In a special series on Careers in Faith and Religion, we highlight professionals whose everyday work lives are centered on spirituality.
As a bi-vocational ordained minister and professional career consultant, I know first hand the challenges faced by those who pursue careers in ministry. Many industries still don’t view ministry as a viable profession. Just like a medical doctor or clinical social worker, most of today’s ministers are educated, qualified, and called to care for the spiritual, psychological, and social well-being of our congregants and the communities we serve. Despite immense opposition and personal challenges, young servants have overcome the greatest obstacles and are humbly making their mark in the world of ministry.
A Gift of Gab: Criminal defense attorney. That’s what I wanted to be. As a child, I was always very outspoken and would argue anytime, against anyone, about anything. During my early childhood years, my verbal nonchalance was the source of all my problems. “That mouth is going to get you into trouble one day,” is what my family told me. And they were right! My need to always speak my mind often got me into trouble with my teachers (even though I always got excellent grades). But as I grew into adolescence, my mouth gradually became less of a curse and more of a gift that people began to recognize.
My Unexpected Calling: Fast forward to my senior year of undergrad at the University of South Carolina. I was excited about graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and was looking forward to attending law school. However, something strange was happening in my life. Though becoming a defense attorney was still on my mind, it had been overshadowed by the struggle that I was experiencing spiritually. Simply put, God wouldn’t leave me alone! I was going through a heart-wrenching feeling of spiritual urging and tugging toward ministry that really can’t be described. Yes, I grew up in church and had a relationship with God, but this was never what I expected. I don’t come from a family of preachers. This wasn’t in my plan. I was supposed to be a lawyer, not a minister. God clearly had the wrong number.
The Surrendering Moment: One year after completion of undergrad, I decided to attend New York Theological Seminary to pursue a Master’s of Divinity degree, while simultaneously pursing a master’s degree in public administration. I began to preach and teach at various churches and organizations around the country and started leading the youth ministry at my childhood church, Salem Missionary Baptist Church. Accepting the call to ministry was life-changing to say the least. It caused me to face my own issues of growing up in a home filled with drug and alcohol abuse. I couldn’t help others until I dealt with my own hurt. It was quite a transformative experience.
The Entrepreneurship Bug: God later revealed to me that I was not only called to be a minister, but an entrepreneur as well. Hence, the birth of TAYLORmade Professional Career Consulting. After identifying that there was a need to help professionals reach their career goals, TAYLORmade was created to meet that need. This business of empowering professionals was a ministry all on its own. So, I found myself as a minister and an entrepreneur, two titles that I never imagined would be attached to my name. Remember, I was supposed to be a lawyer.
Gender Challenges: In a significantly male-dominated field, where in many cases women are still not recognized as ministers, it becomes difficult to break down barriers and gain roles that are generally reserved for men. Also, no one told me that being a young, single minister would also serve as a man repellant. Having a career in ministry is often intimidating and not very enticing to your average suitor.
Nevertheless, my calling is not up for negotiation or compromise. For the past 10 years, I have committed myself to a career in ministry while also focusing on my goals as an entrepreneur. We don’t have to choose between ministry and entrepreneurship or secular professions. But what we must never choose to do is downgrade our calling because others don’t see the value in them. And so, I press on, still using the mouth that got me into trouble as a child. Now, this mouth speaks for God and argues the cause of Christ. Does it still get me into trouble? Occasionally. Will I ever become a lawyer? Possibly. But even if I never step foot into a law school, I know why God gave me this gift: to tell the world that the jury is out, the case is closed, and victory has already been won.
Aisha Taylor (@realTAYLORmade) is co-owner and chief consultant at TAYLORmade Professional Career Consulting, a Web-based, full-service career consulting company committed to “equipping, preparing, and empowering today’s professional” globally. Check out her weekly insights on job-seeking and interviewing success every Friday on BlackEnterprise.com.
Check us out tomorrow for the next feature in our Careers in Faith and Religion series.