Jason serves as pastor of a growing church–in his spare time. His full-time job, as a physician’s assistant, pays the bills.
Jason is part of a growing trend that is challenging the concept and definition of professional ministry. As church budgets tighten and the supply of seminary-trained clergy dwindles, churches are looking at alternate approaches to staffing. For some, the full-time paid minister is a waning memory. And they like it that way.
Some ministry-minded people tout the advantages of bi-vocational leaders. They, like Jason, not only enjoy their regular careers, they see them as opportunities for building real relationships with real people where they live and work. This is especially evident with Millennials, who often look for ways to change the world–and live out their faith in everyday settings.
Millennial expert and author Chris Folmsbee says today’s younger generations embrace the idea of multiple life priorities. Their “Main Street” priority may be their 9-to-5 job responsibilities. But their “Second Street” priority may engage their faith in new ways, including non-paid church leadership.
Folmsbee refrains from labeling this alternate model of church staffing as bi-vocational. That term, he says, was used by those who would say, “I do this job so I can do the church thing.” Instead, Folmsbee prefers the term co-vocational, which underscores that working in multiple environments is actually best for the church. “It creates a broader, deeper sense of relationship,” he says.
Folmsbee, who is the (full-time, paid) director of discipleship at the large Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City area, said his young son recently asked him, “Would you do this if you had to work at Starbucks?” The question caught him off-guard.
The co-vocational model of church ministry requires a change in how the church defines leadership, Folmsbee says. Ministry must become more “collective and collaborative,” he says.
What is the church coming to? What some see as a worrisome draining of the professional pond, others see as an ocean of new opportunity.
For more insights, listen to my conversation with Chris Folmsbee on the Holy Soup Podcast.
Chris Folmsbee, and Jason the physician’s assistant, will also address this trend at the Future of the Church summit.