I don’t normally post one article after another, but this was too good to pass up.
I have been a bi-vocational minister for the last five years and am getting ready to begin my first full-time position in September. As one who has tried it, I can whole-heartedly agree with the author of this article. Bi-vocational ministry (a.k.a. Tentmaking) is downright tricky. If we’re going to hold it up as a viable option for ministry in the mainline denominations of the future, then we absolutely must re-evaluate how we practice and support it. Especially for young(ish) pastors like me, simultaneously starting two careers and a family without retirement or healthcare benefits from either job is straight up unsustainable.
Let me be clear that I don’t intend this as a slight or knock to the congregation I have served for the past several years. They have struggled and bent over backwards for me. They have provided every ounce of support they could muster. I have been blessed.
These words should be directed to churches and denominations at-large as they seek to blaze a trail for future generations in ministry.
In my opinion, bi-vocational ministry is a more viable option for second-career clergy and commissioned/licensed lay ministers who don’t bear the burden of seminary student-debt. Our denominations should also continue exploring options of merging and yoking congregations. I do not recommend telling first-career seminarians that they should expect to never have a full-time job. Frankly, that would decimate the church.
Reblogged from the Christian Century:
I know that we cry about not having enough money, and we certainly don’t have enough money to be doing things in the same way, but our denominations have great abundance. We have property, assets, and foundations. We have wealthy members. In many denominations (like the PCUSA), there are great income disparities among our clergy. One pastor is living off food stamps while her neighbor makes six figures. Sometimes they’re on the staff of the same church.
To be starving off our leadership seems like a determination to dwindle. We can do without a lot of things, but it would be difficult for us to thrive without our pastors. We have enough, can’t we learn to be creative and support our clergy?