Two young preachers (a married couple) were once asked: "If there is another wave of the pandemic, the church will face double suspensions (the opening of the church to the outside world and collective religious activities will both be suspended). And if preaching on the Internet is no longer permitted and the faithful no longer provide offerings, then how will you survive financially? Do you have other skills to secure your own survival?"
They admitted to me with a shy and sad smile: "No, in fact, we are seminary graduates. Except for serving in the church and preaching, we can do nothing else."
This is a reality for the few professional ministers in our church, especially the younger ones.
For now, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Some local authorities have suspended public religious gatherings for nearly three years. Some churches were barely maintaining the status quo even before the pandemic spread. With these "double suspensions", the income of the church is reduced and in some cases, there is no offering at all.
We must try to be versatile. As a saying goes, knowledge is no burden. We are just human and live in the real world, so we should acquire additional survival skills. Only so can we spread the gospel to more people and make the world a better place.
For example, one sister worked as a certified public accountant before becoming a full-time minister. Then, during the pandemic, when the church hardly had any money, she restarted her accounting job and worked as a part-time accountant in a local private enterprise. She went to the enterprise twice a month to make accounts and tax returns. In this way, she possesses a secular job of her own and an increase in income that doesn't negatively influence her church's online ministry and pastoral work.
Let's get to know the story of another young preacher.
"On January 1, 2007, I was called by the Lord to be baptized. I joined the church after eight months in a catechism class. At that time, the church’s Sunday events consisted of morning, afternoon, and evening gatherings, so I had the opportunity to participate in the praise of the youth fellowship, the choir, and the reception work respectively. It was during this time that I learned additional skills through the various aspects of service. I learned guitar, piano, bass, and tuning while doing vocals in the choir. In 2014, I felt the call of the Lord and entered seminary." After that, the seminary introduced him to work at a church and the director of that church allowed him to pursue a part-time job.
This preacher chose to step into the sound industry. He learned from people who had been in the industry for a decade or two. As a result, he began to serve the church while working part-time and providing free maintenance and tuning lessons for the sound systems of some churches.
Accordingly, this young preacher set up his own sound studio to serve clients. In addition to the paid services, he also provides free audio consulting and technical services. At the same time, he also learned and delved into other skills which enabled him to provide free counseling and services to church brothers and sisters in terms of law, investment, financial management, family education, and marital relations, among others.
One sister and her colleagues lost their jobs when the company she worked for in Shanghai failed to survive the pandemic. In her 40s, she was faced with the stark reality of finding another job. Fortunately, she had learned computer skills elsewhere, so she took advantage of the opportunity to be unemployed at home while resuming her studies. In just over one month, with more than ten years of experience and skills in her field, she successfully passed the online examination for technical executives and was hired by a university’s research company and became a project supervisor.
One preacher works for the church while having his own intermediary service. He allows his wife to manage the agency and when he is not doing church work, he can participate in operations and service online.
In addition, two preachers whom I know are also church deacons and leaders of meeting points. Besides doing pastoral work, they have taken advantage of local pharmaceutical resources and have worked for several years as part-time pharmaceutical salesmen, accumulating experience and broadening their connections.
This does not mean that our pastors should give up the primary task of preaching and leave to do something else. It simply implies that we should learn all kinds of survival skills and techniques which permit us to work better and live without financial worries.
I know a preacher who learned the skills of making short videos online during the "double suspensions" of the pandemic. He began to make online videos about Bible stories, Bible geography, stories of coming to the faith, family and marriage, etc. These became very popular and brought him many rewards.
Many of our senior preachers have pensions, while younger preachers are confronted with an increasingly competitive society. So we must learn more skills. Take the time to participate in the free training organized by the women's federation, labor unions, the Communist Youth League, the community, the Labor and Employment Bureau, etc. Learn online from experts with practical experience.
I know a pastor who even passed the exam for a psychological counselor's certificate and set up his own psychological counseling practice. In addition, if you have learned to drive, your can work as a professional driver.
(The article is originally published by the Gospel Times.)
- Translated by Nicolas Cao