I currently have two jobs.
Job #1: I write for a tech website that focuses on Apple products and the ecosystem of apps available to users on their devices. I write reviews of devices and applications, as well as news and commentary articles on rumored releases/updates/upgrades, and articles that teach users how to get the most out of their devices and applications, as well as make minor repairs and give troubleshooting tips.
Job #2: I’m a bartender.
The first job is the one that went from hobby to full-fledged vocation. The second was borne out of necessity for more money, because Daddy needs that paper.
My career path has been an interesting one. I was a youth pastor for three different churches spread out over an eight year period, as well as a youth worker for various types of para-church organizations. This was all taking place WHILE I was attending school to get degrees in Youth Ministry and Communications, with minors in Psychology and Biblical Languages. If my educational choices didn’t make it obvious enough to you, I have a tendency to bounce around from one thing to the next; not because I don’t want to commit to one thing, but because there are so many awesome things out there to discover and learn. And maybe because I didn’t want to commit to one thing. If you’ve ever followed this space in the past, you’re probably aware of why I’m not currently working in ministry, so I won’t bore you with the details.
However, if you know anything about people who gravitate toward that line of work, you know that we love brokenness.
Or, at least we embrace it. Or, at least we try to. Or…at least we should.
I rarely tell people about my history as a pastor until they specifically ask about it, because that comes with its own set of preconceived notions and assumptions. I sometimes wonder if I would get some of the same reactions if I told everyone I used to be a stripper. Most of my regulars at the bar know about my past jobs, however, and they’ve all reacted pretty much the same way.
“Wait…can pastors be bartenders?”
Yes, metaphorical person helping make my point. They can. In fact, I would venture to say that it would be a wonderful thing for most students studying ministry to pick up a bartending shift while in school. Or as a side job while they’re making their incredibly meager and paltry salaries as already-employed ministry workers; because Reverend Daddy needs that paper. (Let’s just ignore how creepy that sounded and move on, because I have a point to make and the world should listen to me at all times.)
Being a bartender is more than just mixing cocktails and pulling beer. It’s about listening, because when you’re behind that countertop, it’s not about you. Sure, your patrons will ask you questions about your life, but it’s typically to get to a certain point in which they can begin talking about something in their own lives. And that’s ok; they’re paying me, so they can be as selfish as they want.
You see, being a bartender requires you to listen. You’ll hear some incredibly sad stories, and some wonderfully encouraging ones. You’ll discuss mostly sports and surface-level topics, such as the weather and how work sucks. You’ll witness men trying their damnedest to approach a woman with the most foolish of tactics, and women sitting and waiting for someone to come talk to them, but to no avail. Truly, you’ll witness all the awkwardness humanity has to offer, and it’s quite glorious.
I think all pastors-in-training should spend some time as a bartender, regardless of their stance on alcohol. (Hint: it’s not evil, so get over it.) It offers you one of the best opportunities to practice presence in the life of individuals, and teaches you how to listen. On top of that, you’ll get to meet more types of people than your grandma can shake a stick at, if she’s into that sort of thing. No judgment, I guess.
If I ever go back to ministry, I know that I’ll be able to take my time as a bartender and put it to good use. I’m not going to say it’s taught me more about humanity than my job as a pastor has, but it’s pretty damn applicable.