Faithlink Discussion: Job Satisfaction

by Jacob Juncker

…job satisfaction has steadily declined over the years despite big improvements in the work environment, such as a reduction of workplace hazards and an increase in vacation days.

The drop in satisfaction over the past 22 years spans various aspects of employee life, including interest in work (down 18.9 percentage points) and job security (down 17.5 percentage points).

And employee satisfaction dipped across the board; workers in every age group and income levels showed a drop, but workers younger than 25 were the most unhappy in their jobs.

Almost one-quarter of respondents said they didn’t expect to be at their current jobs within a year.

“U.S. job satisfaction hits 22-year low,” <>
Accessed November 24, 2010.

What is it that makes a job satisfying?  In the Top 100 jobs list, “happiness” in the workplace seems to be based upon high pay, good job security, low stress, and must be beneficial to society.

For myself, as a pastor, my job satisfaction is not based upon salary: I make a modest wage with an educational debt the size of some mortgages.  My job satisfaction is not based upon job growth: there are an increasing number of churches not able to pay their pastors which has led to an increasing number of part-time positions and mult-vocational pastors.  My job satisfaction is not based upon “low stress.”  As a pastor, I’m not quite sure what low stress even means.  There is always more things to do in a day that can possibly get done.  I don’t mean to sound like a whiner, I am actually quite satisfied in my “job.”  I just don’t think all the indicators for job satisfaction used in the list mentioned in this week’s Faithlink are appropriate–at least not for my occupation as a clergyperson.

Perhaps a short digression will help clarify my point.  Take, for instance, God’s calling in Noah’s life.  Noah was asked to do some pretty preposterous things…build an ark (when there wasn’t enough water around, yet, to float it), gather all the world’s animals…  It was crazy what he was asked to do.  He wasn’t given a wage for his time.  He was the only person clued in to what was going to happen.  The stress must have been overwhelming.  I think Bill Cosby, in one of his “Noah” skits, truly puts it all in perspective:

If you want to hear the full series of sketches (8 minutes), click here.

As a pastor I resonate with Noah in this sketch.  God can demand some pretty crazy things: things which I, and the community I am in ministry with, may not yet understand.  The stress can be overwhelming (leading to clergy, as a whole, being one of the most unhealthy professions).

I don’t think those who are called by God into full-time ministry are satisfied, in their vocational life, by money, ease or lack of stress.  They won’t find it.  They…or at least I am satisfied in my ministry by seeing people grow closer to God and neighbor.  In Wesleyan terms, I like to see “fruit” and watch it mature and develop.  This is one of the reasons why I found it so difficult working as a chaplain during my Clinical Pastoral Education.  Interactions are limited and longterm relationships with those you care for are hard to make (unless in a longterm care facility which I was not).  Yet, even as a parish pastor, there are times when I am unable to see fruit and watch it grow and, admittedly, this is hard for me.   When I can’t see the fruit and watch it grow, I become frustrated…my job satisfaction goes down.

What brings you happiness in your job? in your Christian work?  Do the things that make you happy in your “job” satisfy you spiritually?


My comments are based upon the resource: “Faithlink: Connecting Faith and Life.”  Faithlink is a weekly adult discipleship resource published and Copyrighted by Cokesbury.  If you are a member or constituent of Christ United Methodist Church (Lafayette, IN) and would like to receive this weekly discipleship tool, simply email to express your interest and you will be put on the weekly email list.