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Lessons from an Unemployed Professional Christian

That is my tongue in cheek description of life as a pastor. I used to tell my people that I was paid to be good while they had to be good for nothing. Nearly a year and a half ago, I found myself unemployed for the first time in my adult life and with no marketable skills other than in church world, or so I thought. Now, I am still what our government euphemistically calls “under-employed” but my house has not been repossessed and we have not skipped a meal. It is just the grace of God and what follows is neither a “how-to” list for surviving unemployment nor an expert analysis of the situation. It is just some lessons I have learned along the way. Maybe there is something in here that will help you.

  1. Treat every day like you have a job. I get up and get dressed and go out and try to make something happen every day. I am convinced the greatest danger to mental health is not having a reason to get up in the morning. Often, the reasons I made for myself were a stretch, but at least a deadline, a meeting, or a phone call required me to have a plan for the day.
  2. Similarly, you should consider finding your place (not necessarily your job) your full time job. I know lots of people who spend 30 minutes a day looking at the online or newspaper want ads and submitting resumes and the rest of the day feeling sorry for themselves or playing video games or both. Networking with people in the fields in which you are interested and keeping in touch with your contacts is a significant purpose for each day.
  3. Build an inventory. I realized quickly that I know a lot of things and have a lot of experiences that can help some people and create some revenue streams. It didn’t take me long to realize that my next step might not be to one employer but to have several little things that create revenue streams. During one of those “work days” at the coffee shop, I brainstormed a list of things I could do and things I know how to do and things I at which I am really good. This step also caused me to get creative about delivery systems for that inventory of accumulated knowledge and experience…which leads to the next lesson.

    Me learning something about concrete work.


  5. Learn something. Prior to now, I have been a bit of a tech junkie, tinkering with social networking, viral marketing, websites, blogs, etc. However, I really didn’t know HOW to do any of those. I am still not completely sure but as I have needed to know something, I have tried to learn it rather than outsource it. Not only is it helping me to market myself, but these are skills that make me look better in the market. (While on a recent trip, I learned how to mix and pour concrete, a skill that could come in handy in the future.)
  6. Add value. I decided early on that ministry was for me a calling and not a profession and even though no one was paying me to do it, serving God by serving others was still how I would live my life. I have used my skills and abundance of free time to help several other ministries during this time, coaching pastors, developing a missions website, raising funds for a friend’s non-profit, etc. I did not do those things for profit but now that I look back, I did profit. Every time I invested in someone else, that seed grew, either as a new skill developed, or a paying gig evolved from the contact, or I met someone through that contact that can help me along the path. Adding value to others as a way of life always pays off eventually.

This is not an exhaustive list and I may add more later, but it gets us started. What have you learned that you can add to the discussion?

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