Written by Kyuboem Lee
Friday, 03 August 2012 00:00
There is an obvious interest in the topic of the bi-vocational pastorate--quite a few readers have contributed their comments on the previous postI very much appreciate them; thank you. These responses have jogged more lines of thought that I believe could be helpful for us to explore further.
As I've stated in the previous post, we will probably see a rise of bi-vocational pastors because of the economic pressures and the changes afoot in our world. Going from a full-time pastorate to a bi-vocational model can be a difficult transition, fraught with many challenges for the whole congregation. But that means it can be a wonderful time of growth, too. One commenter asked a question that is surely on many people's minds: If the pastor transitions from full-time to bi-vocational, won't the ministry suffer, simply because the pastor has less time for the ministry?
>As a response, let's consider some vital questions:
One: Is the pastor being compensated enough?
That has to be the first consideration by the congregation. According to this postmany pastors are not.
A recent study conducted byThe National Association of Church Business Administration points out that the average American pastor with a congregation of 300 people earns a salary of less than $28,000 and that one out of five pastors has to moonlight for supplemental income. The study also indicated that only 5 percent of American pastors earn more than $50,000 a year, and 14 percent earn less than $25,000.
Clearly, something needs to give. If congregations are not able to support an adequate wage for the pastors and their families, they need to support the pastors in other ways--one way is to allow them to go bi-vocational. It could be that a pastor is overly in love with money and possessions, and is being overly demanding of a higher income. They will need to be gently challenged, accordingly. However, more often than not, pastors are people who have made tremendous personal sacrifices for the sake of answering the call, and, if so, congregations will need to recognize their service and let them support their families adequately. It will involve a change for the whole congregation, as we will see, so it won’t be an easy transition. But it will be a necessary one.
Two: Can the church leadership as a whole embrace a team approach to the ministry?
If the full-time pastor transitions to a bi-vocational role, pastoral responsibilities will need to be shared. Leaders will need to be developed, and they will need to assume different roles. We are thinking more of a team of shepherds, instead of a CEO and board model.
There is a good biblical precedent for this approach. In Acts 6, when a vital ministry was in need of good leadership, the apostles installed the first group of deacons so they might oversee the distribution of food to widows. This freed the apostles up to devote themselves to the ministry of word and prayer.
Pastors, elders, and deacons need to consider how they could work better as a team of leaders. Some in the church, other than pastors, are gifted in pastoral counseling, but haven’t assumed a role that fits their gifting. Same with mercy ministry, envisioning, visitations, etc. Surely there are leaders in the church better gifted to lead a building program than the pastor? They will need to assume leadership roles, and others will need to follow their lead. This will free up the pastors to focus on the ministry of word and prayer.
Preaching is also a work that can be shared among the church leadership. In my church, there is a group of elders and deacons with whom I share the preaching work. I work with them to prepare the messages, and they grow in their abilities through experience. Training is built into this model.
That leads us to the next question.
Three: How will the church train and raise up leaders for the new paradigm?
The elders and deacons will need training for church leadership, much more than what may currently be expected of them. This doesn’t mean that they will need an M.Div. But they will need a theological education. The pastor, who usually does hold an M.Div., may now need to fulfill the role of trainer and coach. The pastor's main role would now shift to raising up other shepherds within the body of Christ. As the one who holds the most advanced degree in theological education in the congregation (usually), the pastor can lead an in-house theological training program.
There can be a lot of exciting creativity that can come into play when building such a training model. Other local pastors can be called on to share the teaching, and build a local team of trainers. Every pastor will have their own unique gifts to bring to the training process. An exciting by-product could be a shared sense of mission among these churches, directed to the local community.
This may mean, however, that the pastor gives up being the primary face of the church. The preaching and other ministry roles will need to be shared among the growing group of shepherds, and this group will collectively assume the role of being the face of the church. This can be hard to pull off if the expectation has been that the pastor is the one everyone comes to see and hear preach on a Sunday. There will need to be a shift in the church’s vision.
Another implication is a corrective to the current model of church leadership development. The typical route to the pastorate has been this: An individual experiences an inner sense of calling. The individual enrolls in a theological seminary. Upon graduation, a church that is in need of filling a pulpit calls the graduate into ministry. Such an approach has left too much to the individual’s initiative and private devices. Where is the church body in the process? A much healthier approach would be to for the church to observe the individual's character, faithfulness, and abilities, as they serve as a lay minister in the context of the church. The candidate would receive training by the pastor and through experience. By the time ordination comes around, the whole church should be able to enthusiastically affirm God’s calling on the individual. There is a much greater emphasis on the outer sense of calling. Then the church would not be looking solely at a person’s GPA; the church would have the candidate’s whole life to base its judgment.
Moving away from the professionalization of ministry to the priesthood of all believers in this way can be a very healthy process of maturation for the whole church. Every believer will be called on to do the work of ministry and to exercise faith for the life of the church. There will be a greater participation and a more robust discipleship.
As you have more thoughts, please share. The give-and-take is good for developing these ideas.
Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as a lecturer of Urban Mission at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission.http://jofum.com