When you graduate from seminary, you may have grand ideas of the kind of church you'd like to lead. You imagine the good you can do in your community through outreach projects and enjoy the thought of helping foster congregants' spiritual growth. A seminary degree doesn't automatically mean that you must be a pastor, though. There are many ways to use the knowledge and skills you learn during seminary to build the satisfying career that fits you best.
Some jobs require the same type of skills learned in seminary but don't involve preaching every week. Some of these ministry leadership positions may be official positions within the church or serve as a bridge to a local congregation, and sometimes they're completely autonomous. If being a preacher doesn't seem to be a great fit for you, you may find you're more productive in a para-church ministry position:
- Youth pastor
- Music director
- Senior citizen minister
- College ministry leader
- Wedding officiant
Even secular organizations often have a minister on staff who can counsel and offer support for those who work there. Hospitals, sports franchises, police departments and every branch of the military typically have someone on staff who can assist with spiritual guidance for staff, their families and sometimes even visitors. If you are a great listener and your favorite part of the ministry is comforting others, chaplaincy may be the right job for you.
One of the foundations of ethics for many people of faith is a commitment to aiding those in need. Many people enter seminary because they want a career that makes a real difference in the world. If this is your primary motivation, nonprofit work may be a good next step after graduation. Entry-level positions in these organizations often lead to more responsibility and promotions. Before long, you could be running your own team and finding new ways to serve your city or the world.
As you work toward your seminary degree, you may find that your primary strength is helping people find resources and solve their problems. Spiritual counseling is a big part of any pastor's job, but if that is what you prefer to do, you may consider seeking opportunities outside the church. You can become a licensed therapist and do this kind of work on a full-time basis. If you want to focus more on the spiritual aspect of counseling, you can become a spiritual director or consultant. There are many ways to put your expertise to good use.
The arts provide a great backdrop for storytelling of all kinds. Seminarians are trained to be good storytellers, and if your creative side is the predominant way you minister, a position in the arts is probably a good fit. Reach out to groups that support local artists to see how your expertise can help with their mission. If you see a need among the artists in your community that is not being met, you may be able to start your own collective where they can collaborate and find support. This is a good way to show the creative people who make your town unique that they are valued and cherished, even if they never walk through the doors of a church.
Just because you attend seminary, that doesn't mean you have to commit to a life in the pastorate. There are many career options for people with the creative, counseling, outreach and organizational skills that you gain from your studies. Whether you are nearing graduation or looking to leave your current position in pursuit of something that better utilizes your strengths, you can likely find a job that suits you well.