How to Get a Full-Time Ministry Job

What does it take to get a full-time job?

That's a question I wrestled with right out of bible college, as I know many bible college graduates do. The principles I will share here apply to ANY college graduate who would like to do something they love full-time.

I’ve had several young college graduates over the years, fresh off the campus of some Bible College ask me about how to get into a full-time ministry job. And I actually do have some thoughts on that subject, being in ministry myself for over 22 years now, 15 of which have been full-time. I have a few pointers for young ministers who desire to be in the ever-so coveted ‘full-time ministry’ position.

And just a side note here, I completely understand desiring to be in full-time ministry; I really craved it like I crave food after missing several meals. It was all I could think about, and there were times I wondered, “Would I ever be in full-time ministry?” And it bothered me with each passing day that I wasn’t, because I really wanted to be doing my ‘calling’ full-time. Many nights I would fall asleep crying as I prayed for the opportunity. I really struggled while waiting tables at restaurants during those early years, knowing my heart was really in ministry, but I knew it was all part of the bigger picture, my life’s journey.


I am not going to state the obvious things that are necessary for ministry, i.e. a true heart for God, people skills, healthy spiritual disciplines, being a person of strong character, and integrity, etc. etc. You know this, or should!

1)  Be a great FOLLOWER.  

How well you follow another leader will determine how well you lead others, or if you get to lead others.

If all you really want is to be in the position of ‘leader’ you are missing the whole point of Jesus’ example of servant leadership in ministry. You do not influence people with a position or title, many young leaders miss this. They think they need the position to lead, but they don’t, they just need to be able to influence, then they’ll be the leader. This is why many would-be leaders don’t ever rise to leadership: They aren’t effective at influencing others.

“Leadership is influence” John Maxwell

Jesus came to serve, not be served and that is true leadership. If all you want is to be large and in charge, it’s not going to work out so well for you, especially in the church world. In the church world it’s all about humility and that’s something we all struggle with.

2)  Treat your volunteer position or part-time staff position like you would a FULL-TIME position.

I don’t mean put in crazy hours and sacrifice your life or the life of your family, but be diligent, committed, engaged, be organized, be a go-getter and model hard work and faithfulness.

I spent seven years as a volunteer in the local church before I was ever even considered for a ‘paid’ position. I worked my rear off FOR FREE! Not to mention many years I spent in a church that I wasn’t ever told “thank you” by any of the paid leadership, and that was okay, because I wasn’t doing it for them. I don’t regret one second of it! I was getting an education, and if I’m being honest here, maybe more of an education in ministry than I did even at Bible College. It was a hands-on education for sure.

I never felt ‘entitled’ like so many I see today do. I knew I had to earn my keep with blood, sweat and tears. I didn’t expect anything I didn’t earn. Just because I went to four years of Bible College didn’t mean jack crap in the real world, and I knew that. I had to prove myself by getting the job done, and done well. Everyone MUST prove themselves. Education is very important, but an education doesn’t supersede being able to get-r-done. I don’t care how many degrees you have -- if you can’t do the job, then what’s the point? Again, education is really important, but it is only part of the picture. Knowing HOW to do something is much different than actually being able to DO it.

The worst thing you could ever say to a pastor/boss/supervisor, “If I was full-time I could do a better job.” Ha ha! I actually had a young staff member say this to me years ago. And I said, “What you do as a part-timer is what we’ll get if we hire you full-time, just more of it!” And that wasn’t much, if anything.

My dad taught me to “work as unto the Lord, not unto men.” Which he said, “Son, even if you are volunteering for something, do it with all you got, as if your life depended on it. Do it better than everyone else, and you will be rewarded!”

We had a volunteer here at Mercy Church back several years -- we’ve actually had many wonderful volunteers -- but one sticks out to me because he went on to full-time ministry, and I knew he would. Why? Because he was AWESOME as a volunteer, far exceeded most all ‘paid staff’ at the church at that time. He never asked for anything, he just got it done, and got it done very well. He went on to Bible College, then on to work in youth ministry at a very large church in Arizona. And guess what? He is knocking it out of the park, of course, I knew he would, I saw it in him as a volunteer.

Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.

This is the very reason I was hired on at a mega-church down in Texas with no real prior “full-time” experience. The pastor called my VOLUNTEER REFERENCES and I received HIGH reviews. And any pastor knows that how you are as a volunteer so you are as a staff member.

A pastor sees that you knocked it out with no pay, and that tells him you’ve got a great work ethic, and that your motivation is in the right place. You are doing it for the love of God and ministry, not the money.

3)  Don’t treat your volunteer position or part-time position as a mere ‘stepping stone’ to great things.

There is one thing I have learned in ministry, and that is we are in the people business, and if you are not genuinely concerned about others, you’ll never make it in ministry. If you are doing ministry more for yourself, your own ego, it’s not going to go well at all.

I know this all too well, because that was me for many years. I wanted ministry more for my own ego than I did to really serve people and further the cause of Christ. Now of course I could, and did, know that right answer when people would ask, “Why I was in ministry,” but it wasn’t the truth. I was self-deceived. But I knew the truth down deep, I wanted ministry for me.

I stopped doing the volunteer opportunities like mere steppingstones and began really pouring myself into them. Truth be told, many times employers will look at the volunteer “experience” as real experience, so make it worth having on your resume!

4)  Be so good that they’ll have to hire you full-time.

I have told many part time staff over the years, make me hire you fulltime! Make me go get a side job to pay you. I have had some staff take my up on that over the years.

5)  Help grow the church, not just your ministry.

Be a team player!

6)  Never ever, ever make excuses.

The worst line I can ever hear from someone, “we can’t do that now because …” or, “If only we had more money we could do something cool …” excuses, excuses, excuses. My personal opinion is that leaders don’t make excuses. This doesn’t mean we ignore obstacles, but a real leader looks for ways to get under, over, or through any obstacle!

Side note: Yes there are times that you can’t do something because of some limitation, whether its lack of people or money, I get it. But that is when a real leader thinks of another way to do it. Don’t let some little limitation stop you from doing something great. Don’t sell out to excuses. Because if you do, you’ll have an excuse for why you haven’t done anything great in life.

A Story of overcoming an obstacle: Back when we started the church, we didn’t have a facility. We rented a school for Sunday service, so we didn’t have a cool place to hold our youth mid-week service. And we didn’t have money, didn’t have a live band, and not very many youth either. That didn’t stop the youth from coming up with an idea to hold service in my garage each week. They hung black sheets to cover the junk in my garage, and set up some chairs, printed cool little bulletins and set up a little sound system to play worship via CD. It wasn’t long before they packed out my garage with 30-40 students every Wednesday night. It was crazy.

Where there is a will, there is a way!

One of the churches I had the most success in was a lame church, with lame leadership, a lame vision, lame facilities (church was in a trailer home converted into a church,) lame doctrine, lame area, lame pay ($25 a month was my salary) and only a handful of kids. We took that little handful of teenage kids and grew it to 24 students in six months.

I treated that ‘lame’ position like it was a full-time position with a big salary, an attractive health insurance package and a 401(k)! The position deserved my full heart, it deserved my full effort … I was doing it for God. And I used that experience on my resume!

7)  Be loyal to the boss/pastor.

One of the things that I learned the hard way was how to be a loyal employee/staff member. It’s critical to the success of the organization as well as to the relationships within the organization.  All bosses require it, even if they don’t verbalize it, they expect it. And it should be given, even if the boss isn’t all that great. And if you are in a situation where the boss is legitimately bad, move on. Don’t cause strife and division, move on and find a boss you can support and be loyal to.

Q: What if I am at a church that that isn’t growing enough to offer a full-time job?

Great question, I recommend making an appointment with the pastor/leader/boss and saying, “Hey, I’d love to be full-time, is that a possibility here, and if not do you mind if I start searching?” and any loving good pastor would say, “Absolutely you can! I will help you, I have many contacts.”