Mark Fraser was a youth pastor. He had always wanted to be a youth pastor, and he had always been a youth pastor. But around a year ago he began to think that a change was needed. What happens when something you’ve worked your whole life for and have been passionate about no longer fits with your life and family? When you are not just changing careers but changing ways of life? For Mark Fraser, this was his reality nine months ago, as he left his position as youth pastor at Westside Community Church in the small town of Fairview, Alberta, to a very different career in the oil patch.
Fraser had been a youth pastor for 12 years, seven in Edmonton and five in Fairview. He still liked what he was doing, and felt that he was living his dream. But as he got older he started to consider a change. “I got into my early 30s, had two young kids, and was just finding that I did not have the energy to do the job with the same zeal and passion,” Fraser said. “The thing with youth work is that every year I get older, but the kids stay the same age. I am always pastoring kids from grade seven to 12, so you are always growing a bit more out of touch.” There was no huge life crises, he did not have a desire to leave the church, but he was simply presented with an opportunity – one that was right for him to take.
“My older brother Jay has a company that does oilfield pipeline and facility construction called Purefab Limited,” Fraser explained. His brother’s company was originally just sub-contracting its work, but when he launched his own company, a need arose for someone to be in charge of the safety and procedures. He approached Mark over a year ago suggesting that he might have a job opportunity. “This job involves a lot of personal interactions, which is partly why my brother thought it would be a good fit for me,” Fraser said.
“It provided a great opportunity to stay in the community that I was in and my family could stay where our roots were planted. I wouldn’t have to move like I would if I became an associate pastor or something at a different church,” Fraser said. Fraser discussed it with his wife, and eventually they realized it was the best decision for him to make.
While Fraser did have a steep learning curve, he was able to quickly adapt, and after nine months now feels like he has a good grasp on the job. But adversity and obstacles still existed. They came in the way that people treated him based on the opinions they had of him as a former pastor.
“At first, lots of people would come to me and say, ‘Oh, how it is working a real job now? It must be nice to get some good money hey?’ But they don’t realize that I was working a real job, and it was not easy,” Fraser said. “Everybody thinks it was about the money, but it was never about that. I don’t want people thinking I made the transition for the money.”
He had a hard time getting used to the fact that people judged him so quickly by his career and job. “A job doesn’t make the person. Just because I was a pastor and believed those things, doesn’t mean that I no longer believe the same things now that I have a different job,” Fraser reasoned. Fraser says it has been tough watching certain people hope for him to slip up and lose his cool. They want to be able to prove that he is a phony, but Fraser makes sure that his coworkers can see that his faith is real.
“People might think I don’t do certain things because I’m a pastor, because I have to, and since now that I don’t have the same public accountability, I make sure to choose not to do certain things. Not because of my job, but because I want to be true to myself, and the person I want to be, and that I want my kids to see and coworkers to see,” Fraser said.
In some ways, Fraser’s life has changed a ton, but he is still the same guy, and his family keeps on living life the same way. “I want people to see that it’s possible to be a practicing Christian in the oil patch. You can change careers, but still be a man of virtue and work in a place with different morals and values without them influencing you,” Fraser said.
He does not know what the future holds. He could see himself staying in this role until he retires, or someday going back to the church. He is proud of himself. A career change is never easy. But no matter what happens or whatever career he finds himself in, Fraser just wants to be himself: a man of God, living a life of virtue, and sharing a message of encouragement and love for all who need it.