Last week, Scot McKnight at Jesus Creed, drew attention to this Forbes article on the Ten Happiest Jobs.
At the top of the list of the happiest vocations were clergy. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who snidely commented, “Yeah, I suppose talking to your imaginary friend would make you happy.”
I said, “Do you have a clue about what clergy do? They often see people at their most vulnerable and they make a difference. It’s a helping profession where you can help someone going through a divorce, a family experiencing grief or someone suffering from depression. It’s also a job full of social interaction. And studies show this affects job satisfaction the most.”
The articles links to Todd May, who argues in an opinion piece for the New York Times that “A meaningful life must, in some sense then, feel worthwhile. The person living the life must be engaged by it. A life of commitment to causes that are generally defined as worthy — like feeding and clothing the poor or ministering to the ill — but that do not move the person participating in them will lack meaningfulness in this sense. However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game.” This is why those jobs with better pay and higher social status are less likely to produce happiness than lower status jobs such as clergy.
I would like to read the study and see if there is a break down of the No. 1 job by religion (e.g. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim), theological tradition within the religion (e.g. mainline, progressive, Evangelical) and gender. Do these factors affect job satisfaction and rating?
From the Christian pastors I know, I know their job isn’t all happiness. But unlike a lot of other jobs, pastoral ministry is often a role where there is a huge chance for personal growth and change. You can grow into and with your role. This helps to create resilience. For example, a pastor of a church I went to as a teenager was a typical Pentecostal fundamentalist, but after 10 years of pastoral ministry in another place, facing some personal trials, and theological study, he was a changed, chastened person. And a better minister. Studies show that feeling that you are still growing and being challenged in your roles is linked to job satisfaction.