Monday, March 8, 2010

Follow the conversation

Friar Tuck and I have an interesting dialogue going on under my post on "Home Grown Leaders."  Jump in and share your thoughts and comments on what we're discussing.  I would be especially interested in hearing from bivocational ministers who competed seminary.  What degrees did you pursue and how did that education impact your ministry?  Did you feel prepared for ministry when you graduated?  What have you done since seminary to help you develop into the minister you are today?  If you're American Baptist, what do you think about my comments about the MDiv requirement for ordination?  I appreciate Friar's questions and comments and hope to hear from others on this important topic.

1 comment:

Friar Tuck said...

Here is a little bit of what I think as a person who at full compensation with an M.Div at a church that has a difficult time affording a full-time pastor. Before I start I must say that part of my thoughts on this issue is working through options for a church that continues to lose 18k a year because it chooses to have a full compensation minister. I want to guide them in looking to the future, and making decisions for the future based on clear options.

1. I think churches that can only afford partial compensation is going to only going to grow. The situation needs to be addressed.

2. I think bi-vocational ministers bring gifts and skills to the table that only they can bring. Many of the ministers I admire most are bi-vocational.

3. I think the M.Div did very little for my skill development as a minister, although it did do some of that. Nevertheless I am thankful for my M.Div. This is because I think theological grounding and even a little theological sophistication is valuable in ministry. I would say as more of a thinker type, it also plays to my strengths.

4. Each of the partial compensation models of ministry has its strengths and weaknesses

yoked: this is almost always imbalanced. Works best when one or more of the churches simply want a "preacher" to be there on Sundays and minister in emergencies. But to both the pastor and the churches it can often feel like their pastor is a man married to two wives. Jealousy and power dynamics are rough to deal with. Each pastor I know in this situation eventually severs the relationship with one of the other churches when the churches begin to grow.

One of the ways this has worked best is when the ministry positions are of a different kind. For instance, a middle sized church that wants an educational associate or youth minister and a small church that wants a bi vocational pastor. As these two yoke, the different demands force increased understanding, but decrease jealousy.

This, if we had to go to partial compensation here, would be my favorite option.

"homegrown"--works well except it tends to cause interfamilial strife within a congregation. The friends and family of the person elevated to pastor often become more influential, and others in the church less influential. When the bivocational church is a declining church, this stress can increase decline

"outsourced bivocational"--In my experience, when people come into a bivocational church without strong relationshal connections, the tenure of the pastor tends to be shorter. Nothing is hooking them into staying

"tentmaker"--a call is offered to a pastor, as is another job that allows the pastor to establish full-time employment. Very rarely used, but I think a possibility for many churches.

I also wonder how much thought and work has been given to supporting bivocational ministers that are not preaching ministers. Partial compensation ministry is also prevalent with support ministers, yet there seems to be very little recognition of this. Why?