WATCH DRURY WRITE A BOOK.  – THIS IS A TEMPORARY POST   Writer’s first draft of a book to be published by The Wesleyan Publishing House. as  an introduction to the ministry.  This web-posted copy is an early draft of the manuscript and not intended to be used as a final document.  While the editors will catch  minor errors if you see something significantly wrong or missing drop Keith Drury a note at   © 2003 Keith Drury


Kinds of Ministry Jobs

Entering the ministry as your life’s vocation does not mean you are limited forever to being a youth pastor, or that the only job available to you is being the “preacher” at a small church at a country crossroads.  This chapter describes all kinds of “jobs” an ordained minister might fill as part of their ministry.  In fact, many ministers have filled several of these jobs by the time they are 40 years old.  So, the question this chapter answers is, “What kind of jobs are available for an ordained minister?”




There are generally two classifications of church workers: ordained ministers and lay workers.  Ordained ministers are called by God and confirmed by the church; they are set apart by the church as the church’s spiritual and administrative leaders.  As we said earlier there are some jobs in the church which are reserved for ordained ministers while other jobs might be filled by either an ordained minister or a lay staff worker.   The vast majority of “jobs”[1] in church vocations are held by ordained ministers, but we shall see at the end of this chapter that there are also some jobs for non-ordained people in church work.


Solo Pastor

By far the most “jobs” for ministers are for solo pastors—ministers who work by themselves in a small or average church.  The vast majority of churches in North America have a staff of one—the “pastor.”  In fact, in most denominations the vast majority of churches average 75 people or less.  A church this size can seldom afford two ministers.  So the music minister, the worship pastor, the youth pastor, and children’s minister are all one person in these churches: the solo pastor.  In a church this size the pastor’s “staff” is made up of volunteer lay members of the church.


If you were raised in a larger church, the idea of a solo pastor might be unimaginable to you now.  Perhaps your own model of a minister is a youth pastor, or worship minister, and you’ve seen the preaching pastor as someone far older and more mature than you ever plan to be.  (Sorry, you’ll someday actually be that old!)  Though most ministers might start out on a staff, many eventually come to lead their own churches.  You may not imagine ever being the minister of older wiser folk until you are much older and wiser yourself, but if God leads you to do this, he will provide the wisdom, authority and anointing for you to do the work.  The solo pastor has by far the greatest variety in work.  They get to do all the work of ministry and don’t have to focus as narrowly as most other ministers do.


Youth Pastor

Probably the second most common “job” in church vocations is serving as a youth pastor.  Rare before the 1960’s, most churches over 75 try to hire at least a part time youth minister nowadays.  An ordained youth pastor does all the things a solo or senior pastor does—only does it with students.  The students in the youth group are the congregation and the youth minister does all the regular pastoral tasks including preaching, leading, counseling, visiting, and even performing religious rituals like Holy Communion and weddings for the teens or collegians.  Because youth ministry provides such broad experience, many youth ministers eventually move into solo or senior pastor roles when they get older.   Many larger churches turn to former youth pastors to recruit as their senior pastor ten years or so later.


Staff Minister

Youth pastors really fit into this category, but since there are so many youth pastor jobs we listed them separately.   Before 1960 there were relatively few mega-churches (churches over 1000); thus, almost all new ministers became solo pastors.  Since the 1960s there has been a virtual explosion of medium sized churches and mega-churches.  Churches of 300, 700, 1000, and even more than 5000 people have large staffs of ministers to care for the people.  In fact, most of these large churches hire a minister for about every 75-100 people.  While a church of 100 probably has one minister, a church of 1000 might have ten.  As you can see, the ratio of pastor-to-people is about the same. 


The explosion of larger churches has provided scores of new “staff jobs” for ministers.  You might serve as a “Worship Pastor” and direct the worship services as an ordained minister.  Or you might get a job as “Minister of outreach and Missions” and your responsibilities would be to develop programs that get the people to reach out. In this job you’d be leading the missions efforts of the local church, including fund raising and mission trips.  You could be the “Minister of Christian Education” and lead the discipleship and teaching ministry of the church.  Or you might be the “Minister of Assimilation” and organize a church-wide effort to absorb visitors into the life of the church.  There are dozens of other titles including Minister for Children, Music, Evangelism, Connections, Young Adults.  Some large churches even have an “executive pastor” who works under the senior pastor and supervises all the other ministers.  And churches often combine several jobs together. 


Staff job titles change as the church sees new needs or new trends emerge.  Fifty years ago when the powerful teen culture emerged the church invented the "Youth Pastor" as a response.  As worship increased in importance in the last few decades the "Worship Minister" has emerged from what was once a “Music Minister.”  Same with "Minister of assimilation" or "Minister of Small Groups" or other specialty jobs. New jobs are invented as congregational need change.  Culture affects this too.  In the 1950s much of the work of the church was done by stay-at-home-women who did it for free as volunteers, supervised by a solo pastor. As women left home and entered full time employment in the following decades churches increasingly came to employ full time ministers to do what was once done by these lay volunteers. Staff jobs have proliferated and have become increasingly specialized.  In the medical profession a solo pastor is like a “general practitioner” or “family doctor” with the staff pastor being the equivalent to a specialist—like an ophthalmologist or a surgeon in the medical profession.   Educational institutions have responded with a variety of specialized ministry majors to train men and women for these specialized jobs.


If you are headed for staff ministries it is important to get specialized training.  However, it is also important that you do not narrow your options too soon, for churches tend to collect together several of the above areas and lump them into one job description.  In fact, church who hire a  “youth pastor” often assign a broad range of duties that would be better reflected in the title, “Minister of youth, worship, hospital visitation, substitute senior pastoring and occasional janitor.”   Go ahead and specialize, but stay open to other areas and get your over all general training too—you never know what your second job may rewuire!.  Usually it is only in the very large churches that staff ministers get to say, “I only do one thing.”



Ministry outside a local church

All ministry jobs are not in local churches.  Some ordained ministers serve in a local church for years then become a District Superintendent or Bishop, leading and supervising many churches and  ministers.  A few get experience in a local church then become a professor in an educational institution where they concentrate on teaching and training new ministers.  Many denominations elect some of their ministers to their national or world headquarters where they serve an entire denomination as an ordained leader.  Some ministers are sent into itinerant evangelism and travel around speaking or leading worship. Some denominations will appoint an ordained minister to work with para church organizations like Yong Life, Kingdom Building Ministries, the Navigators or Campus Crusade.   Some ordained ministers are sent out as missionaries by their denomination to be church planters or trainers of ministers in other cultures.  But these beyond-the-local-church jobs are the minority of opportunities for ministers. 


While an ordained minister might be appointed by their denomination to any of these sorts of ministries, be careful in thinking that you can simply choose what you want to do and then instruct your denomination to appoint you to it.  You might hear God’s leading personally, but it must be confirmed by the church.  You can’t ordain yourself.  The church sets men and women apart for the ministry.  When you accept ordination you are submitting to the will of the church.  They will send you where you are needed.  This submission to the church can't be over emphasized here—learn it soon.   Ministers are not free agents in developing their career.   The ministry is about the church, and a minister can't just decide on their own what they'll do or where they'll go any more than soldiers can station themselves.  While there are different forms of government in various denominations, they all agree on this: an ordained person is not free to do whatever they please and call it “ministry.”  While you have far more personal freedom than one would have in a military career, you will still have to be submissive to your denomination.  If you cannot make this commitment to your denomination you will want to delay your ordination until you are willing to submit your future ministry, or find a denomination you are willing to submit to.  In fact, in most ordination vows you will actually promise to submit to the church in these matters.


Sometimes we get our hobbies mixed up with our calling. I did for many years.   I absolutely love backpacking—in fact my dream in life has been to go backpacking full time, every day of the year and take others along.   I have always wanted to own and operate a little backpacking store where I sold high-quality gear and could get to know other backpackers.  This has been my personal dream—even before I heard God’s call into the ministry—actually since I was in the 7th grade.  But I eventually had to come to realize that backpacking was my hobby, not my calling.  Until I realized this I tried all kinds of ways to turn my hobby into my calling.  It’s pretty difficult to find a church that will hire you as the “Minister of Backpacking.” (I tried that.)  I even attempted to figure out how I could scheme to get the church to appoint me to “Backpacking Evangelism” where I’d raise support and go hiking full time and while witnessing to other hikers (that didn’t work either).  Eventually I came to realize that my calling was to the ministry, and I could keep my hobby of backpacking as just that—a hobby.  It could be re-creation and rest from my calling.  Hiking became my vacation, not my vocation.[2]  


Senior Pastor

While the term is sometimes used interchangeably to describe a solo pastor and a pastor where there is a staff, here we are separating the jobs.  A new minister might finish schooling and get a job as the only pastor of a smaller church—we’ll call that a “solo pastor.”   It will probably be a smaller church and it usually won’t have a “staff” of other ministers to supervise.  It is unlikely you will  graduate and immediately take a church where they have other ministers working for you—a “senior pastor.”  However, you may one day be a “senior pastor.”  Many senior pastors were once staff pastors.  Often young people headed for the ministry as a lifetime vocation say, “I can never see myself as a senior pastor.”   But of course we can seldom see what God may lead us to later in life.  Can you see yourself as a grandmother or grandfather?   See? 


For instance it is very common for Youth pastors to say, “I am going to stay in Youth Ministry for the rest of my life.”  That is a nice thing to say—they are really telling us they are committed to youth work.  However, there are very few youth ministers in their 50’s around the church, and even fewer ministers will retire at 70 from youth work.  God’s fingerprints continue to be all over our lives, and sometimes we are being equipped to do in the future what we never thought we’d do.  Most of us should be cautious about “boxing God in” too quickly by announcing what we never might do or always intend to do.  (More on this in the chapter on calling and leading.)  Who knows, someday He might lead you to be a senior pastor who will be responsible for a large staff of other ministers.  If that were to happen to you, you can know this for sure:  God will equip you for whatever He leads you to do.




In this chapter so far we have described all kinds of jobs in the church for ordained ministers, because this book is written primarily about the ordained ministry. But you should know there are other jobs in the church that do not require ordination.  It seems confusing at first because we tend to think of everyone who works for the church as a minister.  Thus when a church hires a former junior high school teacher to work full time with the youth we might call this person the “youth pastor.”  Technically they are a “youth director.   A youth director is a lay person doing youth work, a “Youth pastor” or “Youth Minister” is a licensed or ordained person doing that work. 


The only reason we bring this subject up is to remind us once again that it is possible to go into church work without being in the ordained or licensed minister.  We know that is true for the church secretary or full time janitor—they work at the church, receive a paycheck for it, and do it as service for God and others, but they are not working as ordained ministers.  This is also true of other jobs in the church as well—jobs which might be filled by either ordained ministers or lay employees.  We gave the example above of a lay Youth Director and a ministerial Youth pastor.  A Director of Christian Education is a lay person while a Minister of Christian Education would be ordained or licensed.  A Director of Worship is a lay position while a Minister of Worship would be ordained or licensed.  There are dozens of other examples of course, but these are enough to get the idea. 


Why is this important?  This is important because you will want to discern to what God is calling you towards.  Some men and women who enter church vocations do not intend to spend their entire life in that work, and will never practice the full responsibilities of an ordained minister and never would accept a regular preaching assignment.  They never want to preside over serving the Lord’s Supper, or won’t marry people or preside at a funeral—even if they are asked to.  They never intend to preach on a regular basis.  And maybe they see church work as a temporary thing—maybe doing it a few years before moving on to another job.  Perhaps you are such a person?  If so, you need not be discouraged from going into church work, there are still jobs in the church for you—a job as a lay staff member in full time work.  But if this describes your whole life then think twice about pursuing the ordained ministry.  This may seem to you like mere semantics.  But there is a significant difference between "full time church work" and the "ordained ministry."  It can be confusing at first—since most folk simply assume that everyone working for the church full time is an ordained minister.  You will want to search your own heart on this matter.  If God has clearly called you to the ministry for life—wherever that leads you, pursuing ordination is what most experienced ministers would say you should do. However, if you only intend to "do this for a few years before pursuing another career" then most denominations would tell you to get a job in church work--but not to pursue ordination.


Follow up study and application


To Share:

1.  The chapter talked about the writer’s desire to merge his hobby (backpacking) with his calling (Ministry) in his early years.  If you were tempted to do that, what passions and hobbies do you have you might be tempted to try to merge with your ministry in your own planning?


2. Make a list of all the staff at any church you have attended and tell what particular job they had and whether they were ordained or lay staff. Share this list with a friend.


To Discuss:

3.  What are the comparative reasons a person might have for becoming either an ordained minister or a lay staff person in the church?  Which church jobs better fit ordained ministers and which fit lay staff workers better?


4.  If the general ratio of ministers to members is about the same in smaller church as larger churches, which do you think is a better way to organize the church world-wide?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of large churches?  Small churches?  How many people does a church need to make it “viable” in your opinion?


To Do:

5.  Make a chart of all of the kinds of jobs available in the church with titles for all of them, organized in two columns—Ordained minister and Lay staff worker listing the related titles across from each other.  Use your imagination.


6.  Make a list of questions then interview a person working in the church full time who is not ordained and not pursuing ordination—a lay staff worker. Share your results with others.


[1] We are using the term “job” to portray the notion of employment—working and getting paid for it.  We know that ministry is not so much a “job” as a calling, but for this chapter it may be clearer to deal with the “jobs” or “job openings” to clarify what kind of ministry work is available to a called minister.

[2] An interesting sidelight to this story is that after many years I wound up at Indiana Wesleyan University where I now teach both the backpacking and the camping courses, and I train future ministers.  I spend most summers backpacking with my students now.  Eventually I got to see how God merged my hobby into my ministry—but it happened 35 years after I tried to do it on my own.