3 Reasons You Should Not Pursue Full Time Ministry

The mission of the church is amazing. It’s all about transformation. We are all separated from God until we are redeemed by the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

We are saved by grace, but we are also changed by grace.

What is that transformation intended to accomplish? Certainly to worship God and live a life of biblical values, but to what end?

We are all called to ministry. (Ephesians 4:11-13) So that the whole body of Christ becomes mature attaining the fullness of Christ. (Transformed!)

A great question is: Are you called to full-time vocational ministry or marketplace ministry? Both are equally valid and powerful.

There is nothing larger or more significant than the Kingdom of God and our privilege to serve and advance the mission. Whether you represent Jesus on staff at a church or as someone in the marketplace, we’re all on the same team.

One of my great personal passions is to see sharp young teens and adults called to vocational ministry, but I’m also aware that those numbers will always be small compared to the gigantic army of Christians who are out in business and the non-profit sectors of society. It is this “army” that will be counted amongst the greatest force ever to change the world.

With that context in mind, here are three things that are not good reasons to pursue full-time vocational ministry.

1) You think God is calling you to full time ministry but you are not sure.

The truth is, if there is anything other than a full-time ministry that you can do and be fulfilled, happy and productive, you should do it. Only follow a path to full-time ministry if God’s call gives you no other option. Don’t experiment with full-time ministry. If you are unsure, serve as a leader in your church first. Test your call by looking for:

  • “Fruit” (very productive results) and joy (deep meaning and satisfaction)
  • Confirmation from church leadership
  • Doors opening with opportunities for you to serve at a church

2) Your business career is not going well.

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with well-meaning and wonderful people who were in a difficult season at work and concluded that maybe they should “get a job in the church.” That is a big mistake.

A job at the church you love is not the solution to your career not going well, or being out of work. The best transitions are made from a platform of success in the marketplace to full-time work in the church.

3) You believe that working in a church is the best way to increase your ministry impact.

It’s true that full-time ministry can produce extraordinary Kingdom results. But equally true, with potential for a much larger scale, is substantial Kingdom advancement from the millions of Christians worldwide who volunteer in a local church, and serve out in the community where they live and work.

The church needs highly gifted, talented and committed leaders in business and social sectors. You have an incredible opportunity to:

  • Spread the grace of God in environments pastors can’t get to easily.
  • Model the life of Christ to dozens of non-Christians on a daily basis.
  • Invite more people to church.
  • See needs and meet them with love, grace and compassion.
  • Represent the church in a positive light.
  • Pray for your church staff.
  • Demonstrate generosity as the Holy Spirit prompts you.
  • Pray for lost and hurting people, who don’t know Jesus or attend a church.

This list just barely scratches the surface.

As a Christian, you have a desire to serve and make a difference. That’s good. God put that in you. That might be on a local church staff, but I want to encourage you that your role in the advancement of God’s Kingdom from a marketplace position is fantastic, maybe even larger than from inside the church.

If you are not serving, ask your pastor how you can get involved and make a difference!

The partnership between pastors, church staff, and all of you out in the community is powerful! Let’s move the ball down the field!

24 thoughts on “3 Reasons You Should Not Pursue Full Time Ministry”

  1. and, if your “get to” is now a “have to”, ask yourself can you still have a “get to” countenance, attitude, etc?

  2. This is so so good Dan, thank you!

    I love this wisdom – It is this “army” that will be counted amongst the greatest force ever to change the world.

    Working in the marketplace is a challenge, but it is such a blessing to watch God move!

    Great wisdom that was shared with me once that I share with each student that asks me about working in ministry: Our ministry is where we stand. Whether at home, at work, in our schools, in our community and/or in our churches, we have the honor and the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus everywhere we are. If you feel called into ministry, pray and seek your giftings and ask the Lord how you can use these giftings to honor and glorify Him and His kingdom.

    I love your call to volunteer first, that is a great place to figure out what brings you joy.

      1. Hi I love the lord my life changed when the Holy spiirt touched me, i want and have let the World know only if they stay quiet and believe how wonderful it is being in a place where it’s so safe and free . therefore I want to continue to serve the Lord
        . the topic is let go and let god

    1. If you have felt called to ministry to use your talents to serve the church volunteer or paid but the leadership (elders, ministry leaders, etc) don’t want you even in a volunteer capacity. Is that a no from them, or God. How do I know. What do I do? I’m ready to work hard but I keep getting roadblocks. Any advice?

      1. God doesn’t say no to a believer serving in some way, according to His will and His glory. He does sometime say not now or not yet.

        How do you know? Your spiritual leaders and mature Christian friends will affirm and confirm the specific ministry or leadership area you are best suited for. If you believe there is a roadblock, ask about it and how you can learn and grow.

        If you learn and grow, but there is still no opportunity to serve, perhaps there is a church better suited for you. I’m not recommending you leave, but I am saying there is some place for you to serve.

        While you are figuring this out, there are many ways you can serve in your community. Check out the different organizations. And of course, you can serve simply by being kind and meeting needs.

  3. Stephen A. Cohen

    Dan, as you know I have come to know ministry from both positions –vocational ministry and marketplace ministry. I could not agree with you more –not that you need my affirmation of course. I might add that the needed ingredient for ministry, vocationally or in the marketplace is a desire/passion to share ones own story and to see that others come to faith and grow in grace. My observations lead me to conclude that there is no exact formula for entering the ministry, rather a coming together of relationships within the church and a strong desire to minister, maybe even a burning desire to be “consumed” with the idea of entering ministry as well as to minister.

    I have been in the marketplace now for over 28 years, repairing furniture. During these 28+ years I have not lost my desire to see the kingdom grow, nor have I lost the passion to share my story how the gospel had changed my life. Additionally, I was in “full-time” ministry for 6 years + and prepared for ministry for 6 years as well. Yet due to some personal issues I bowed out of vocational ministry thinking I would re-enter full-time ministry within 3–5 years. This did not happen, instead I remained in the furniture industry. One last thought here, I found myself from time to time regretting I left vocational ministry –thinking that I could be more affective. This thought was faulty and the regret was unnecessary. For me this line of thinking could not have been further from the truth!!!

    Here is the big take away: You can meet far more people who are far from God or yearning to know more of God outside the church. I have been in over 30,000 +/- homes in the last 28 years servicing peoples furniture. I have met countless folks within their own residents where they are most relaxed and comfortable, where they are more likely to share from their heart about their journey in this life. I cannot even begin to tell of the many times my clients have opened up to me without me soliciting what’s gong on in their personal lives. If anyone knows me, you will agree that I am not shy(almost to a fault), I tend to have look of openness and I believe I have a yes face that communicates, yes, this person cares and can be trusted. If I see an opening to share or if I can relate to someones personal hardships I don’t mind encouraging through personal experience.

    Bottom line — read Dan’s article again and chew on it, examine it thoroughly. Ask the hard questions that Dan listed at the end of his articles. Everyone has a ministry/gifting to promote the Kingdom of God Finally, pray and ask God where you can be most affective –embrace the answer with courage and then go with conviction and passion as you journey with Jesus.

  4. Great stuff!

    #1 has me thinking, though. Admittedly, I am being nit-picky–but something about it isn’t quite sitting right for me. Maybe the advice implicitly asserts a too-strong line between the activities of vocational ministry and marketplace ministry. As if a marketplace minister ought not “experiment” with teaching, admonishing, encouraging, leading, intercessory prayer, etc. In other words–in terms of ministry activities–there is very little essential difference between vocational and marketplace ministry (there are some, like exectuting leadership authority). The main distinction regarding the acitvities is more a difference in quantity. All Christians should be teaching others (in their own way); vocation ministers do it a ton. The real difference–the ESSENTIAL difference of vocational ministry is the call from God–that is recognized by the church–to do Christian ministry in an official, representive, and authorative capacity. IOW, all Christians teach some, but someone ordained to teach is an official, recognized teacher.
    Anyways, just some thoghts! And, regardless, the gist of, “Don’t try to pastor a church if you’re not sure about it!” is spot on.

  5. Hello Dan,

    My name is Aik and I got to read this article after googling “when do you know when your time in full time vocational ministry is over?”. I googled it cause for 2 months of doing campus ministry full time, I’ve been doing it through missions partners not through church based salary. I’ve seen people and are with people who have been doing this for years and I can see God really providing for them. I’m 2 months in and last week I ripped my pants and don’t even have money to buy new ones. You could say that going back to my corporate job might be the answer, and I’ve applied for jobs. However Everytime I apply for a job, I have no peace. Anxiety builds up and I feel like I’m disobeyimg God. Im checking my heart on wether money has become an idol for me or anything else. I’m conflicted. I know there is nothing else I’d rather do, where I can be productive, filled with joy and I honestly know this is where God has called me. However, I still need to eat.

    In my situation, would you recommend I keep going or go back to the corporate?

    1. Aik,

      Ultimately you need to ask God for guidance and follow your heart as He directs you.

      If it does become necessary to return to the corporate world, remember, you can still serve Jesus in amazing ways even though you don’t work in a church.

  6. Thanks for the article.
    So what would you say to the following situation:
    Some 20 years ago, I dropped out of engineering studies to focus on doing Campus Crusade volunteer ministry, aspiring to join full time. Some office politics happened, and I got squeezed out. Then I volunteered at my church with preaching and youth ministry.
    Then went to BTh studies, with the idea to return asap in preaching ministry. But 2 months after enrolment, an elder who apparently had other plans with the pastoral funds, squeezed me out.
    I LOVED my academic work, but said Never again will I put my wellbeing in the hands of people that claim faith in God as Everybody has hidden motives.
    Dast forward 14 years, I manage a digital agency. I can’t say it hasn’t been a success, but clearly there are struggles. It’s hard work.
    But in this time, my wife and I hoped to set up the business in some 10 years, and step back to focus on self funded full time teaching ministry.
    Didn’t happen. The business requires full time hands on care. So we’re at a place of thinking: there are at least a hundred people more qualified to run our agency, but we doubt there are 100 equally equipped and experienced folks for solid theological teaching in our area (Macedonia, small country in Eastern Europe).

    Now, in the past month, we’ve had the idea of switching to full time ministry regardless of what happens with the business. Perhaps we’d hand it over to our current manager, with some profit sharing agreement.
    But the question is, if after 14 years of work and relative financial success, you find yourself unfulfilled and longing to do theology and teaching, and moat believers around you are enthusiastic about the idea, is that a good enough indicator that the time has come to change lanes and pursue the longing?

    1. Igor,
      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I cannot advise you about leaving your business, I’m not a financial expert and would not know the impacts on your life financially. Moving into ministry because you are unhappy in your job isn’t enough. However, I do think that if you clearly sense God’s calling, and have the affirmation of a few wise and strong people you trust, (strong meaning they will tell you the truth not what you want to hear), then it’s good to pursue your desire. Pursue meaning, consider and investigate, not jump. It’s not wise to quickly abandon your business without a plan, including funding. Listen to God, trust your heart, get wise counsel and have a clear plan.

  7. Reading your articles, people’s response especially questions and your thoughtful responses is inspiring, educating and impacting for me.

    Thank you Dan Reiland, I love you so much.
    Hope to meet you in person.

    Lastly, how can I get ALL your books/ manuals, ALL your articles and ALl audio and video training.

    1. Hi Moses,

      Thank you for your kind words, and I think just simple google search will provide all you need.

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