Shrinking budgets and mission-minded Millennials are causing more churches to move away from full-time, paid professional staff positions. Expect to see more ministry functions handled by volunteers and bi-vocational ministers.
Jason Valderrama, a Millennial panelist at Group’s annual Future of the Church summit, works four days a week as a physician’s assistant. He serves as pastor at his church on the other days. He considers his time in both workplaces as ministry.
Jason, like many other bi-vocational ministers, did not attend a regular seminary. His church helped him with a home-grown training program. By the way, this trend, as well as others, is contributing to sagging enrollments at seminaries and Christian colleges, leading to cutbacks, faculty layoffs, and, in some cases, closures. Fewer students are willing to pay the rising tuition costs for the diminishing earning opportunities in ministry.
So, churches will need to find different, affordable, local, effective ways to train the new ministers of tomorrow.
Increasingly, the crucial work of ministry will be led by volunteers and bi-vocational staff. Some see this as a threat to effective ministry. But those involved in this approach to staffing see distinct advantages. Jason says his life in the regular work world enhances his ministry time in his congregation. And, he finds that his ministry mindset provides lots of opportunity to show God’s love in his secular workplace.
“I’m an ambassador for Christ,” Jason said. “I do that whenever (and wherever) I can.” And he challenges his church members to do the same. He provides a practical example of the church being the church every day.
Hear how Jason manages his dual roles, here in this brief audio excerpt on the Holy Soup podcast.
Thank you for your informative posts. As a Pastor of a smaller church I am encouraged and understand we need to think out of the box to continue moving forward.ho
Bi-Vocational ministry has been a reality since at least the days of Amos the prophet. I was nearly always bi-vocational, and worked in ministry and in real estate brokerage during my career. Although I graduated from an accredited seminary, there was simply no way for me to support my family without the extra income I received from my “alternate trade.” So here are some observations, for what they are worth:
1. Seminaries should NEVER recommend that people obtain a liberal arts degree to prepare them for seminary. Both of the schools I went to did so. If you recommend a student obtain a liberal arts degree before seminary, you are essentially condemning that student to a “You want Fries with that?” type of job. Many of my bivocational colleagues, after starting their ministries, had to become janitors or the like. In other words, they were always impoverished. Poverty may be a saintly thing, but it is not a good thing. I believe that a school should prepare its students for “what may come,” and a good job means that you CAN be bivocational, and still like it.
2. Congregations are often pretty understanding of your situation, if you “raise them with it;” in my case, I began the church with which I did this, and it now supports a full time minister.
3. The stress level of two careers is pretty high. Burnout is a real possibility, even fairly early in your career.
4. If you are a “Bi-Vo,” you can expect to be upstaged at nearly every turn by the local megachurches. Your congregation tends to have a much more divided loyalty if you’re small.
5. It is EXTREMELY hard on your family. I remember working 8 days a week, with 40 hour days…No, really, I had little time for the family. That’s simply not right, and the only way to resolve that is to have a group of people who are so strongly “with” you that they will let you delegate many of your tasks to them.
6. You will have to find a “niche.” The reason is that people do get enamored of the “nice church,” with a “great facility;” you may have nothing to offer but a good knowledge of the scriptures and a caring heart. That is often not enough. What IS enough is a group of people who go to your church because they are not really welcome in other places, or don’t feel comfortable elsewhere. While that is a good thing, it’s very tough to manage those people, since people who leave a church usually do so for a reason, and that reason often has more to do with them than with the place they left.
It’s tough to do, but I can say, “I started a church.” Or better, “God gave me the grace to suffer as He built the church.”
I pray God’s greatest blessings on those who have the courage to do this.
In summary of what you are explaining… Get a program management degree. That way you can also be able to work in management or program management in a company outside of a church or if church doesn’t work out.
The real problem is the idea that we have to have someone who is the jack of all trades and master of none running the church. We can’t seem to get the idea that the New Testament Church was overseen by a plurality of Elders who were chosen from within the fellowship and had proved themselves to be leaders and motivators.
This opens the door to the priesthood of all believers so no one person is needed to do most of the ministry. Hopefully, one day we will see the light.
Paul who started a lot of assemblies while he was alive never took money for that work. He was a tent maker and made it a point not to put himself under the concept that he must only teach/preach and then get paid for it. Further he caution other believers that it might not be a great idea to be married as it caused one to be torn between Jesus and the spouse of the preacher. He did not forbid it only cautioned because of the effort involved. And other than being both a Jew and a roman citizen it is never mentioned he had a college degree. Actually that is true of all the disciples. Maybe Jesus was trying to tell us something…and maybe we just did not want to hear it.
So right Bruce, so right.
[…] time and time again that the coming changes in the church mean that pastors are going to have to be “bi-vocational.” A lot of pastors I know talk about this coming time with absolute dread saying that they have no […]