What I Miss Most (and Least) About Working in Political & Nonprofit Communications
Today For the Church published a post from Jared Wilson on what he misses about pastoral ministry. It is a good look into some of the realities of being a pastor if you are looking for insights into that... which so few people are unless of course you desire to be a pastor.
But the post also had me thinking about about my previous work and what I miss about it. I am always fascinated that so few pastors have had paid work outside of Christendom and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to earn a paycheck outside of the spiritual industrial complex! I think it gives me healthy perspective as I now pastor people working in all sorts of fields.
It has been nine years since I left DC and the career I was building in communications. These are the things I miss most (and least) about working in political and nonprofit communications.
What I miss about working communications
1. Non-believing Colleagues
My big reason for sending my children to public school is that I don't want the only sinners they know to be the people in our church. This is also something I miss about working professionally outside of the church. Often times I would be the only or one of a few Christians in the office and in my personal following of Jesus it was helpful to challenge the way I was choosing to live as distinguishable or not.
It was also the helpful to share my faith giving me increased perspective on where people were coming from or how they had formed their thoughts of faith and God. My Jewish boss asking what the big deal was about Jesus (oh how I wish I could go back to this conversation today!) The deputy that asked me to be his "life coach" or the other coworker who accepted my challenge over beers after work to stop running from God and reengage with the church (he is training to be a pastor now).
The church can be a bubble, and even with actively working to invest in "non spiritual" spaces there is something different to daily interaction that vocation provides.
2. Earning My Keep
Now I don't mean to say that I don't earn my wages as pastor but that I just am not given the same freedom to talk about how good I am at what I do!
In communications you not only promoted or built brands, you were capable of being your own. Your resume mattered, the work you did was valued and you could get paid really well if you excelled. If you did the work you were rewarded. I never once was asked what I did all day (like I do as a pastor). And only other communications professions thought or expressed they could do my job better than me, not everyone and their uncle...
As a pastor though any whiff of confidence is met with accusations of pride and the types of thing most people do to "get ahead" are oddly viewed with disdain in the church.
I know personally how bad actors have tainted pastoral ministry, and I am not advocating for a lack of accountability or ego-driven pastors. There is just a strange difference that I wonder if we make worse than it needs to be.
3. Being in the Know
This one probably only applies to a small subset of people but there was something about having a security clearance and as one friend put it "knowing what was going on behind the headlines and having an impact on those events." I remember having a conversation with a good friend and he remarked that I was just repeating my parties' "talking points" on an issue and I reminded him that I wrote the talking points.
This is probably what makes me nostalgic as I watch shows like Madame Secretary or presidential debates. While a pastor can certainly make a difference in the lives of those he shepherds, there was something about having influence in places to effect change on a different scale.
4. Winging It
I used to think I was quick on my feet and enjoyed the opportunity to wing it in a pinch. I remember a key conversation with a new boss who was prone to make slip ups where I told him to say what he felt like he needed to say and I would clean it up.
Now as a pastor I am careful and prefer precision. People needle me about preaching from a manuscript but if what I say is shaping the way people think of Jesus and Scripture I want to be precise. With a reporter from the Times or a schedule-crunched event I preferred to wing it and it usually worked to my advantage.
What I don't miss about working in communications
1. Crisis Mode
Maybe this was a D.C. thing but often it was the default mentality in most teams I was a part of. Everything was the biggest deal. Even the smallest concern warranted defcon 1. It was silly.
Personally I threw off the shackle of the crisis mode after a detail to Iraq. It gave me keen perspective on the importance of getting a story out or catching up on the latest press clippings.
Pastoral ministry has its share of crisis but it is not the normal posture and I am okay with that.
2. The Temporary Reality of It
Even the greatest of success was momentary. While working with agencies that actively save lives there was a sense that there had to be something deeper, more meaningful, eternal in nature. This is what I get to wage into every day. Tackling life, impending death, and how to thrive as people that follow Jesus through it all.
Pastoral ministry plays in the eternally significant and we can make an eternal impact and I think that is good.
I am sure I could come up with more, but this I know for sure, I love being a pastor. It is an honor and weighty responsibility to open Scripture and care for people through all of life.