In the Meantime, Part 3

This post is part 3 of a 4-part series based on Melissa A. Fallen’s Lost & Found: From Losing Your Pulpit to Finding Your Passion. Find part 1 here. Look for part 4 next Tuesday.

While you are in between jobs, the hours and days may stretch before you in a disheartening monotony. The activities you choose to engage in in addition to job hunting can be life-giving, but they can also be hard to choose for yourself. So far in this series, we’ve considered Entertainment, Physical Activity, Side Jobs, and Serving. This week, we’re talking about obtaining New Skills.

New Skills

Prior to entering ministry, I worked as an accounting analyst for a couple of years. After my unemployment began, I started to think about jobs in that field again. Then I remembered how that job sucked the life from me. While it was a great company to work for and the job was perfect for a recent college graduate, I realized it did not fulfill me. When I thought about going back into that world, nothing about it excited me.

But then the dilemma came when I started assessing my gifts again. If I didn’t return to ministry and didn’t return to the finance field, what was I skilled to do? About three months into the job search, I decided I needed to have a better answer to that question. I set a deadline of January 1 (seven months from my last day at work) to begin working in some freelance opportunities if nothing else opened up for me.

In one of the job networking sites I subscribed to, I found a three-day grant-writing course that was only $100. I signed up, not knowing where that path would lead or if it would lead me to another dead end, but it was forward movement. I met people in that class from various walks of life and a number of nonprofit groups. In hearing their stories, I began to get excited about some jobs that I should pursue further and gained clarity about the jobs I did not want to do. I also enjoyed the intellectual stimulation once a week for three weeks.

While I knew it would take a lot of work to make a fulltime career of grant writing, I also knew this skill could never be a detriment to my future career. It would be another piece that I could add to my resume, making me eligible for some nonprofit jobs that I would not qualify for otherwise.

The second thing I did was begin an online certified personal training course. This venture was significantly more expensive and detailed, but it helped me see some options for a path forward. I knew that if I did not have a job by January 1, with this certification I could pick up hours at a local gym and perhaps find ways to do grant writing on the side. I knew this was not a long-term solution, but it was a way to bridge the gap.

I also remembered an older minister saying to me in my first days of ministry, “Think of several other things you would do if you didn’t do ministry. Don’t ever get stuck thinking this is the only thing you could ever do.” She was right. Ministers can do many other things that are fulfilling and enjoyable. Sometimes we are so focused on ministry that we forget to explore those things. Unemployment gave me time to acquire skills to succeed in other areas that I found interesting.

The personal training course was longer and more involved than I anticipated. Once I got confirmation of my new job, I thought about abandoning the work but realized I had too much invested at that point. I felt much less pressure to pass the test, however. Finally, I took the test and received my certification! Occasionally I work with some clients for fun, and it challenges my brain in a different way. I can also envision ways I may be able to use this skill in a ministry setting in the future.

I don’t know what things most interest you. It may be personal training or grant writing, or it may be massage therapy or bus driving or refereeing a sport. Do some research and find ways to acquire new skills. Those opportunities may lead you to new people and new job leads. They may also be skills that you can fall back on later in life. Or a new skill might open a door you did not imagine as a future ministry opportunity. Regardless of whether you use these skills again, I cannot imagine a situation where you would regret learning something new.

For me, both the personal training and grant writing helped me to have hope for the future. Though I was still discouraged, I did not feel as hopeless as some people feel during job loss. Having these two things to look forward to helped me see a potential path ahead even if I was not completely sure how it would unfold.

Melissa Fallen is a native of Richmond, Virginia, where she has resided most of her life. She spends her free time enjoying the great outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and following her niece’s and nephews’ sports endeavors. She also enjoys coaching high school basketball. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and received both her M.Div. and D.Min. from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. After working in both the local church and academia, she is currently serving as the pastor of Glen Allen Baptist Church. Her book Lost & Found: From Losing Your Pulpit to Finding Your Passion is available here.

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