Ten Vocations Pastors Would Choose If They Weren’t Pastors

What vocation would you choose if you were not a pastor?

That is the question I posed on social media. Both the nature and the quantity of the responses are indicative that many pastors think about this matter. We received well over 1,000 responses. A number of them are bi-vocational, so they have already chosen a second vocation. 

Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency:

  1. Teacher. Most of the pastors specified high school or elementary teachers. A few mentioned professors in universities or seminaries.
  2. Coaching a sport’s team. There were a variety of choices among the various sports, but high school football was the most frequently noted.
  3. Law enforcement/first responder. More of the respondents chose police as their alternative vocation, but firefighter was a clear second choice.
  4. Small business owner/entrepreneur. Some of the pastors were very specific about the nature of this path, particularly with options in the digital world.
  5. Skilled laborer. These responses were really varied. They included such vocations as woodworker, plumber, electrician, and mechanic.
  6. Denominational worker. These respondents obviously wanted to remain in vocational ministry as their second choice.
  7. Chaplaincy. The most common choice was hospital chaplain followed by military chaplain.
  8. Broadcaster. These responses included radio broadcasting, television personalities, and play-by-play announcers for sports teams.
  9. Counselor/therapist. The pastors who responded with this choice often mentioned that counseling was the most fulfilling aspect of pastoral ministry.
  10. Medical field. Physicians and nurses were the most frequently mentioned.

Pastors offered dozens of outlier responses. Here are a few of the stranger comments. None of these were offered by more than one pastor. That is totally understandable. 

  • Lion trainer
  • High King of Gondor
  • Tollbooth attendant in Florida
  • Exotic dancer
  • Lion trainer
  • Cranky deacon
  • Hot dog vendor
  • Billionaire
  • Playing cowbell in a band
  • Smoking pork butts and inhaling
  • Trophy husband
  • Dolphin trainer
  • Ninja turtle
  • Raiser of zebras
  • Custom treehouse designer
  • Disney monorail driver

Thanks, pastors. Have a great 2021.

Posted on December 28, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Uncanny! Though my #1 pick isn’t on here (fighter pilot), many times over the years I have thought of each of these careers would be a fantastic career that I’d love. (Cranky deacon is tempting but the self-destruction that comes with it is pretty unappealing.)

  • I would have said wild animal sitter – one who helps rehabilitate orphaned goats and other wild animals. I would love to raise zebras but I wouldn’t have thought of it.

  • Eric Price says on

    Dr. John Koessler (of Moody Bible Institute) says that he couldn’t decide whether to be a comedian, a politician, or a salesman – so he combined all three and became a pastor!

  • I’ve also seen pastors make very successful transitions to fund raising consulting and work on development staffs of hospitals and schools.

  • Interesting that no one had non-profit management – such as being Executive Director of a non-profit – as there is almost 100% transfer of skills… but maybe that’s the point. If you’re going to have similar headaches, might as well keep the ones you have. Though as churches shrink or die, it’s a good option.. Some nonprofits welcome innovative and adaptive thinking/leadership.

  • Robin G Jordan says on

    I trained as secondary education teacher, worked for a year as a substance abuse counselor, then as a food stamp eligibility worker for a couple of years, then a foster care case worker and finished my social work career as a child protection investigator, family services case worker, and youth services case worker. My last position combined all three roles. During that time I was also a licensed minister. and served as the worship coordinator on the launch team of a new church plant. Since I retired, I have been involved in pioneering four new churches in various capacities, and have served as a preacher and worship leader at a fifth church. For a year I also served as the licensed minister and non-ordained pastor of the same church. At the time I was preparing for eventual ordination as the pastor of the church. However, I did not enjoy the full support of the congregation and relinquished my license at the end of the year. I preached too much about community engagement, evangelism, and mission and the congregation did not share my passion for these biblical purposes of the local church. Its members were content to gather once a week, worship, fellowship, and then go home. If I could choose an alternative vocation it would be a bi-vocational or full time pastor.

  • Robert Thompson says on

    That is a good dose of medicine for my spirit. Thank you for all you have done, are doing, and will continue to do. Retired Senior Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church of Lake Saint Louis, Mo. – 91 years old.

  • Funeral Director

  • Philip Cooper says on

    Forest Stranger

  • Larry Teasley says on

    Among the outliers, it would be hard to choose between High King ofGondor and playing cowbell in a band.

  • This article was a good way to start my Monday. Thank you for listening and writing.

  • Mark Simons says on

    I’ve done 5 of the 10 at some point in my life before during and after ministry.

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