Making the Old Paradigm the New Paradigm for "Full Time" Ministry

There are 11 Comments

Bert Perry's picture



Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

  • Pastors being fully paid is normative (based upon 1 Corinthians 9:14, "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.")
  • Bi-vocational (tentmaking) is also a valid route but not the preferred route (based upon Acts 18:3, "because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers.")
  • It would be wise for those who seek vocational ministry to acknowledge and be prepared for the potential of NOT being able to "live from the gospel". 
  • On those sent to plant churches - particularly those away from the US: 
    • These surely need to be aware of the attrition rate of candidates (on deputation). I don't know what that rate is but I know many who started and after years of being on the road do not garner the necessary support. These men are not failures. It would be wise to know the risks of not making it to the field.
    • The church should endeavor to fully support those on the foreign field (where often they are unable to earn income)
JD Miller's picture

I am commenting as I finish up a late lunch as a bi-vocational church planter.  I like Jim's comment that BOTH fully paid pastors and bi-vocational are normal.  I sold my business to go into the ministry, started another business as I was finishing up Bible college, stopped that to take a full time (with part time pay) pastorate, and now am self employed again as we plant a new church.  This is definitely not for everyone and it does present its challenges, but it also provides links into the community.  Further it is my hope that the new congregation will see that I just do not have time to do all the hospital visits etc that I would like to do and that others will step up and help with the work of the ministry that it is my job to equip them for (see Eph 4:11-12)

Mike Mann's picture

I understand your feelings on this but there is not a "one size fits all" solution. I'm glad some pastors are able to be supported by their churches and I realize some churches cannot afford that financially, especially in places like you are in with real estate so expensive. With the rapid changes taking place in America's religious landscape, more and more of Christianity will have to change their whole approach to buildings, properties, salaries and in many cases, even structure. However, we ought to be clear on what Paul taught. He said that those who preach the Gospel should be supported by the Gospel. (I Cor 9:14) He did not hold the Corinthians to this but he was supported by other Churches. 2Co 11:7 Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

2Co 11:8 I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

I am also thankful that there are still missionaries being fully supported by various local Churches. Our Church helps support several missionary families and we are delighted to be "fellowhelpers to the truth." Much of the Bi-vocation missions will not work in places where they are needed. I am biased. I have 2 daughters and their families who are fully supported in Asia, but I felt the same way before they were missionaries. I can't imagine them doing the work they are engaged in and trying to work as well. I write this as one who has been a full time Pastor and worked a secular job for forty years. I only disagree with people who say Pastors should work or those who say they shouldn't. Every situation is between the man and his Lord.

Bert Perry's picture

....that one of my spiritual mentors--he discipled the guy who discipled the guys who led me to Christ--mentioned is that small churches (in Japan?) are said to have formed in larger homes with the first ten or so families supporting an eleventh who was the pastor--a tithe from the incomes of the first preserves the principle that the flock ought to support the shepherd.  

And guilty--this is a soapbox I ascend often--it strikes me that as Dr. Brandenburg notes, we need to defuse the habit of pastors building a little fiefdom to remain paid, but forgetting about this little "Gospel" thing.  Don't know as I've got the answers, but boy oh boy does it need to happen.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I suspect that the reality is that there aren't many vacant pulpits in churches that are able to support a pastor full-time. I suspect as well that many pastors don't have vocational skills. 

10 years ago I found myself looking for a ministry. I was surprised how few openings there were for full-time pastors. I had spent 20 plus years as a pastor and Christian school administrator and had no marketable job skills. I got an entry level job in noncommissioned retail and it was the best thing that ever happened. I'm serving as one of three elders in a thriving church, I have daily opportunities to witness, and I have an income that supports my family. Do I like missing some church events because I have to work? Sure. Do I have to sacrifice leisure time to prepare sermons? Yes. But I thank God for the lessons I've learned and the new opportunities I have. I just wish I was 40 years younger.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

rogercarlson's picture

i have been a Bi-vocational (or tri) for a long time.  It is not for everyone.  But i believe it will be the norm soon.  All pastors should get a marketable skill.  God was good to me in allowing me to be a Hospice chaplain.  But I think all young men entering the ministry have a marketable skill for undergrad then go to Seminary.  i get frustrated with "home" missionaries who want support.  Not long ago a man called....he was living in the area he felt called to plant a church in.  Then he moved to his home area to raise support.  HE QUIT HIS JOB to go raise support when he was already doing ministry and could have transitioned to deputation.  That is a luxury we are fast loosing

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

TylerR's picture


I got a letter the other day from a man who wants to move out-of-state and work in the graphics design dept. of a large missions organization. He called himself a missionary, and was looking to raise support. I am a bi-vocational Pastor, and was disgusted at this kind of laziness. The man wants money from churches so he can sit in AC and work on PowerPoint and Publisher projects? Why doesn't he move, get himself a job, and volunteer at the missions organization? Some people need to get a life, get some perspective, or both. 

I threw his letter away with extreme prejudice. The fact that I worked all night, had four hours of sleep, had to get ready for Wednesday services, then take a nap and go to work all night again may have had something to do with my less than charitable attitude . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture

As I'm 2 semesters away from my MDiv, I receive a lot of questions about my future ministry plans from people in my church. Everyone assumes I want to be a full-time pastor. So, when I tell them that my plans (as of now) involve bi-vocational ministry they are surprised: "Why would you want to do that?" There are even profs at my seminary that don't look favorably on bi-vocational ministry. One of them recently told me, "Churches w/ bi-vocational pastors rarely grow."

So, clearly there is still an expectation by many (if not most) individuals that pastors should be full-time.

Larry Nelson's picture



I suspect that the reality is that there aren't many vacant pulpits in churches that are able to support a pastor full-time.


I paused for a moment to think about my own church.  Here's an outline of our pastoral staff:

We have 1 full-time Lead/Senior Pastor (and "full-time" hardly does justice to his time commitment).  In addition, he has a couple of "part-time" jobs: about 4 times per year (in total) he teaches modular classes as an adjunct professor at two different seminaries.  (Just this week he is away teaching a four day doctoral seminar at a major seminary, the same one from which he earned his M.Div. and Ph.D.) 

We have 6 Associate pastors: four full-time and two part-time (the part-timers are both men in their late sixties who are semi-retired).  Each of the six leads a distinct ministry area (e.g. "Adult Ministries.")

In addition to those 7, we are in the early stages of hiring an 8th (another full-timer) to lead a ministry area which we feel needs pastoral  leadership (currently it is director  led).

Thinking further ahead, next year we are planning to branch out into another new ministry area, which will likely require another  full-time pastoral position.  If/when that occurs, we will have 7 full-time and 2 part-time pastoral (ordained) positions in our church.


There are  full-time pastoral positions available in some places/contexts, but perhaps not always the type of position (i.e. "Senior Pastor") that some are looking for.  If one believes that a "pastor" is only one who usually occupies the pulpit during services, then many solid opportunities for pastoral leadership may be overlooked.


ADDED: As an example known to many on SI, here is Fourth Baptist's (Plymouth, MN) pastoral staff:

(This differs from my church in that we don't operate a K-12 school, and our "Business Administrator" is not a pastor.  But you get the idea...)

Ron Bean's picture

I believe the pastoral staff situation at 4th Baptist is rare in fundamentalism as is the situation at the church where I currently serve. We're an 8 year-old small church (60 members) in the suburbs of a major city and meet in a rented facility. Our lead pastor is full-time with a generous salary package that includes a housing allowance, health insurance, retirement, and disability insurance. He is assisted by 2 lay elders/pastors who support themselves with secular jobs.

40 years ago, small churches often had a parsonage that eased the financial burden on the pastor but didn't do much for his future. Today I don't know of any small (less than 60 members) churches that support a pastor full-time.

My advice to young men entering ministry, in the words of that great hymn from 1957 by the Silhouettes, "Get A Job!" You can do both. It will take discipline but you can do it!

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan