I don’t even know where to start. There were such great comments on my post from Monday. When I wrote the post I knew that I wasn’t the only one thinking about this topic, but it was amazing to read some great insights that I had not thought about.

A couple of things jumped out at me:

  1. Dan’s thoughts about “dual citizenship” and blurring the lines between staff and everyone else.
  2. Sara’s thoughts were super insightful. I worked/do work for a PCUSA church that hires women, but still at disproportionate numbers to men.  But she is right, lots of women hope for just a part-time role, making them bivocational traditionally, especially in Evangelical circles.
  3. Dave’s comments about not getting respect in a bivocational role I thought were interesting.  And later I read online about how many bivocational pastors are considered second class compared to full-time pastors.
  4. Kenny, you are right, the arrows should point together.
  5. Danny, it is a beautiful thing: movement towards group leadership.
  6. Jon, I love your heart (I work with Jon) for church ministry and ministry at the skate shop, etc.

So you all left me with a lot to think about.  And I will process them more in some upcoming posts.

But let me summarize for you what I’m feeling and thinking in a few statements.  But before I do that, let me say this.  I have grown up in the Church.  My dad went to Dallas Seminary and planted a church in Phoenix, AZ when I was 2 years old.  So I have grown up in the Church.  It is second nature.  I’m the kid folding bulletins, staying late to greet all the members, waiting around for Deacon meetings to end, etc, etc.  I have been volunteering in more official roles since I was 13, and I have been on staff of churches since I was 22.  I just wrapped up eight years as a full-time college pastor.  So I love the Church.  I love ministry.  I have been both part-time and full-time and now I’m currently part-time.

I say all this to say, that I have experience in the Church, and the views I’m wrestling with right now are not a value statement on one position being better than the other.  I’m neither for or against full-time, part-time, bivocational, non-vocational…whatever.  I’m just in the process of asking questions and re-thinking some things.

So the following are some thoughts that I sent out to a friend who is working on a church ministry/leadership project that has been surveying leaders all around the country for the last year.  I talked about this issue with them, and spoke about the same thing, but in two different ways.

This is what I told them.

First Statement:

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “tentmaking” and the need for more bivocational pastors and ministry leaders.

This is something that I have been processing for several reasons.

First, when a pastor receives all of his/her salary from the church, I think there is an unconcious desire to not rock the boat or take risks out of fear that one may lose their job (How many times have you heard of pastors not making certain decisions out of fear of alienating the big money givers?)

Second, I think that when we enter full-time ministry and all of our work is done in the church, we slowly begin to lose touch with the realities of everyday life and the struggles of the families we minister to.  This is really prevalent in the expectations that many pastors have for their congregations time…when many congregants are working full-time jobs, raising families, etc. and the pastor is paid to be at the church.  Pretty soon the pastor’s everyday reality is projected onto the congregation.

Third, it not only affects the pastoral/ministry roles, but the congregants as well, in that there is the built in expectation that because pastors are paid to do ministry, then somehow many congregants feel like they are ‘off the hook’ since that is not their job.

I think that if more churches were structured with bivocational pastors and ministry leaders, then there would be a stronger empowerment for the community to engage in the work of the ministry together, rather than deferring to full-time leaders.  And I think many pastors would be more in touch with the realities of life outside the church, rather than thinking that everything revolves around what happens within the walls of the physical church building.

This is not to say that there should be no full-time pastors/ministry leaders, but I think we have to start re-thinking what that looks like.

Second Statement:

I’m beginning to wonder if full-time ministry positions actually inhibit the decision making process within the church, as well as the engagement of the community in the work of ministry.  Do we as full-time ministry leaders take all the necessary risks, or are we handicapped out of fear of alienating the congregation, especially those who give money?  Do we as the congregation defer the work of ministry to full-time leaders, out of the expectation that that is what they are paid to do?  These questions have me wondering about the importance of more bivocational ministry leaders and tentmaking structures within the leadership role.