Thursday, February 4, 2010

Interview in Baptists Today

The February issue of Baptists Today carries a two page interview John Pierce,editor of the magazine, did with me about bivocational ministry.  He asked questions regarding the numbers of bivocational ministers currently serving in churches and the unique challenges and opportunities associated with such ministry.  I appreciated the opportunity to respond and to have bivocational ministry highlighted in this publication.

What excites me is the growing awareness of the important role bivocational ministry provides to the Kingdom of God.  When I began as a bivocational pastor in 1981 bivocational ministry was largely ignored.  Persons who served in such ministries were often looked down upon by others in ministry.  Denominational leaders seemed to have little interest in bivocational ministers and the churches they served.  Resources were developed only for the larger churches.  That is all changing now.

More and more we see articles like this one.  I have already been contacted by three judicatory leaders from two different denominations about speaking at their annual meetings this year, and none of these leaders are from the denomination in which I serve.  Denominational leaders are looking at how they can better identify persons called to this ministry and the best ways to provide training for those who want it.  Resources are being developed specifically for bivocational ministers and the churches they serve

There are several reasons for this interest in bivocational ministry, but one of the important reasons is the quality work that many of you are doing in your churches.  Your ministries are being noticed.  People see the dedication you bring to your work; they see the love you have for the people you serve; and they see the results of your efforts, and no longer can anyone say that bivocational ministry is a lesser ministry.  The Kingdom of God is advancing through the efforts of both bivocational ministers and fully-funded ministers faithfully living out God's call on their lives, and people in leadership positions now see that it takes both to have the greatest impact on our world.  To all my bivocational friends, keep up the good work and one day you'll hear the sweetest words you could ever hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant...."

If you are interested in reading the article the magazine is now available or you can subscribe to the electronic edition at http://www.baptiststoday.org/ and read it there.

5 comments:

Ken Summerlin said...

I have the greatest respect for bi-vocational ministers. I think you demonstrate a level of commitment to your call that's not always found in those who serve exclusively in ministry.

Thank you

Dennis Bickers said...

Thank you, Ken, for your kind words about bivocational ministers.

prchrken said...

Dr. Bickers,
I recently received an email from my denominational headquarters and you will be addressing bi-vocational ministers and their needs, at our college in Kankakee, Ill. One line in the letter says, "While we would hope that every minister on our eleven Central Region districts would be able to attend...we realize that because of your secondary employment not all of you will be able to do so. Therefore, we are preparing a wonderful one-day Bi-Vocational Pastors Track for Tuesday,May 18"
I must admit that at first I was kind of miffed. Then when I read the mail for the third time, I had to chuckle. I have been a bi-vocational pastor for fifteen years. Although, I know that my District Superintendant appreciates the work that I do, my deomination is really out of touch when it comes to bi-vocatioal ministry. The least of which is demonstrated by the day of this conference.
I have two choices if I want to attend this conference. The first is to take one vacation day, leave right after work and drive the seven hours to Ill., get to the motel (that I pay for) around 11:00 PM. Sleep, maybe. (my wife and I get up at 4:00 AM to eat breakfast together and pray so I can leave at 5:30 AM to be at work by 7) Be at the conference at 8:00 AM, 7:00 if I want a good cup of coffe. Attend the conference for a reduced rate of $49 (out of pocket housing excluded). Leave immediately and drive 8 hours back home. (I work an hour from home headed toward Ill.) Get up at the same time and go back to work the next day, Wed. May 19.
Or take three days of vacation. Vacation that my family and I need to relax, reconnect and enjoy one another.
So you can see why I chuckled.

I would love to attend this conference because it is a start. It is a start to help the General Church to understand the particular needs of the Bi-Vocational Pastor. I am hoping that the Church records the sessions so those of us who cannot attend may attend from our computers after they are posted.

Early in my ministry (about four years in) my District Superintendant was concerned that I only attended a few of the functions the district had each year. I was quite frank in my response because at the time all of our children still lived at home. I said it was because "God is First, My family is Second, Church is third. Spending time with God and my sparse free time with my family is the most important part of my ministry. So, I won't spend my vacation time at district functions."

Thanks Brother for the work that you do. The good thing about that letter is I can go to a place, even if it is in the "ether" to commune with those that have a calling and work and wear more than one hat.

God bless,
Ken

Pastor Ray said...

I agree with the last poster. I am from the same denomination, although from the Eastern Region and I had the same reaction when reading the announcement of the special 'Bivocational Day'. I have a 5-hour trip each way to the location of the conference in Quincy, MA., and have declined to attend mid-week functions for several years. During my early ministry I was not quite so assertive and my family was indeed hurt badly. I am now an annoying advocate for bivocational ministers on this District, and pray that someday, someone in power will actually hear and respond to our concerns.

Blessings,

Ray

Dennis Bickers said...

I agree completely with the comments about bivocational gatherings held during the week. When I was a bivocational pastor I seldom attended any event held by our denomination because they were always on a week day, and I found that most of what was offered wasn't that applicable to me anyway. In a 2004 survey I did of the bivocational ministrs in my denomination the overwhelming preference for workshops was that they be held on Saturday with Friday evenings coming in second. The problem for some denominations is that many of the fully-funded pastors do not want to attend events on Saturday. Denominational leadership finds itself caught in the middle, and many of them are reluctant to hold two separate events due to the cost involved.

My recommendation has been for denominational leadership to identify some events that they will hold specifically for bivocational ministers and offer them on Saturdays as often as possible. These events must be excellent or bivocational ministers will stop attending them regardless of which day they are offered. Any thoughts from denominational leadership?