We certainly live in challenging times. The pandemic has had a huge impact on the church and many churches are still struggling with declining attendance, concerns about the future, and trying to discern what God’s will is for their congregation. One of the huge impacts of the pandemic has been the acceleration of congregations that can no longer afford to financially support a pastor full time. While this trend was happening even before the pandemic, the events since 2020 have made the less than fully compensated pastor church a reality.
Yet, the trend toward so called “bi-vocational” or “partially compensated pastors” is not necessarily a bad thing. This reality is forcing the church to look at its ministries and also to look at the role of the pastor. Earlier in the 20th century up to the 1990s, pastors were often treated as the “religious experts” who were trained to do all of the “churchy” stuff. Seminaries trained them to be public speakers, fundraisers, administrators, counselors, communicators, evangelists, and a host of other tasks involving Christian service. Yet, if one looks at the New Testament, the primary task of the pastor was to preach the Word of God and to equip believers to be involved in the ministry of the church. Often, early church leaders had a number of sources for support. Paul, along with Priscilla and Aquila, were tentmakers in addition to their missionary service. Could it be that this new reality facing our churches is God’s way of returning us to our roots in which the whole church is involved in Christian service? Could it be that, since pastors may now spend less time doing the “religious stuff”, it will set the people of God to truly be the church-serving God and the people around them?
This fall, my consulting ministry has taken a new turn in that I am more heavily involved in training lay people to serve in the church. Increasingly, I am seeing more and more congregations being led by well trained, spirit-filled lay pastors and lay leaders. In addition to the lay study classes I am teaching, I am leading a retreat on “Part Time Churches.” Actually, I do not like the term “part-time.” Being a follower of Jesus is a “full-time” calling. However the retreat addresses the opportunities and challenges for churches whose pastor has multiple sources of income and support. Please pray for me during this exciting time of serving the Lord in this new reality.