Can you have an apologetics ministry and still hold down a full-time job?

J. Warner Wallace is passionate about encouraging Christians to keep their day jobs and do their apologetics ministry without financial constraints. He did it, and it worked for him. He has just posted a list of people who have full-time vocations with a part-time apologetics ministry.

He writes:

The Christian community is experiencing an apologetics “renaissance”, and this resurgence of interest in Christian Case Making is being driven by an unexpected group of “tent-making” Christian Case Makers. Like the Apostle Paul, these avocational apologists draw their income from “conventional” careers (Paul was described as a tent-maker inActs 18:1-3) as they evangelize, preach, make a case or serve. I’m proud to be a member of this growing group of “One Dollar Apologists”. In this post, I’d like to bring your attention to many of the tent-making Case Makers having an impact in our world today. If you are interested in apologetics, you’ve undoubtedly visited many of the websites I’ve collected here. In fact, you may not have realized these resources were being provided by people who are working in vocations similar to your own. As you scan this list of tent-making apologetics websites, take note of the variety of occupations held by the men and women behind the scenes…

I checked out the list to see what all the bloggers I read do in their day jobs, and was pleased to see a number of people in the list who are in science, technology and engineering fields. That’s what I do, and I think it’s the best thing to do. So for the rest of this post I want to give some reasons why people who want to be tent-maker case-makers should consider a STEM degree and a STEM job. (STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

Why you should prefer a STEM degree

I always recommend that people prefer STEM degrees when they want to do a “tent-maker” model of apologetics ministry, for five reasons:

1. Doing a STEM degree will make you miserable and give you nightmares for life, and nothing you do after you do a STEM degree can ever be as bad as sitting in a lab all night trying to get something to work that doesn’t want to work. Not even changing diapers. It’s good to get you to accept that life is hard, that your feelings don’t matter to anyone and that you can’t have your way all the time.

2. Doing a STEM degree will give you a lot of money for your ministry, so much that you can even give some away to other ministries. Yesterday, I sent $150 to a Ratio Christi chapter that I like and $300 to another apologetics ministry that I like. And that’s not a problem because a STEM job typically pays better than average.

3. Doing a STEM degree will help you to pay back any student loans you take out, which is a big problem these days because the economy is lousy for young graduates.

4. Doing a STEM degree will shield you from a lot of the pressure you might face from the secularists and leftists who dominate the university classroom, because there just isn’t time to talk about politics much in those classes. The only time I ever got any trouble was my machine learning / search algorithms course in graduate school.

5. Doing a STEM degree will give you an advantage in credibility when discussing apologetics. I think that atheists are more impressed when we have some experience with a demanding job in some practical field. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find arguments like “the argument from fantasy literature” and “the argument from desire” persuasive coming from artsy people who don’t know how to do anything practical for money in the real world.

If you are a woman and want to be a stay-at-home mom, that is excellent, but a STEM degree is still for you! I think it’s useful for everyone. I have a friend who is busy doing her nursing degree part-time and she is a stay-at-home mom, and some of my favorite women apologists (Letitia Wong and Melissa Travis) have science backgrounds.

The best degrees for a tent-maker

If you are just picking a STEM field, then here is a list of the majors that lead to higher paying jobs, although other jobs might even help you to study apologetics, like being a police detective.

Top 10 highest-paid college majors

  1. Petroleum Engineering: $120,000
  2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: $105,000
  3. Mathematics and Computer Science: $98,000
  4. Aerospace Engineering: $87,000
  5. Chemical Engineering: $86,000
  6. Electrical Engineering: $85,000
  7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: $82,000
  8. Mechanical Engineering: $80,000
  9. Metallurgical Engineering: $80,000
  10.  Mining and Mineral Engineering: $80,000

And here are some majors that you should avoid at all costs:

  1. Counseling Psychology: $29,000
  2. Early Childhood Education: $36,000
  3. Theology and Religious Vocations: $38,000
  4. Human Services and Community Organization: $38,000
  5. Social Work: $39,000
  6. Drama and Theater Arts: $40,000
  7. Studio Arts: $40,000
  8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Service: $40,000
  9. Visual and Performing Arts: $40,000
  10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: $40,000

If you’re not going to do a STEM degree, then a trade degree in the right area can be just as good. The main thing is to be able to do work, preferably in the private sector, that is valuable enough to someone else that they are willing to pay you for it. I think in this economy, it is particularly reckless to be doing a PhD in the humanities, unless you are already retired and fully-funded from your previous work.

Related posts

J. Warner Wallace: practical advice on becoming an effective one-dollar apologist

4 thoughts on “Can you have an apologetics ministry and still hold down a full-time job?”

  1. Hi WK, I haven’t listened to the show, but I now have a full time (mostly sales) job in the Technology sector, while continuing to work as a writer for Triablogue. My job limits the time I can spend writing, but that in turn has forced me to focus on things that are really important. Thanks for this blog post — it’s a definite encouragement.

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  2. Very mixed feelings about your post.

    On one hand, I wholeheartedly agree with the primary thesis of aiming to do a STEM degree. Applied science degrees (TEM) especially tend to be very practical because it is rooted in market demand. Plus many of the linear argumentation, conceptual linkage and heuristics skills you learn is essential to apologetics. The backbone of the fledgedling NZ Christian apologetics movement are in fact (anecdotally by me) made up of people with STEM backgrounds.

    On the other hand, the vast majority of people who are earning a living in the world are either in a service industry or consumer industry – and STEM-based jobs tend to revolve around those instead of standing on its own stead (Medical profession and academia as a whole are immune to service or consumer demands). Take the Apple Iphones, for example: it only takes a small team of engineers to do the hardware and create the GUI. But it takes a legion of operators to put together the phone in a Foxconn factory somewhere (a service) and an even bigger legion of sales, marketing and retail folks to sell a brand as an image to users (consumer). Factor in a Post-Christian West thoroughly infected with Existentialism… how likely is using the Kalam Cosmological Argument going to relate to a plumber? Or the Fine-Tuning Argument relating to a construction worker? What about an immigrant agriculture worker, how do you communicate the Privileged Planet thesis to him?

    The ID movement is great case-in-point for this. They’ve got good arguments, they’ve got legitimate grounds to have a say in science. But William Dembski, Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer etc are just absolutely outmatched and outgunned by rhetoricians like Ken Miller, Micahel Ruse, Eugene Scott, Jerry Coyne etc. and outsupported by an apathetic general audience who are happy to cite argumentum ab auctoritate to return to the next episode of X-Factor/Homeland/Breaking Bad/whatever is trendy on the television or youtube.

    This is why Thesis (5) is a huge deal and I certainly want to say, in the most polite way possible, that you ought to be open to the possibility of being wrong. As Dr Os Guiness said, apologetics is both a science and an art. The evidentialist side of apologetics (especially classical apologetics and historical apologetics) is the science part; the art part involves rhetorical persuasion skill and establishing ethos with an audience requires more than just facts and logics. In other words, apologetics is not less than the Fine Tuning Argument or Argument from Consciousness or Leibnizian and Kalam Cosmological argument; but it is most definitively more than than those.

    What am I saying? Someone who is exceptionally gifted in music or the arts (including debate!) or the sports ought to embrace that and use that in service of Christ because where they are may very well be of huge impact (Acts 17:26-27). A gifted guitarist to the level of Christopher Parkening should not ditch his talent to be a mediocre science technician. Guys like Tim Tebow are the cultural breaching charges that the DEVGRU operators of Christianity can use as entry points into investigating the big questions of life of which Christianity reigns supreme.

    But those of us sitting on the bell curve… to quote Robert Heinlein – specialisation is for insect. There is no reason whatsoever why a modern Christian cannot both entertain the case for the imagination, argue for the basis of science, and satisfy the existential hunger.

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  3. I don’t think that medicine programs are not worth it and I have never met the doctor making 40k a year. I was a biology major and am now a 3rd year in med school. I am in debt, but I expect to pay it back. I think your list isn’t entirely accurate to all fields.

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    1. I admire you and I wish the government made your profession freer, more satisfying and more profitable for you. I would just take the money from Hollywood actors and trial lawyers and union bosses.

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