The Top 9 Misconceptions About Careers in Ministry

black minister laughing with small group

“Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.”

For people who are called to become church leaders, the prospect of supporting different people and different communities as a pastor in church ministry can be both clarifying and empowering. Still, a major barrier that can complicate a prospective church leader or pastor’s entry into the field of ministry can be found in the many myths and misconceptions that shroud the role. In this article, we unpack 9 of the most common misconceptions that surround the decision to pursue ministry as a career.

What is a Pastor’s Job? 

Pastors and Ministers across a variety of Protestant Christian denominations tend to carry a number of similar responsibilities. From providing spiritual leadership to their congregations in different capacities to supporting church members in group settings or individual bases, ministers offer faith-informed guidance to help both sustain and foster the health and growth of a church and its members.

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Pastoral and ministerial leadership can be a rewarding career path because of its purpose-filled and community impacting benefits. Detracting from the draw of this filed are several myths that can serve ultimately as demotivators for those interested in pursuing ministry careers. The following are the 9 most common misconceptions that obscure the potential value of the field of Church Ministry.

pastor helping troubled young man 

1. Church Staff Only Work on Sundays

While it could be true that some members of the church staff only participate during weekend services, almost without exception church pastors and ministers and most church staff levels are constantly at work behind the scenes. From coordinating events, basic administrative and office management from HR to financial oversight, to running programs for groups and individuals, both within the church and throughout the community, creating and balancing church leaders are on the job throughout the week and often fill “exempt” roles that go far beyond the traditional 40-hour work week. As most church staff will likely report, the job is never really done. More opportunities for a deeper connection with the congregation and more opportunities to reach others will consistently drive ministerial leaders to work practically every day of the week in different spiritual and administrative capacities.

2. Being a Pastor is an Easy Job

Coinciding with the belief that church staff works one day a week, it stands to reason that some think church leadership is an easy job. This is simply not the case and is most often the opposite. Recent scholarship has determined how dynamic and driven one must be in order to sustain the level of service often required in the demanding field of ministry. Specifically, Christian Scharen, in the scholarly article “Teaching Toward the Practice of Ministry Today,” posits that the role of minister has evolved considerably over the past century. He offers that “Pastoral leadership today requires collaboration, risk, discernment, judgment, and resilience, among other things.” Through this lens, it’s important to consider how often and how present pastors and ministers must be in a variety of high-need settings to help support, guide, and serve their church members.

praying at home with pastor

3. Ministry Only Happens at Church

As the world becomes increasingly connected and increasingly online, it’s now become the responsibility of church leaders to reach new members and generate engagement in the Word of God through digital means. While social media certainly poses unique challenges to church leaders and members alike, online tools can also help church staff organize events, communicate with audiences directly, and connect with other community organizations. From these vantage points, it should be considered an advantage that church ministry can happen in new, digital spaces today. In essence ministry happens anywhere you have access to communication tools, presenting new challenges but also abolishing traditional limitations.

4. Ministers Don’t / Can’t Have Personal Problems

Ministers, pastors, and church leaders are humans. While humans were created in God’s image, we are still deeply flawed subjects who must seek God’s forgiveness and grace. Through this logic, it makes sense that church staff members all navigate their own personal problems – and that’s okay! It would be both dishonest and dangerous for a church leader to claim to be perfect, and the more transparent and authentic that both church members and church leaders can be with each other in this respect, the more effective and stronger the ministry will ultimately be. 

praying personal problem

5. Only Certain People Can Become Ministers

Pastoral positions across denominations are becoming far less traditionally defined or confined. Like many industries and workspaces, church culture has spent decades evolving from past stereotypes to reflect greater levels of diversity. While churches are naturally seeking to acquire strong staff talent that aligns with their denominational structure and biblical theology, there are far fewer preconceived notions of successful church leaders than some potential candidates would think. If you have a passion for spiritual pursuits and leading others in their spiritual growth, church and pastoral leadership offers a variety of entry points and high-demand job growth considering the incredible need for strong leaders, teachers, counselors, pastors, and other valuable roles within the tens of thousands of ministries and ministry types, nationwide.

6. Ministry Requires a Specific Skill Set

While it’s true that ministerial roles tend to draw people with certain kinds of leadership skills, pastors, ministers, and other church leaders are increasingly entering the field with diverse and even on-the-job-learning skill sets. In the same way that different business leaders bring different perspectives and viewpoints to help their organizations grow, church ministers with different skills offer unique gifts to their congregation.

7. Ministry Prioritizes Making Money

Probably one of the most damaging and misguided misconceptions directed toward the Church is how ministers and other leaders are obsessed with exploiting church goers for their money. Unfortunately, like any industry, there are those whose money-mismanagement have influenced this cultural misconception. But as it happens, church ministers are almost universally ‘not’ called to the church for financial gain especially considering church positions traditionally draw a measurably lower base salary than the mainstream career equivalent (for example, church CFO versus secular, church graphic design versus mainstream market, church pastor versus Senior Leader in corporate America). Knowing this might seem like another item on the “deterrent” list, but instead, most enter the field because of a spiritual calling to help build, cultivate, maintain, and help grow a thriving church community and have an impact on individual lives and families.

small church group praying

8. Ministers Are Only as Successful as the Size of Their Church

Even though some church leaders are able to reach massive congregation sizes, manage different levels of staff, and stream their services to international audiences, the size of their church does not make them any more effective or important than ministers who lead smaller congregations. There are certainly advantages to both, but one major misconception that clouds Christian ministry today is that somehow the size of the church community is linked to or reflective of ministerial effectiveness. 

pastor using technology to listen to bible

9. Church Leaders Reject Innovation

Because the job of pastor and minister involves and affects the church body they serve, ministers constantly receive feedback on how to improve church services, programs, ministries, and other functions that affect their congregation and the surrounding community. With so many individual needs and new incoming ideas, it can be overwhelming for ministers to attend to each of these ideas directly and deliberately. As a result, some church goers may feel like their ministers are too set in their ways to adopt the changes they proposed. On the contrary, pastors are consistently communicating a need for “more hands” to implement the associate programs and possibilities to realize and meet these needs. As trained professionals who carry a carefully cultivated insight into church leadership, pastors and ministers must often balance the feedback from their congregation with conventions and customs in the field. You’ll often hear a pastor say, “that’s a great idea, are you volunteering to run it?” This also speaks to the immeasurable job growth and career viability to candidates graduating with degrees in ministry related areas of service.

How to Dispel the Most Dominant Myths in Christian Ministry

The most trusted, effective, and focused way to diffuse common misconceptions that govern Christian Ministry is to learn from trained professionals with tired and true church leadership experience. Some ministry degree programs offer church jobs and internships as a portion of the final year of study or part of the degree curriculum. Much like clinic hours or cohort capstones in other areas of study, some pastoral degree programs seek to graduate students who have seen first-hand what active ministry requires, before they complete their degree. This kind of training will help guide future pastors, ministers, and church leadership professionals to a new stage in your career and provide a more realistic set of expectations that govern the job position.

Learn more about what it means to be a Christian Pastor or Minister through our immersive career guide today and begin your church leadership journey today.