Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pastor, are you looking for a job?

That is, do you have some marketable skills other than those required to pastor a church and by which skills you can get a job with an income should your church no longer be able to afford you full-time?

This is a question that is raised in an Associated Baptist Press article, 
The Staffing Dilemma by Bill Wilson president of the Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Trends in church staffing? Here are a five from the article:
First, congregations have come to understand that building a staff exclusively around an attractional, programmatic model is not sustainable.

Second, healthy congregations are discovering that a significant part of their staff’s time must be devoted to engagement with their community, rather than simply servicing the wants and desires of the congregation’s members.  

Third, clergy are awakening to the fact that their future in ministry may require them to be bivocational.
 Fourth, financial shortfalls will continue to create opportunities for creative and innovative staffing models...These jobs will not look like the previous generation. 

Fifth, collaborative leadership between clergy and laity has taken on added urgency. 
The one that most interests me is the third which indicates that some clergy may find their future in ministry to be bivocational.

I see churches all around that look like they could be just as effective without a full time pastor. It's tough for me to visualize what a full time pastor does in some smaller churches (and I've pastored a church where I could have been part time and the church not miss a beat).

Seems to me that it is a point of pride for both church and minister to be full time. While the amount of material being written about bivocational pastors is abundant, and positive, I get the feeling that many look askance at them - second class, minor league clergy. It should not be that way and I don't view them as such.

If churches and their pastors evaluated their situation and gave a sober, honest look at going bivocational, how would that work?It may be beneficial.

At any rate, the article linked above and others are indicating that we are headed in that direction.


Anonymous said...

Great article, William. Thanks for the link.

Although I do not feel our church heading that way, I do think this same article can apply to different ministries in the church. Closer watch-care of these thing in everything we do is now mandatory, especially in the smaller church.

Jon L. Estes

Tim Dahl said...

I've thought about what it might look like for me to be bivocational. I've asked my lay leaders about it, and they all gave an emphatic "no." I think that part of it is a pride issue; but my older crowd really enjoys being accessible to their pastor. If I were to work another job, they would loose that accessibility.

I think that the pastorate is an entrepreneurial job. The quantifiable things we do may not look like much from the outsider. We do things like, lead 3-4 bible studies/sermons a week.

I remember being told that I should be putting 20-30 hours of study in on my sermon per week. Yet, after 9 years in a small church pastorate, I know that is unrealistic. I'm lucky to get 10-15 hours in for my sermon prep. I get about 4 hours in for my Wednesday night bible study, and even less for the Sunday School class I lead.

Yes, I wish I had more time for study; but I don't. Now, look at the issue of "inreach" of the church. These are the pastoral care visits I make to my members, homebound, and etc. This can take anywhere from 4-6 hours a week.

Don't forget other pastoral care events, like funerals, weddings, and hospital visits. These are harder to quantify. But, I've done one hospital visit this week thus far, two weddings within the last two months, with two more weddings coming up in the next 60 days. Each wedding will run me around 20hrs worth of time a piece.

As a small church pastor, I'm now entering into my busy time... aka - camps and vbs. I don't have anyone else to run these things at the moment, so I get to be the director/coordinator of both. This is a lot of calls, running around for materials/curriculumn, etc. The time factor here is harder to quantify, but I've gotten at least three calls about them in the past two days, multiple emails, and coalition of documents in regards to both.

Which reminds me, I need to make a run to Lifeway on Friday to pick some more things up.

I'm in the process of looking for a part time minister to help with the work. That takes time.

I'm finishing up a stint as a PTO president, and starting a Dad's Club (semi-school related). This is part of the way I try to stay engaged with my community. Granted, these aren't a daily time sink, but will take around 3 hours a week on the average, with one day (usually a day off) a month totally given over to it (10ish hours).

I don't have a secretary, so I get to do that job.

Finally, there has been an average of 2-3 benevolence calls per week. This averages out to about an 2 hours per circumstance thus far.

This doesn't include long term planning, vision/values planning, future sermon prep, etc.

Frankly, I think there was sound advice in Acts 6:1-7. It is very easy to neglect what God is calling us to by the stuff that people pile upon us. In other words, letting the Urgent run us to where we forget about the Important (God's Call).

I do see a redeeming value in being bivocational though. It is easy for ministers to become insulated from society. Working a secular job forces the minister to be around other folks he/she might not usually be. It can force us out of our silos, and into the larger world for whom Jesus died.

On a side note, we might end up getting better raises from a secular position. They understand the need to pay a living wage. Not every church has figured that out. Kind of like the old prayer from the Lay Leader: "Lord, if you keep'em humble, we'll keep'em poor."


Matt Richard said...

Good thing the only degrees I have are in religion and divinity. :p

William Thornton said...

Tim, if you are fulfilled and satisfied in your church, ignore this. None of us has ever been in a perfect situation. However...

If you can't make it on what you are being paid FT, then it's your call. The church may benefit from their pastor NOT being on call and available all the time. I'm a hacker and plodder. It took me forever to learn that I don't have to jump after every phone call.

If you were bi-vo, you could easily say that if the church wants VBS, or whatever, someone has to step up and lead it. You can't do it all.

If you are spending 2 hours on every benevolence call, you need a better system. You can probably fix this. That's way too much.

You have my prayers. They don't own you just because you are a FT pastors.

Jonathan said...

It might be that what is happening to the "traditional" pastorate is just an extension of what is happening re: jobs/career contexts everywhere: commodification

25 years ago, computer programming was considered a lucrative career to go into. Now, much lower paid programmers in India in other developing nations, are able to do more for less. 20 years ago, IT professionals where the new elites. Today, due to competition, market saturation, price pressure, they are similar to auto mechanics (sans the dirty hands and cool shirts). This is happening in engineering, will soon happen in medicine, etc...

The big difference in these careers and the pastorate is that the pastorate, in North America, has changed little since the end of the circuit riders ushered in the current age of a pastor at every church.

In the secular career world, folks who are going to survive and thrive are those who are going to focus on the goal rather than the method. Compare the horse carriage makers of the late 19th century. Some understood that they were in the transportation business and saw innovations as something to absorb and adapt to on the way to continued relevance and success. Some thought they were in the horse carriage business and soon went out of business.

IMO, the best thing about the career pastor is that because of the nature of his job, is somewhat immune to fads (which all tend to miss the point of the purpose of the calling).

I'm in my mid 40s. Of the several men I went to college with who have been pastors now for more than 20 years, about half understand that they are in the "Gospel" business and half think that they are in the North American preacher context business.

Tim Bonney said...


Have Baptists ever considered getting local churches to share a pastor the way the UMC does? We have a lot of churches in Iowa that could not afford a full-time pastor but when they go in with another church or two they can each get someone part-time and the pastor can still work full-time.

Anonymous said...

That's the way it used to be. Each of the three churches I've pastored formerly shared a pastor with one or more neighboring churches.

I don't think either the church or ministers have that mindset anymore. It is probably more likely that full time churches will go part time and use retired or semi-retired ministers.