What do you do when you train for a career that doesn’t exist?
That’s what happened to me. I went and worked on my Masters degree to focus on a field that was more or less nonexistent.
But here’s the crazy part. I knew it didn’t exist and yet I kept going.
I kept at it because it SHOULD exist. Of course that doesn’t pay the bills when you get your degree and you don’t have a job now in the field you trained for. You know, the one you trained for KNOWING you won’t find a job but kept training anyway?
Back to School
Now to be fair, it’s not a totally non existent field. There are some out there doing what I was training for. But not nearly enough. In fact, there are so few that there isn’t any specific training.
I’m probably creating more questions for you as you read this than answering, so let me take you back to the beginning.
I earned my Bachelors in pastoral ministries, and served as a minister for a few years in some small congregations. There was a lot I loved about what I did, and there were a few things that were really difficult about it. I think in the end the difficult won out, and I moved back to my home town and eventually joined my brothers and my dad in starting a small telecom firm. That became my life for quite awhile.
Fast forward several years. I moved out to Denver when my wife and I were married. This was a second marriage for both of us. (As a little side note – being a second marriage for both of us we both brought five kids into the marriage. You’re probably thinking there’s a pattern starting to take shape here, getting into these ‘what was I thinking?’ moments…) It was only natural to get employed in the business to business telecom world that I was accustomed to.
Wanting something more
Here’s the thing: I’ve always enjoyed the telecom work. There was a good blend of technology and working with people. I liked finding ways to help people use the technology to help them operate their businesses.
I don’t know what it was though. Was it the old pastor in me? Mid life crisis? Not sure, but somewhere along the line I started feeling like there was more to life than putting phones on peoples desks and signing people up for phone services. It’s not that any of that isn’t good or useful or important, but I just felt called to do something different.
I started doing a lot of soul searching. If this isn’t it for me, what is? As I looked at the things I liked the most about telecom, and the things I loved the most back in the days of ministry, I started noticing a common element:
I liked finding ways to help people.
I assumed that meant going back into ministry
I enrolled in seminary, on a very very part time basis. As I dug back into my days of ministry, I had worked primarily with older adults. Ministry has become specialized so much these days, maybe that’s where I should focus is on older adult ministry.
There’s a problem with that.
Do you know how many programs my seminary had to train for that area of ministry?
Okay, maybe I could find a few classes as part of a broader program.
Maybe I could find another seminary with online options.
I continued on, trying to at least find ways to apply the courses I took to the context of working with older adults in a congregation. In time I felt like maybe the best thing to do was transfer to a gerontology program and finish my Masters there. I felt like the courses I had taken already, coupled with my pastoral ministries undergrad education and the gerontology program, would be a good combination.
But there still weren’t any jobs
As I started focusing on older adult ministry, I started looking for how many churches had staff for their older adult ministry. In my state I could count them on one hand, with room to spare. By the time I completed the program, the number had shrunk, not grown.
I knew that I could use the degree to get a position with a retirement community, especially in a chaplain function. But that wasn’t where I was looking to go. In fact, the whole process of examining how churches were serving their seniors (or failing to do so) stirred up some passions there.
We have more people in our nation (and a LOT more people in our churches) aged 65 and older than we do 18 and younger.
And we are doing so little in our churches to minister to them. Or with them. We’re not equipping our church leaders to meet the needs related to aging. We could be blessing the entire body with the wisdom and experience of our older members, yet we tend to isolate them instead.
I want to be part of reversing those trends.
Enter the Paradigm
How could I make a difference?
I thought about creating a nonprofit, I could probably raise some support and then use that to encourage churches to develop their ministries. After finishing my master’s degree I took a job as a business manager for a nonprofit organization, and my experience there was that a huge amount of your time is spent on fundraising and reporting and all the nonprofit parts of being a nonprofit.
During this time I came across books like Platform by Michael Hyatt and Content,Inc. by Joe Pulizzi, or Tribes by Seth Godin. The internet has created a fantastic opportunity where we can create and build a platform with minimal cost
Okay, that’s what I can do. I left my work with the nonprofit and took on some gig economy work (delivering for Uber Eats, then eventually Grubhub, Doordash and Postmates) that would pay the bills and give me the flexibility to develop my platform.
Shifting my own paradigm
I realized that what I had hoped to see when I started this whole journey was not really the best answer. Too often in churches, age based ministries tended to isolate the age group that is involved. In that environment, having more churches hire pastors for their older adults isn’t necessarily doing the best thing for those older adults. It was becoming clear that what was going to be most effective was to better provide resources for age related challenges, while better engaging older adults with other generations.Okay, that’s what I can do. I left my work with the nonprofit and took on some gig economy work (delivering for Uber Eats, then eventually Grubhub, Doordash and Postmates) that would pay the bills and give me the flexibility to develop my platform.
This was a paradigm shift for me. To top things off, I started thinking like this: Inter Generational Ministries… I. G. M. IGM made me think Paradigm. Hmmmm…..
The P.A.R.A.D.I.G.M. paradigm.
And thus Paradigm2.org was created. I have a digital platform that can serve to help encourage church leaders to focus on those missing aspects of ministry to and with older adults. I can grow my tribe, I can create content, and as a community of workers grow, this can be a great place where resources and ideas can be shared and developed.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if what happened next was a distraction or a training ground. Maybe a bit of both. Whatever it is, it’s something that is growing to the point where I’m seeing incredible potential to support Paradigm2. But that’s all for another post.