The Clergy Project Will Soon Offer Training to Help Ex-Pastors Find New Careers

We know there are pastors who preach for living… but don’t really believe everything they say. So why keep doing it? Because admitting that God doesn’t exist is only half the battle. You also have to figure out what you’re going to do for a living when all your professional training has led to a job in the ministry.

Now, the Clergy Project is announcing a huge step forward in making the transition from pastor-to-damn-near-anything-else a little easier:

The Clergy Project is proud to announce the addition of the RiseSmart [Transition] Assistance program, thanks to a generous grant from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. This vital resource will allow clergypersons who are trying to transition from the ministry to secular employment in a more secure manner.

Todd Stiefel, founder and President of Stiefel Freethought Foundation said, “With this donation, my foundation hopes to help formerly-religious clergy find secular employment. These clergy men and women will no longer have to put the priority of feeding their family above their desire to stop preaching what they no longer believe.” Stiefel continued, “Additionally, this is an investment in the next great leaders of the freethought movement because of the incredible skills such as community building, support, and management that these clergypersons bring with them.”

This project will provide crucial support to Clergy Project Members leaving active ministry. The program, offered by RiseSmart, will provide 6 months of assistance including, skills assessment, resume prep and connection with a recruiter in their area to help them to find sustainable employment.

Dan Barker, President of the Clergy Project board said, “I wish there had been a service like this when I left the ministry in the 1980s. I spent a long time floundering, searching for a way to make a meaningful living as a nonbeliever. Eventually, we all have to solve the problems of life on our own, but just knowing there are resources from sympathetic organizations can be immensely helpful.”

This is a project that has been in the works for several months now. The $100,000 fund provided by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation will help an untold number of ex-pastors (based on need, a completed application, and passing through a screening process) and by the time that funding runs out, there will hopefully be more revenue streams to keep this project going.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ubi Dubium

    Huzzah! This is exactly the kind of thing that we’ve been needing – a safety net ready to catch those leaving religion, and real help for finding new jobs. I hope this is successful, because it’s the kind of thing that the secular community should be doing a lot more of.

  • Duo

    They should reach out to Ratzinger soon.

  • Haha USA

    May I suggest an “Adopt-a-Preacher” initiative?

    Like we could all chip in and send one of these heroes on a course or something? Patheos can team up against FTB and we could reintegrate 2 apostates every year with the funds collected.

    Bye bye religion…

  • Ryan Jean

    +1 Internets to you, sir!

  • blasphemous_kansan

    Methinks (and hopes) that the usual trolls who pop up to gripe about these people preaching while freethinking and being quitter meanyfaces will be a little quieter today after Pope Palpatine’s announcement yesterday. It’s hard to whine about people preaching the faith while dis-believing when the guy who was supposedly called by god to be his voice on earth has decided that it’s something that he can just sort of stop doing….

    Best of luck to the clergy project in their new lives.

  • machintelligence

    This may do wonders for their membership numbers. In one of Dan Dennett’s talks, he quotes a Clergy Project member as saying that if there were training and support available 10,000 more clergy would sign up tomorrow. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I hope they all don’t decide to become insurance and used car salespeople. (Not that they wouldn’t be good at it.)

  • Frank Esposito

    A person who continues to preach after they no longer believed has shown they are willing to lie to the people around them.

    What else would they lie about?

    I can’t see hiring such a person for any important position.

  • Frank Esposito

    Sure they would be good at insurance and car sales.
    After all, they have already shown they are willing to lie by continuing to preach after they no longer believed!

  • Mario Strada

    These kind of crisis do not happen overnight. For many of them is a process that last for years. By your standard any clergy with a tiny doubt should immediately quit and go work at Walmart but that would be just unreasonable.

    I think it is entirely appropriate for a pastor harboring doubt to at least wait until they are sure their doubts are final. At that point, the point at which they make their decision to leave they should certainly try to make the transition as soon as possible, but for many of them leaving immediately would put not only themselves in financial jeopardy but their families, children, wives that often have only known housework due to their traditional lifestyles.

    I don’t blame them for trying to make the transition last until they have found at least an alternate way to earn a living.

    Aside from the preaching, pastors have many duties that do not require faith and I am sure they can still fulfill those duties while in their transition period.

  • blasphemous_kansan

    “A person who continues to preach after they no longer believed has shown they are willing to lie to the people around them.What else would they lie about?
    I can’t see hiring such a person for any important position.”

    I know, I totally agree! How long was the Pope lying to those around him, when all along he knew that he didn’t have what it took to be pope? It’s disgusting, and your judgement is correct: these life-changing decisions should happen instantaneously, damned to the personal or professional consequences. We all know that everything is black and white!! There are no complications like mouths to feed, relationships to maintain, standing in the community, avoiding the shit-talk of people who would pedantically judge them over such a vague virtue as ‘honesty’. We are free of such complications, and are free to judge!!
    If only the Pope could have learned from someone as awesome as you.

  • Silo Mowbray

    I wonder if there’s a way I can help? Pastors are skilled presenters and are good at developing narratives. There’s a lot of demand for people like that in private and public organizations. Some training in marketing communications could be just what the ex-pastors need.

    That’s what I do for a living, by the way. Marketing and communications.

  • Carmelita Spats

    Honesty is a vague virtue. Enter the Reverend Ted Haggard. Remember how the big-time evangelist and recently born-again heterosexual Ted Haggard
    admonished his massive flock against adultery and sin and icky gay sex? Things are not black and white which is why you should really watch the replay on colored TV, on the big screen, of the famous video clip where Haggard slams homos and adulterers and heathens! It’s almost like being a lost evangelical lemming yourself! But…it’s wrong to judge. That would be, you know, mean. Mean and callous to suggest that the most disquieting photo you see all year is the one where Haggard’s tortured homophobia met his repressed gay sexual fantasies in an epic, but still totally creepy example of pathological denial! Pastor Ted was caught with his hands in the tacky polyester pants of his fellow countrymen! These life-changing decisions did not happen instantly in the life of Ted Haggard but his bigotry hurt families; he helped keep gay couples from achieving marriage equality while receiving regular “service” from a male prostitute along with baggies of crystal meth. We need not hope. We KNOW that the pope has learned from someone as awesome as Ted Haggard. Praise Jeebus!

  • roberthughmclean

    Becoming Sales people. Recovered clerics would be really good at that! After years of looking people in the eye and telling them sincerely that the baby jesus loves them while keeping a straight face is a tremendous talent that lend itself to selling things really well. Even TV shopping channels would be worth a try.

  • blasphemous_kansan

    Well said. The Haggard incident is also indicative of the double standard that people like Frankie above would apply to the word ‘honesty’. What is that thing that it says in that silly book? Something about not casting the first stone unless you are without… shins? fins? something like that?
    What say, Frankie? You cast the first stone, so are you free of skin?

    lol @ “born again heterosexual”.