working on a few projects on a casual/contract basis while working at the church. The transition period between jobs was amazing as I was telling people that although I was enjoying my job, God was leading me to something else. Since then, I have managed to complete some town planning work and the company frequently asks how I am doing and if I would consider coming back on a full-time basis.

When I started at the church, I spent time learning what had occurred in the past. However, it was stressed that this was a new position and direction and was not just to be a church administrator, looking after the finance and administration. My job title was up in the air for a few weeks as our constitution did not permit me to be a “Pastor” without a vote by the church membership—we purposefully didn’t want “business manager” in the title. Eventually we settled on “Team Leader for Ministry Support.” One day my title may change to Executive Pastor.

The exciting part of the position is meeting so many people and being able to see the bigger picture of how the body of Christ operates. I am able to offer suggestions for improvement as well as a helping hand. I think the best description of the role is to be a catalyst between ministry areas, encouraging them to look at things in a different way and outside their normal space for ideas and support. It also is an important role to be a sounding board for the pastors and to assist and protect them from issues and tasks that can suck their time and energy.

I needed to get my head around the operations side of the church, including all the service contracts, insurances and other human resource type issues. I have recently found it useful to set up and establish daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly tasks. A big challenge was setting up a daily “to do” list; it was also a challenge to seek and listen to God, being responsive to His spirit when other things come my way during the day. I would recommend setting some goals for the day to get some small wins, but also have quarterly goals to progress the bigger ticket items.

Warnbro Church, like most churches, has a lean budget. Instead of hiring more people, I have been tempted to try and do everything myself. However, there are limited hours in the day and I must ask myself what task is the best value for the church for me to do. Sure, I can do building maintenance, but if I can encourage volunteers to do it, or even pay someone else at a cheaper hourly rate, isn’t that better stewardship of God’s provisions? Sometimes I do need to be the maintenance man or the bus driver, but this will vary for you on your gifts talents and the size of your church.

It is my job to carry out research and present reports with options to the church Leadership Team. During the first few months in the position, it came clearly apparent that some difficult decisions had to be made. This included closing a child care business that was set up to help fund other ministries. The program had grown without close management controls and was draining my time and other areas of the church; there was not an easy way to turn it around.

Due to various factors, there have been tight financial weeks for the church. I frequently need to remind myself that it is God’s church and that I need to rely on His daily provision, rather than in my own strength. I have frequently asked and received God’s “peace that transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). In this, I have seen many acts of love, generosity and compassion and I am honoured to be serving in the church—praise and glory to God.

It is an awesome and rewarding experience to be assisting the pastors and other ministries at the church, fulfilling our mission of bringing people into a life-changing journey with Jesus Christ. It is also amazing to see so many people volunteer and make huge sacrifices, giving to the church through their time and money. It is a different world working at the church full time, compared to only attending on Sundays. There are so many other things that go on and people that come in contact with the church during the week.

One main difference to secular work is that my whole life can now be ministry work, but I need to make sure God and my family still come before my ministry. I need to closely regulate and control the flow of the ministry “tap” as no one else can do it. I have needed to focus on longer-term projects, otherwise the day can be consumed with other tasks that just appear. Also, I have found that there needs to be a distinction between the volunteer ministries that I do and my paid position. I ask myself, “Would I be doing this if I wasn’t working at the church?” Sometimes this can be difficult.

I find my position very satisfying and it is awesome to use my experience, gifts and abilities for God in everything I do. If you are considering making the change to a ministry position, seek God, have faith and dive in. It is not all going to be smooth sailing, but the rewards are in heaven. Doing the hard thing is often the right thing!

Once you are in ministry work, it may be tempting to throw it in and go back to secular work—I encourage you to stick at it. I know that I went through a difficult time grappling with the decision to work in full time ministry and to give it up would be a huge step backwards for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. It’s a great testimony telling people where you work and often correcting them when they assume all churches have a lot of money.

By | 2016-10-12T11:01:20+00:00 December 6th, 2012|Church vs. Business|

About the Author:

Mark Jones

Mark is the Vice President and Senior Banking Consultant for Evangelical Christian Credit Union. He has worked in banking for over 25 years and specializes in helping nonprofits effectively manage their finances. He has taught and written extensively on nonprofit financial management and banking. He is a Certified Treasury Professional®, Accredited ACH Professional, has served on the governing board of his church.