Bi-Vocational

Last week, I taught FLAME Courses at Frankfort, Indiana. I had a class of 35 outstanding students in Homiletics (preaching) for the first half, and then, in the second part of the week, I conducted a special course for a good group of small town and rural pastors.

The "preachers in training" did much better than expected. I thought I was in for a long line of bad preaching. Instead, we were all surprised, inspired and blessed by the presentations in class. I took notes!!

My heart was deeply moved by the commitment and plight of the rural pastors. They love the Lord. They love their people. They want to serve wholeheartedly. However, they are often in a very difficult situation.

Over half the pastors in my second class have other jobs besides working at the church. Some of them work all day at the factory, school or post office -- and THEN their ministry at the church begins. They are willing to serve bi-vocationally in order to help struggling congregations that cannot afford to pay them anything close to a living wage.

They feel the heavy burden of ministry -- caring for the flock -- but they do not have the time to do it in a way that is satisfactory to them (or, in many instances, their congregations.) As a result, they always feel like they're falling short.

Regardless of the ministry assignment, pastoring, by nature, is a "task undone." There is always a mountain of things remaining. No matter how much you do, you'll always let somebody down. The pastor wearing two hats feels that pressure continuously.

On top of this, some (not all) congregations make unrealistic demands upon their pastor. Churches want and expect a full time ministry, even when they can't (or won't) support it.

When, due to human frailty, the pastor fails to meet these expectations, parishioners criticize, condemn and complain. They pay a reluctant pittance of pastoral support for the "right of ownership" so they can tell the pastor what to do and how to do it.

Seems to me, the only expectation congregations should have for bi-vocational pastors is that they love like Jesus.

Comments

sammattus said…
Thanks for caring Mark. I was a bi-vocational youth pastor for several years. It was tough because our people didn't think of my wife and I as real ministers. And, sometimes it didn't feel like the district took us serious either. Flame was the only fuel that I had. I am full-time now, and am in a different place, but I still care for these ministers because I know how they feel. By the way, a lot of these guys and gals are top of the line, but are never given respect from their families, districts, and congregations. God bless.
Anonymous said…
I bet many people in a congregation feel the same way about their demanding jobs, perhaps even the jobs they do at church.
Anonymous said…
Respect like trust must be earned in ANY profession. Once respect and/or trust has been lost/damaged, it might not ever be regained.

Yes, some pastors might be treated poorly by his/her congregation, but some congregations are treated poorly by their pastor.
Anonymous said…
Bi-vocational? What about the tri-vocational? This is necessary for many in today's economy. And most of us are not pastors.
Pastor Larry said…
As a small church pastor, I thank you for saying something. I work full time in secular employment, and also the work of ministry at the church. My work at the church is much more difficult and demanding.
Jerry Johnson said…
Thanks Pastor Mark for this thread. I'm a bi-vocational assistant pastor (in other words -do just about everything but preach) in a small Church. From completing many FLAME ministry classes over the last 4 1/2 years, I've had the priviledge of sitting beside incredible women and men whose committment and passion for the Lord is breathtaking. I've known of many small town bi-vocational Pastors that have taken a weeks worth of strenuous classes while handling various flock issues throughout the week - then drive 12+ hours home Friday after class completes just in time to get a few hours of rest to deliver the message on Sunday. These people absolutely amaze me! I am not worthy to walk in their wingtips.

Jerry from NC

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