Don’t Rescue Me!
I am the pastor of a small church, and I love the church I am privileged to serve. One of the issues with small church ministry is that many cannot afford to pay a pastor a full-time wage. Such is the case with my church. This was not a surprise; we moved here and joined this church with that understanding. And so for the past several years, God has financially provided for my family through my wife’s income. A few months ago I had the opportunity to join the larger workforce. I began working part-time at first, then full-time with a local funeral home. It is emotionally difficult but incredibly rewarding work. I feel honored to serve the families who trust us with the care of their loved one.
There are a great many things I could write about bivocational ministry, and perhaps I will write more on this in the future. I want to focus on something I read earlier today.
There is a short article at outreachmagazine.com titled “Bivocational Pastor: The Strategic Future”. This article includes a short discussion of some of the issues bivocational pastors like me face, including time management, lack of respect (presumably from others in full-time ministry and perhaps the larger community), and an absence of role models and training. I will definitely grant the truth of this, at least for the most part.
But the current model of bivocational ministry will have to be different, Wilson says, as he relates an emerging idea among church leaders that megachurches would become the distribution system for incarnational church planting in America.
“When we talk about bivocational ministry, there are so many dimensions to it,” Wilson says. “The bivocational of the future is not going to be about pay; it will be about role and releasing people to do ministry where they are. For example, I live 40 minutes from the church I attend. I’m not going to convince my neighbors to drive 40 minutes to church with me. What if my church equips, coaches and supports me to start a church in my living room? I don’t quit my current paying job, but my church releases and sends me to minister to my neighbors and essentially be a campus pastor.”
Did you catch that? Apparently, the megachurch is here to save us poor, small, bivocational pastors! What would we ever do without you? (Feel free to read sarcasm here.) Perhaps I am a tiny bit oversensitive about this, but I am less than convinced the megachurch is the answer to every perceived problem. Who says this is a real problem, anyway?
Please don’t misunderstand me; I love the large and mega churches! There is much that is available to help the small church due to the generosity of larger churches. I really do appreciate this. I just don’t believe Mr. Wilson’s assertion that the future is megachurches planting small churches with bivocational pastors. It seems the data just doesn’t back this up:
Churches of 200 or less are four times more likely to plant a daughter church than churches of 1,000 or more. The pattern continues: The smaller the size of the church the more fertile they are in planting churches. –Lifeway Research (as reported in Outreach Magazine)
I have had a good relationship with large church pastors, and I want that to continue. We don’t need supposed leaders drawing false dichotomies between us. There is a place for each at the table. Small churches and their leaders need the encouragement and support of our large church counterparts; we don’t need to be rescued.