Monday, December 1, 2008
Last week I offered two good reasons to attend church. This week I am offering one good reason to make the church a part of your vocation: You will be happy.
Sure, you’ve heard all the horror stories about toxic churches and clergy killers. You’ve heard the grim realities of rising challenges in leading congregations, declining respect for pastors, and stagnant wages for church workers. And while many of these stories and statistics may be at least partly true (although beware: pastors love to be martyrs and tell war stories), they are always a part of the bigger picture: on the whole, pastors are very happy and satisfied with their jobs.
A study last year determined that pastors experienced the greatest job satisfaction among many different professions studied. And it wasn’t even close! Clergy also topped the charts for overall happiness.
Tom Smith, director of the General Social Survey (GSS) at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, who wrote the study, said, “The most satisfying jobs are mostly professions, especially those involving caring for, teaching and protecting others and creative pursuits.” Not necessarily those jobs where you make the most money or earn the greatest respect. (Notice that physicians and lawyers didn’t make the top ten!)
Here are the Top 12 most gratifying jobs and the percentage of subjects who said they were very satisfied with their jobs:
- Clergy—87 percent percent
- Firefighters—80 percent percent
- Physical therapists—78 percent percent
- Authors—74 percent
- Special education teachers—70 percent
- Teachers—69 percent
- Education administrators—68 percent
- Painters and sculptors—67 percent
- Psychologists—67 percent
- Security and financial services salespersons—65 percent
- Operating engineers—64 percent
- Office supervisors—61 percent
Here are the 10 least gratifying jobs, where few participants reported being very satisfied:
- Laborers, except construction—21 percent
- Apparel clothing salespersons—24 percent
- Handpackers and packagers—24 percent
- Food preparers—24 percent
- Roofers—25 percent
- Cashiers—25 percent
- Furniture and home-furnishing salespersons—25 percent
- Bartenders—26 percent
- Freight, stock and material handlers—26 percent
- Waiters and servers—27 percent
People who scored high on the happiness scale had the following jobs:
- Transportation ticket and reservation agents
- Housekeepers and butlers
- Hardware/building supplies salespersons
- Mechanics and repairers
- Special education teachers
- Actors and directors
- Science technicians
Jobs that plummeted to the bottom of the happiness chart along with the roofers included garage and service station attendants and molding and casting machine operators.
The data support what many of us pastors know to be true, namely, that a pastoral vocation is extremely gratifying. So do yourself a favor: Be happy, become a pastor.