The Difference Between A Career & A Calling

Everyone has a calling, and everyone has a career, but not everyone experiences both simultaneously. Having a sense of calling isn’t reserved for those in ministry alone.I know doctors, teachers, and stay-at-home spouses who are called to do exactly what they’re doing, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you’re called. While we can do a lot of things, that doesn’t mean we’re called to everything.

All of us, in our positions, should have a strong sense of purpose, passion, and calling so we can execute our roles with professionalism and excellence. The problem is when people who are called to something outside of full-time ministry end up in full-time ministry, and no one wins in this situation. The larger your church or organization grows, the more people will want to join your team, and the more critical your interview process will become. As a leader in ministry, your job is to help people discover their sense of calling, and determine where that calling might be best expressed, even if it means helping people find their place outside the walls of the local church. Helping people flourish in their unique, God-given calling in any facet of life is rewarding for the leader.

In ministry, especially larger ones, far too many people are working on their individual career path rather than walking in their God-given calling. This could be because church growth required quick hires, open positions provided an opportunity for those outside the leadership pipeline to apply, or short term needs overrode due process.Regardless, people sometimes end up in full-time ministry not motivated by a calling but rather a drifting career path that led them to the church.

So how do you know if your teammate is career-minded or calling-motivated?

Here are few observations that I think will help you:

A career-minded employee is driven for a paycheck, where a calling-motivated employee is driven by a purpose.

  • A career is about gaining compensation, but a calling is about giving compassion. Compassion must be a primary motivator for anyone in full-time ministry.

A career-minded employee is in it for a position, where a calling-motivated employee is in it with a passion.

  • Don’t count the hours you work rather make the hours you work count. Ministry is not a job – it’s a lifestyle. An hourly mindset or hunger for title and position won’t endure the demand of ministry, only a passion for people will.

A career-minded employee works because of people, where a calling-motivated employee works for people.

  • If they’re not in it to HELP people, they’ll HARM people. This is an easy one to see from a distance; we don’t work because of the people but for the people. Being paid to do full-time ministry is an honor and a privilege, and few have the opportunity to ever do so.

So what can we do to increase the number of people on our teams who are calling-motivated?

1. Interview for calling and conviction rather than resume and results, which means asking better questions that reveal the heart and soul of the candidate. Asking about previous experiences is not enough. We must go deeper and unpack the emotions and feelings of those experiences.

2. Measure and address your teammates individual calling in weekly or monthly one-on-one with staff. Questions like: “What are you most passionate about right now?” and “What is keeping you up at night?” reveal the passion and tension areas. If your teammate is routinely struggling to define their passions and problems, their sense of calling could be weakening.

3. Talk about your unique calling and convictions often. Leaders set the tone and example. As ministry leaders, we are to model what walking in the confidence of a calling looks like, day in and day out.

No matter where someone works, having a sense of calling is critical. Everyone wants to find fulfillment in work and to live out a sense of purpose and meaning. This kind of satisfaction can be experienced in and out of ministry. We must help people of all professions work with a deep sense of calling, especially in ministry. That said, how is your team doing? Are they calling motivated or career minded?


One thought on “The Difference Between A Career & A Calling

  1. Hey Pastor Dave, Thanks for clarifying calling and career. It’s all about serving people vs. a paycheck and position. Good thoughts to keep in mind.


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