Hunting and Gathering

I was listening to an NPR report with a state university professor of economics (I missed which one as I tried to track the station through the small towns of my commute) and was intrigued by his suggestion that we are moving back to a hunter and gatherer economy. His suggestion was that there is a not certainty or stability in the job market today and having been in the workforce during the worst of the recession, I can attest to that.

My professional life has consisted of yearlong commitments. Many people have asked me, “Why did you jump around so much?” To which I respond: “I had to.” Now, granted, I did change professions and commit to going back to school after 5 years in the world of teaching and I did reorder my teaching experience to include a year overseas (one of the best professional and personal decisions I made); however, I did these things thinking they would lead me to some sort of stability. Sure, I would jump around for a little while, but eventually things would settle down in the economy, and I with it.

I’m not so sure that’s going to happen.

Even as I am weeks away from graduation, I think that this professor might have it right. I don’t think there is a certainty or a stability that exists for millennials seeking jobs who have served their time in unpaid or underpaid internships and still the hope for a full time job doesn’t look promising. Not only that, but the interview process for me as a MDiv student often involves submitted my resume to a third party who will then send my resume onto a church that might consider hiring a female pastor. To some that might be a good solution, but to me, it seems like I am being put further and further from having a voice in the process of where I will serve after graduation.

I have hunted and gathered, piecing together internships, stipends, part time jobs, and two-week teaching assignments to try to make ends meet for the past three years. I’m tired of the uncertainty and the instability. I’m tired of wondering whether I will ever be able to not worry that my bank account might be overdrafted.

I don’t believe that being called to ministry means being physically or economically comfortable, but I do think there are active steps that church leaders and denominational leaders could take to make the transitions a little easier.

  • First of all, would you ever consider accepting the job you are advocating? If the answer is no, think about whether this position is worth advocating.
  • Secondly, let go of any assumptions that the candidate can always “work their way up.” This paradigm doesn’t exist anymore and if you haven’t searched for a job in over 5 years, there’s no way you can know how true this is.
  • Lastly, would you take the job you are advocating if you had a family to support? If the answer is no, then don’t expect the candidate to take it either.

When we step into another’s shoes for just a minute, our perspectives change and so too do our expectations.