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Career Story: Presbyterian Minister

Presbyterian Minister

Job Title: Presbyterian Minister

Type of Company: I work as the minister of a Protestant church in downtown Boston with connections to both the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ. We are a community of about 150 members of all ages and backgrounds. Our historic building also houses a number of secular non-profit and arts organizations.

Education: BA with Art History and Religious Studies majors, Macalester College, MN •• Master of Divinity Degree, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ

Previous Experience: This is my first career. I did a variety of internships and training jobs in preparation for it including a summer chaplain in a National Park, a hospital chaplain internship, coordinating a literacy program in a homeless shelter, and serving as an assistant to a minister in several church settings.

Job Tasks: In a typical week, I work many hours at highly variable tasks. I have a great deal of flexibility and creativity about when and how I accomplish these tasks.

As leader of the church community, both the projects I work on and how I go about them are a collaborative task together with the church leaders (who are volunteers) and several other staff members (church musician, administrator, and youth director.) The biggest chunk of time each week is preparing for the Sunday worship service, which includes music, prayers, and preaching (a speech of about 15 minutes) on a particular topic related to the Bible and issues in the community.

Other regular weekly tasks are visiting those who are sick, unemployed, new babies, etc. I also organize and lead many meetings of groups of volunteers on a variety of topics including Christian education for all ages, a variety of service and social justice programs we run, caring for the vulnerable members, and practical concerns like finance, building maintenance, and personnel.

I also regularly engage with regional church groups and with other types of church leaders in our neighborhood. I am expected to make on-going learning and spiritual reflection part of my work, so I also read a lot each week (books, magazines, newspapers), attend reflection groups for ministers, and spend one to two weeks doing on-going education in my field. I also write a great deal - newsletter articles, curricula for different ages in the church, letters and emails to members, and worship materials for our local church.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: My work has a concrete impact on people's lives and they are often very appreciative. While I work many hours - 50 - 65 on average per week - there is a lot of flexibility about when I work makes it possible to spend time with my family. I love drawing out new gifts and ideas from volunteers, as well as creating healthy discernment processes for the group (i.e. helping the leaders resolve a difficult conflict about how to use our money by enabling them to speak respectfully to each other and create an acceptable solution together.)

Job Tips: I don't recommend this field to people unless they have an urgent feeling of spiritual calling - they really feel they cannot do anything else. It is wonderfully rewarding and challenging if it is a really good match for the person. However, the rate of burn out is very high and the demands take a toll of family relationships, health, and well-being. The compensation is usually low, so it is important to complete the educational work - BA, masters, and internships - with little or no debt. Talking to current ministers is essential to get a realistic view.

Additional Thoughts: Ministry is a highly creative and rewarding lifestyle. It is always challenging and draws on every part of a person. If you don't mind working outside of the 9 to 5 box, and your loved ones are supportive, it can be very fulfilling. The type of people who seem to do well at it communicate well with other people, have good personal boundaries (can sometimes say "no," are self-aware about their own needs and motivations), and can connect their spiritual life to the sometimes mundane and difficult everyday tasks. It isn't necessary to be an extrovert, but a sincere care for all kinds of people and a lot of energy are essential.

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