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Career Shift: From Bank VP to Lutheran Minister

Bill MacLean gave up his lucrative corporate career to follow his true calling

By Karin Winegar

It took a journey to India to pry Bill MacLean out of his comfortable corporate life and launch his second career — in the ministry.


For nearly two decades, MacLean, 59, had been a vice president at US Bank in Minneapolis. He and his wife, Laurie, and their four children, now ages 16 to 28, lived in a spacious home in one of the Twin Cities’ nicest neighborhoods and vacationed on Cape Cod. Today, he holds a master’s degree in divinity and is awaiting his first post as a Lutheran minister.



“It was transformational and affected my son, also,” MacLean says. “It truly impacted us to see the schools, hospitals and churches they started in the 1800s that are still serving people.”


MacLean soon began contemplating a switch to a career that would involve serving others, and those thoughts became more focused after a friend succumbed to brain cancer in July 2002. “For two years, I walked alongside him and saw how he sorted out what was really important,” MacLean says.


Reflecting on the fulfillment he derived from volunteer work at his church, he started to speculate that his ancestors’ calling was also his.


“A pastor friend got me going,” he recalls. “He told me: ‘Bill, you’ve been talking about this for a couple years. Just do it.’ That was advice I took to heart. It was a simple call that grew to a point where I felt that I would always be unsettled if I wasn’t obedient to it.”





He is awaiting “a call” from the Lutheran church synod office to be interviewed for a church pastor’s position, perhaps later this year. In the meantime, MacLean serves as a volunteer at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. There's a reason he has to wait: The weak economy has hit churches hard, and senior pastors aren't retiring as early as they did in the past, leaving fewer openings for associate pastors.



Even so, after MacLean graduated last June, he and his wife sold their house and downsized to a less expensive Minneapolis townhome. “As we get older, belongings sometimes feel like encumbrances, and I found it feels liberating to lighten one’s load,” he says.


Despite the difference in lifestyle, MacLean sees a connection between his past and future careers, and he maintains that the skills he developed in the financial world also play a role in the church. “I always had an interest in people,” he explains. “That helped me to excel at US Bank. It was a relationship business, and ministry is also a relationship business.”


And he views his age not as a drawback but as an asset, since it will enable him to draw on his life experiences when he writes sermons. “I can go deeper with real life situations and examples," he says. “I don’t have to look into books.” 


Still, the change is dramatic. Isn't he even a little bit nervous?

“There’s always fear of the unknown, giving up security,” MacLean says. “But I am stepping out into it with faith. I truly am being called, and I've already seen many blessings on this journey."

Karin Winegar Read More
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