What Is Your View About Bi-vocational Pastors?

All things being equal, I prefer a church situations with a full time pastor
31% (11 votes)
All things being equal, I prefer a church pastored by a bi-vocational pastor
9% (3 votes)
A bi-vocational pastor is good as a temporary measure, but the goal should be full time
17% (6 votes)
I do not believe in pastors, only a lay board of elders
3% (1 vote)
Other
3% (1 vote)
In a tiny church, bi-vocational is best; once past an attendance threshold (50, 75, 100, etc.) full time is best
14% (5 votes)
It varies so much, I am not comfortable generalizing
23% (8 votes)
Total votes: 35
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There are 21 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

The Baptist Press recently reported,

Quote:
Small churches and bivocational pastors are a Great Commission powerhouse, a North American Mission Board leader told the Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network during the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix..."The only way we're going to reach North America and the world is if we have a bivocational pastor movement," Coe said.

What is your view on this subject?

"The Midrash Detective"

Pastor Harold's picture

They prefer "temporary" pastors. I think the average stay is 18 months.

Ron Bean's picture

How many small churches can afford to support a full-time pastor?

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

rogercarlson's picture

Ron raises a good point. I have been pastor of the same small church for almost 12 years. For the last 6 years, i have had to work outside the church. My jobs have been flexible and part time. In fact, I don't think that I will be able to be on just my income for a long while. We have 4 children and our oldest will be starting college in two years. God can do anything, but for now His Will is that I am full-time at the church and work multiple part time jobs.

This can be a great thing. The Lord has used each one of these to benefit our church. The Lord has given me numerous contacts for our church through the part-time work. It is difficult, but it is also very rewarding. I should add that it is unreasonable for a pastor to think a small church can support a family of 6.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I find myself preferring a bi-vocational pastor. In my experience, full-time pastors tend to lose sight what life is like for the average Joe. They schedule meetings and activities regularly and get antsy when the folks don't attend. They preach about how the congregation needs to be in church 'every time the doors are open', and emphatically quote Hebrews 10:25 to support it. I've seen a few that will also take on projects, missionaries, and make purchases that are too ambitious for the flock to handle, both in time and resources.

The bi-vocational pastors I know have a greater appreciation for what it takes to stay afloat in our economy, and have a better balance on what their congregation can/cannot bear. No longer are businesses closed on Sunday, and if you want to keep food on the table and shoes on the crumbcrunchers, you just might have to work on Sunday, and who wants to feel guilty or ashamed for being in a vocation (like the medical profession, emergency workers, law enforcement...) that requires Sundays or evenings? And woe be to the pastor that tells me that I should stop homeschooling, put my kids in public school like everyone else, and get a job so my dh doesn't work so many hours (in spite of the fact that 55 hours is SOP for everyone in his company). http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-angry013.gif[/img ]

Mind you, this is based on personal experiences only, and is not a definitive statement of what all full-time pastors are like.

RickyHorton's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
How many small churches can afford to support a full-time pastor?

Good question....I would love to know the answer. I'd also like to know how many small churches could afford to support a full-time pastor if the people gave as God instructs or directs? There would still be churches that could not afford a full-time pastor, but it would be a smaller figure.

I think we've been through this before on SI, but Scripture does address this subject (e.g. don't muzzle the ox, the laborer is worthy of his hire, etc. etc.). Because of this, I would never say that a bi-vocational pastor is the better route. If the church can afford to pay him, they should.....it is the pastor's decision whether he accepts it or not (i.e. Paul choosing to work as a tentmaker in some of the areas he was in).

Ricky

rogercarlson's picture

Good post Ricky

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Mike Durning's picture

Some jobs lend themselves to being a side-job while pastoring. Other jobs do not. Unusual flexibility as to time is required of a pastor -- and thus, of his 2nd job.

Ron Bean's picture

Here are a few samples of actual pastoral annual support packages from established churches of approximately 50-80 adult members:
$12,000 plus parsonage and no insurance.
$25,000 plus parsonage and state supplied health care.
$23,000 plus parsonage and major medical health insurance with high deductible.
$35,000 no parsonage and no health insurance
No salary parsonage and health insurance
(Note: Pay offered is a combination of salary, housing allowance, travel allowance.)
All churches expected the pastor to be full-time and were "open" to the idea of his wife working.

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

Ed Vasicek's picture

Great discussion on this poll.

I pastored a small church that paid me less than minimum wage but expected me to be full time. At that time, I thought pastors needed to form a union Smile

Some churches LIKE to keep their pastors poor, as per Ron Bean's post above. I think it can be too much for a man to serve as a pastor and work outside the church, but necessity sometimes directs it. If the people in a church are giving -- and if supporting the pastor is a priority -- then it is understandable. And some jobs lend themselves well to working around a pastorate.

Still, I think churches should have a goal to eventually get to the point where they can have a full time pastor who is paid a reasonable wage. The issue I have with the Southern Baptist article is that I believe it removes that challenge.

As far as how pastors who work outside the church can relate better to the people of the church, I can see that. I can also see how he might have more sway -- some boards like to treat their pastor like a hired hand. I can see where bi-vocational pastors are especially needed when it comes to church planting in particular. Raising support these days is tougher than ever.

"The Midrash Detective"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I don't think you can look at pastor salary stats and draw any valid conclusions. What you'd need to look at is the cost of living in the area and average salary of the congregation. You could have 100 people supporting a church, but if they are mostly lower middle class, the pastor isn't likely to be able to expect a nice salary/parsonage/insurance package. A large percentage of folks in the congregation may be at $35G/year without benefits, and that might be normal in that area. A house here in Ohio worth $120G would be worth double that in Florida, and probably triple in California.

SBashoor's picture

I've been on both sides of the fence experientially. Like Roger, my small church of 50ish supported me full time for 9 years, but for the last 2.5 years, I've been bi-vocational. Turns out most of the income was coming from a small number of sources. I wouldn't be at all surprised that in many cases where small churches pay a decent salary + package that there are a few deeper pockets in the congregation who are floating the church's revenue.

M. Scott Bashoor Happy Slave of Christ

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

One other consideration is missions support. Most churches relish the opportunity to provide financial support for missions. My personal opinion is that no monies should be directed to outside support until after the pastor is fully supported.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
One other consideration is missions support. Most churches relish the opportunity to provide financial support for missions. My personal opinion is that no monies should be directed to outside support until after the pastor is fully supported.

I agree with that. I once pastored a small church for 4 and a half years (longest tenure of anyone), and one leader who wanted to keep the pastor poor always pushed for more money to missions. Some churches have an ethic like that (or, more accurately, the powerful family or two do). The sad thing is that many large churches who pay their pastor well still do little for missions. I suspect most mission support comes from churches ranging from 75 to 1,000, but I have not stats.
Mega-churches are more into short term mission trips. That gives the impression of doing something for missions, but there is nothing like supporting career missionaries.

"The Midrash Detective"

JG's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
One other consideration is missions support. Most churches relish the opportunity to provide financial support for missions. My personal opinion is that no monies should be directed to outside support until after the pastor is fully supported.

If I had to put a target date on when our church will support a full-time pastor, it would probably be at least ten years away. That's just the way the ministry is here. In the meantime, I have a job and am content to support my family.

Our church is currently saving between £2-300 a month towards paying a pastoral salary someday. So why is it wrong for us to support a missionary right now?

RickyHorton's picture

JG, I've been thinking about your question for a while now. I would agree with Chip's statement and note that this is an opinion I have, though it is based on Scripture. My thought is that it should be pretty clear that those that proclaim the Gospel should receive their living by the Gospel, as Paul was arguing in I Cor. 9. If I'm not mistaken, he was saying that those he was ministering to should be supporting those that are ministering. It is often argued that Paul was a missionary, but I believe this should be applicable to pastor/elders as well (plus there is still an indication that even the missionary was receiving his "pay" from those he was ministering to....is this a cultural thing more so than a directive??). Paul speaks more specifically about elders in I Timothy 5:17-18. So I would hope most here would agree that Scripture is clear about a church paying the pastor unless he refuses it as Paul did (though it is the Pastor's preogative).

That being said, the only indication of any type of missionary support in Scripture would have to come from I Corinthians 9 or where Christ sent out the disciples in Matt. 10 and Luke 10. I may be wrong on that so please correct me if so. As I said earlier, I Cor. 9 is saying that the minister, whether it be pastor or missionary, would receive support from those he is ministering to. I don't think that means it absolutely has to come from only them and no one else, but this is the most pertinent Scripture I see on this. Because of that, I would definitely lean towards paying the pastor first before I would start paying a missionary. Like I said, I would stop short of saying this is a command, but I think it is more in line with the trajectory of Scripture.

Ricky

Ron Bean's picture

I think that most of us would agree that a pastor shouldn't have to support himself with outside employment. But how is that possible for a smaller church considering the cost of housing and health insurance?

One church owns an apartment building and uses the rental income to support the pastor.
Another sold a prime piece of real estate and uses the monthly payments for pastoral support.
Some churches are reverting to the parsonage arrangement to provide the pastor with housing.
I'm still waiting for fellowship of independent churches to join together to form a group for the purpose of providing affordable health insurance for its (ahem) members.

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

JG's picture

It's the absolutism that I question.

Let me put it this way. If our church couldn't support me because we were supporting missionaries, that would be wrong.

Since our church can't support me whether we support missionaries or not, and since God has provided another way (through a really good job), what then? My answer would be that we shouldn't enter into any external support arrangement that significantly hinders the church from being able to support our pastor.

If we're £500 a month from being able to support our pastor, and we're sending £500/month to missionaries, so I have to keep working when I'd love to be a full time pastor, there is something wrong.

If we're £2000 a month from being able to support a full time pastor, and so our pastor has to work a full time job, isn't in any real need as a result, and is content with the situation, I don't really see any significant problem with sending £150 month to a missionary. It's somewhat irrelevant to the church's responsibility to their pastor. Until the Lord brings in more people who will give faithfully, our pastor is going to be a computer programmer as well.

The Biblical principles are clear, as to church responsibilities. Putting it into practice in various situations isn't necessarily as clear-cut as we might sometimes think.

RickyHorton's picture

JG, I would agree with what you say as well. The only problem in your example comes in the long-term....what happens when the church starts growing and is still paying the missionary £150 month but is £150 month short of supporting the pastor? Should the missionary support be dropped? I would hate to drop a missionary that we had been supporting, but I see a clear command to support the pastor as well. So I would agree that in the short-term supporting a missionary may make zero difference in whether a church can support a pastor, but it may make a difference down the road. Like you say, putting this into practice isn't necessarily clear-cut or easy.

JG's picture

We certainly wouldn't want to get ourself in a situation where missionary support holds us back from doing what God commands. I doubt the £150/month is going to make or break anything, but £500 would. And that says that churches in our situation should be very careful about taking on a lot of long-term commitments.

We've tried to be very generous with God's servants on a one-time or occasional basis. In general, I think that is wiser in our situation.

As a side note, I don't think missionary support is necessarily a life-time commitment, but you certainly want to give significant notice, and not leave a man who is on a foreign field in a bad situation. If I could see this type of situation developing, I'd probably be talking to our missionary at least a year or two in advance.

jlamarcrowder's picture

I've been happy serving with part-time and full-time Pastors. The Pastor and Church situation matters but either one can work equally well even for a fairly large Church if the Pastor being paid part-time still works like it's a full time job and the Church supports the Pastor.