One of the things I have enjoyed about doing workshops and seminars for bivocational ministers and their churches is the opportunity to serve ministry leaders outside my own denomination. So far, I've led these events for eight different denominations in various judicatories in the US and Canada. Occasionally, I'll ask the host why they have chosen someone outside their denomination to lead this event, and the answer I get is almost always the same: the needs of our bivocational ministers are far more important than the minor denominational differences that we have. And, of course, I agree!
Yesterday I spoke with an individual asking me to lead two workshops at their annual meeting later this year. He suggested two workshop ideas that his judicatory thought would be helpful to their bivocational leaders. I already have workshops on each of these topics because they address issues common to bivocational and small church leaders regardless of their denominational label. I am looking forward to being with these folks and sharing my material.
We live in a very challenging time in denominational life. Most denominational groups are struggling financially. Since our nation's latest economic downturn giving to churches has decreased which has led to a subsequent decrease in denominational funding. Many denominations and judicatories are seeking ways to reduce costs, and for many that involves cutting personnel. That spreads remaining personnel thin which reduces the amount of personal contact these people have with their local church leaders which can lead to a further decline in financial support from those churches. In addition to cutting personnel, reduced funding often means fewer training opportunities at a time when the rapid changes in our society calls for more training being offered.
At the same time all of this is occurring, many denominations report increasing numbers of bivocational ministers leading their churches today, and they anticipate those numbers will only increase in the near future. Bivocational ministry has its own set of unique challenges. For some ministers and churches they must learn how to go from being fully-funded to bivocational and how to make that work. Others going into bivocational ministry do so with little to no pastoral experience and face almost overwhelming challenges trying to figure out how to do ministry while balancing that ministry with all the other demands on their time.
Because I spent twenty years as the bivocational pastor of a small, rural church in Indiana and the past twelve years as a judicatory minister focusing much of my attention on smaller, bivocational churches, I understand many of the challenges these ministers and their churches face. The books I've written, this blog, the workshops and seminars I've created, and much of my other work speak to these challenges and reveal the passion I feel for those persons called to this ministry. That is why I get so excited when I am called to speak to these church leaders. I love to encourage them and provide them with resources that I believe will add value to their lives and ministries.
Your bivocational ministers need you to provide them the training they need to be successful in their ministries and their lives. Whether you do it with persons from within your judicatory or bring in someone like me, they need that training, that encouragement, and the sense that people care about what they are doing. If you are interested in learning how I might be able to help you provide that training, please contact me and we can discuss how we can partner together to better serve your bivocational and small church leaders.