The small-church pastor search

"In my experience, the search process usually takes longer for smaller churches. With limited financial resources, most small churches cannot provide a full-time compensation and benefits package for their pastor and his family, which often requires the pastor to serve in a bi-vocational capacity." - BPNews 

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JD Miller's picture

I do not want to suggest that bi-vocational pastoring should be the rule or ideal, but I wonder if we would be better served to at least prepare men for that role.  It is easy to get bogged down in the debate about whether or not we should even have bi-vocational pastors rather than equipping people for that ministry.

I remember attending a round table session right at the beginning of my bi-vocational pastorate.  I was looking forward to getting advice that would help me to be better equipped to serve in that capacity.  Instead it turned into a debate about whether pastors should even be bi-vocational.  I left feeling very disappointed and like I had missed out on a wonderful opportunity to learn more so I could serve better.

I probably should have read some books on being a bi-vocational pastor.  Actually I should read some now.  I wonder if any seminaries have any classes on this subject.

Although I wish every church could support a full time pastor, I would rather equip more bi-vocational pastors than to see too many small churches shut their doors.

Mark_Smith's picture

This article made me think of an experience I had 2 years ago, right before COVID hit. A Southern Baptist church in a small town about 45 minutes away from the city I live in needed a preacher for a Sunday, as the pastor would be out of town. The regional association director knew of me and asked me if I would go there and preach that Sunday. I never heard any communication directly with the church or anyone from it. I tried calling and leaving messages but never got a response. I got the church address from the internet and googlemaps! 

That Sunday I drove there and found the church on the edge of town. The finished road ended, and a block later at the end of a dirt road was the church... I parked right off to the side of the church in the grass (that's all there was...) and a man came and told me I couldn't park there as that was the neighbor's property, so I moved. It turned out this was the only person there. I was 45 minutes early so that was ok but as time for the service came, I realized he was the only one coming. I asked him how many regularly came, and he said 50. Not that Sunday! During our talk he asked me all kinds of theological questions, church policy questions, I felt like I was being interviewed. He then found out I taught at a local university and his demeanor and body language changed. He was then terse and said almost nothing.

Time came for church and I asked if anyone was playing piano, or doing music. He seemed stunned and said that was all on me! I asked if they had any favorites. He said no. So I went up front (its just me and him) and started choosing a few songs from the hymnal. He was lucky that I can somewhat sing and play piano because no one mentioned that need at all for this Sunday.

Just as the time to start came an elderly woman walked in and sat right down front. I said hello to her, she said nothing back. As I started prayer and singing a young couple with a boy walked in and sat down at the back. I did 3 or 4 songs. Then started the sermon I had prepared. The man at this point went went in the back and never came out. I preached almost to myself. When done I led one more song and prayed and ended. The elderly lady never moved. I told her good bye and went to the young couple. It turned out they were first time visitors. I apologized to them and explained I was a guest preacher and literally knew nothing about the church.

Seeing nothing else to do I started to leave. The man rushed up to me and hands me a check for $100, locked the door to the church, and drove off with the elderly woman... I just stood there bewildered. 

A week later the regional director calls me and asked what went wrong at my pastor trial Sunday. I asked him, "what?" He told me that was my try-out for the pastor position there and I had blown it and wondered what went wrong? I told him no one was there but one man. No one contacted me at all about anything or said anything to me about a pastor search.

That regional director never talked to me again despite repeated tries on my part. He retired a month ago and I have since lost all contact with the Southern Baptist Flint Hills association.

Now, explain that to me!

 

T Howard's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

That regional director never talked to me again despite repeated tries on my part. He retired a month ago and I have since lost all contact with the Southern Baptist Flint Hills association.

Now, explain that to me!

It's called uncommunicated expectations.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

That regional director never talked to me again despite repeated tries on my part. He retired a month ago and I have since lost all contact with the Southern Baptist Flint Hills association.

Now, explain that to me!

 

It's called uncommunicated expectations.

Hah! That's the understatement of the decade!