Call Your People to Marketable Skills and Degrees 6

We pastors often forget that stewardship extends beyond the realm of giving money for gospel advancement.  For the longest time, we have allowed the notion of being a wise steward to be defined according to money.  And while the issue of finances does exist within the jurisdiction of stewardship, stewardship embraces all of the Christian life.MP900182819

One of the areas we often overlook is recognizing the connection between being a wise steward and career-making decisions.  Sadly, we do not consider this matter related to our equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

“Let’s let the guidance counselors and career planners shepherd our church members through this massive, life-changing, path-setting decision.  We pastors are to be about rightly dividing the Word.”

And such a response reveals just how much we have been influenced by secular thought, separating the spiritual from the material.

Pastors, we need to be equipping our parents and their teenagers to make wise Kingdom advancing decisions when it comes to selecting a college major or obtaining a marketable skill.  They need to make such decisions in light of what would best position them in the global market for making disciples and planting churches across North America and the world.

Yes, I know that person in your church is wanting to study art history and go into $60,000 worth of debt to obtain the coveted B.A. degree.  But in light of the global task that is set before us, is that really the path of the wise steward?  Maybe it is for that person, that the Lord is doing something unusual in that believer’s life.  However, degrees and skills that generally have little relevance for job placement among the unbelievers–and bring large amounts of debt that will haunt that young adult for years–should cause us to consider the stewardship of selecting such paths.

We have neglected to establish within our faith families cultures of expectation that our young people should obtain skills and degrees that would best position them as teams in the marketplaces of the world.  Wise decisions made in high school will enable them to support themselves, regularly connect with unbelievers, make disciples, and multiply churches.  We have primarily thought in terms that such “real” ministry belongs only to those who are able to get through college and seminary, and then ironically struggle to find a relevant way to get into the marketplaces and communities of the world, due to a lack of marketable skills and degrees.  Need I say platform development?

I want to challenge you to begin to make the cultural shift within your church.  I know we are.  Don’t leave one of the most important decisions that a believer will make to the direction of an unbelieving guidance counselor, the whimsical desires of youth, or the materialistic society in which we live.

The Psalmist writes:  “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations (Ps 67:1-2, ESV).

Our Father has blessed members of your congregation with the capabilities to move into the workforce and to go to college.  For their own selfish gain? Of course, not. Rather, that the way of the Lord may be known among all the nations.

Teach your people that being a wise steward involves prayerfully considering the marketable skills and degrees they should obtain now that would best position them for global disciple making later.

Here are some recent articles that may help get you thinking along these lines:

Best Cities for New College Grads in 2013 (see also the article at bottom on “15 Most Valuable College Majors”)

 Top 30 Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs in 2013


(image credit: Microsoft Office)

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6 thoughts on “Call Your People to Marketable Skills and Degrees

  • Brooks

    Dear Mr. Payne,

    As a senior in college about to graduate in Exercise Science (I hope it is a degree up to your standards) I am personally offended by this blog. I understand your point, what you study is not for yourself ultimately we should be intentional with our degree to reach the lost for the glory of Christ. But I would like to, humbly, remind you that there are lost people in all realms of study – hence why the degree is offered. On top of that, not all are called to global missions (as a goer). What offended me the most is your mocking of Art History. My girlfriend, and Lord willing, soon to be fiancé studies Fine Art. She uses her art to earn money because she is incredibly talented, connect with people you would never connect with nor would I and has been blessed by studying some of the art history classes, which delve into church history. My brother is a member at Brook Hills and I have been planning on joining upon graduation and personally was caught off guard when I read your blog.

    I love idea and whole heartedly agree that we should use the work place as a way of reaching the lost but I suppose I wish you were more courteous and thoughtful with your word selection and thinking on how all degrees can be used. For instance I know a Brook Hills member planted a church using a gym, but I can assure you Exercise Science is not on any Forbes top list for majors.


  • JD Post author

    Thanks, Brooks, for your honest response. I completely agree that there are unbelievers in all realms of study–and believers are definitely needed in each of those realms. All degrees should be used to advance the gospel. My point in the post was not that only certain ones are beneficial for the Kingdom, but rather the need for us to be wise stewards when it comes to selecting a degree. Also, as one who enjoys art, I would not advocate mocking Art History–or any major for that matter. However, the reality is that we must be wise stewards when it comes to selecting a major–this includes considering both our future income and the ability to pay off college debt with such future income. I have worked with several people over the years who majored in a degree (even went to seminary) that placed them in deep financial debt with the inability to find a job to allow them to get out of that debt in a reasonable time. Due to their financial situation, they found themselves unable to do what they believed the Lord wanted them to do, until they paid off their college loans–which was a very lengthy time. Are there exceptions? Absolutely. But, the majority of Kingdom citizens are not the exceptions.

  • Mike

    Dear JD, I could not agree more. Having obtained a degree in Recreation just so I could get a bachelors to qualify me to attend seminary, I found I was severely behind the skills curve. Not only was I unable to find a viable job to support myself and attend seminary, I found when I started at SBTS I did not have the ability to handle the coursework. Thankfully, by God’s grace I’ve been able to complete seminary at NOBTS. However, to do so I had to first obtain the ability to work in another field and with the help of being an Army Chaplain I was able to finish.

    All this to say, I wish I had followed the advice of my Father growing up. First, I wanted to just go to Bible college. Yet, he suggested I obtain a degree to have something to fall back on. I sort of listened to him. However, instead of obtaining a true skill I just stayed away from the Bible college to please my Dad. Looking back, if I had listened to the true intent of my Father than just “going through the motions” I know I would have saved myself a lot of heartache.

    To be fair, I graduated high school in 1998 at the height of the 90s economic boom. There were a lot of us who were advised to “just go after your passion” because the job market looked much better than today. Now I think doing something one is interested in is a valid point, but I also agree that studying a skill that’s marketable is important too. So I think with the 2008 economic downturn gives us the chance to better steward our advice for future students. This is because it does impact missions. Having recently read Tim Keller’s book “Every Good Endeavor” I believe we need solid Christians in every field, not a subculture version of the profession, but simply professionals. In other words we don’t need Christian lawyers, or Christian doctors we need, lawyers who are Christians, or doctors who are Christians, etc.

    So I welcome your perspective and am glad others are thinking along these lines. Imagine how people could be reached for Christ when there are incarnational-Christians in careers vital for our culture. I can think of no better witness!

  • JD Post author

    Thanks so much for sharing, Mike! You have much wisdom to share. Your story is not unique. I hoping your posted comment will help others in this journey.