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.