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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  • Rev. Oliver Burns Jr says on

    My second choice isn’t on the list either, however mine would be school bus driver which I did before pastoring. But as it stands now love being a pastor and trying do the work, even though at times it get fustrating.

  • Pat Otwell says on

    I’m surprised these responses don’t seem to indicate that some would like to work in funeral homes.

  • This is an apostle Paul forced upon movement when US ministers need to have a job. In Soviet Union majority of pastors worked, forced by government. In Eastern Europe many pastors work, forced by poverty. We are coming where the world church is and first century church was. That is exciting.

    How about those who have vocation finding ministry and becoming ministers with vocation? They need remote theological education paths. Church is weak in diligating ministries to regulars assuming nobody wants it. Serve the coffee, open the doors, show the slides are “ministries” at many churches which is a joke and of course give money. Some regulars have no money but have time and no courage, imagination, organizational skills but they want to serve. Members pay pastors like a profession assuming it’s pastors job to keep church growing. Pastors are busy but can not pull it alone. With a vocation pastors stop being professional ministers and members have to start plugging in too. We need lists of ministries in which regulars can take part in and which are not coffee, doors, slides, kindergarten or money and announce opportunities every service. The world is shrewder than us. We can not even use technology with which the world comes up and are slow to learn. We need imagination, wisdom. May be. Just trying to understand.

    The good news even if the church shrinks there always will be a remnant as it was in the Soviet Union or is in Europe today. Worst case – church will be small but will live thanks to Jesus to whom there always be somebody attracted because in Him is life and somebody will sense it with heart and mind.

  • I personally think that pastors are well equipped and skilled to be plumbers!

  • Randy Bennett says on

    Can’t say that I’ve ever considered a career as an Exotic Dancer. It would not be a pretty sight!

  • Jimmy Paul TK says on

    Useful contents

  • Chad Payne says on

    Yeah… that second list has me concerned about their churches…

    Seriously though, I’d love to teach at a seminary. Otherwise, if I had to choose a profession, I’d enjoy working at an Apple Store. I’ve converted almost as many people to Mac as I have to Jesus.

    • I wouldn’t read a lot into the second list. Not unlike my second “choices” of sitting with baby orphaned wild animals there is a lot of whimsy and sarcasm.

  • cotton mathis says on

    The most frequent vocational choices I have seen pastors moved toward are auto sales and real estate sales.

  • Oral Whittaker says on

    This is so true. I love this article.

  • Harvey Galloway says on

    I could get into some of the alternate jobs. I think High King of Gondor suits me to a tee.

    • Harvey Galloway says on

      Oh the truth is, I worked EMS for 11 years and I am 2 years away from retiring with 23 years active military service.

  • I really enjoyed this article! My name is Pastor Fred Barton and I’m 68 years old. I attended. SWBTS in Fort Worth, Texas 1985-87 and pastored SBC churches from 1988-2016. My wife, Sharon, are raising Kenny, our ten year old Grandson. We live in Santa Barbara, Ca. 1996-present. We are now active members of our local New Wine Vineyard 2016-present. I help where I can, but pray daily for a way to be more involved in ministry? ❤️

  • Mine isn’t on the list. I keep my truck driving license up to date and have considered using it full time more than once. I have used it part time.