Thursday, July 24, 2014

Job descriptions for bivocational ministers

Occasionally, I will be asked about job descriptions for bivocational ministers.  It is assumed that because I have done so much work with bivocational ministers that I probably have a huge file of job descriptions.  The fact is that I don't have any.

I'm not a big fan of job descriptions for bivocational ministers.  I recognize that they are often important, especially in a low-trust church, but I'm not sure how helpful they are in the long run.  I've seen denominational manuals that spell out how a job description should be set up with the number of hours that the minister will work each week, but I've always wondered how practical that was.

The pastor is watching TV on a Saturday night when the phone rings.  A lady explains that her husband has been taken to the hospital with a heart attack.  Is any bivocational minister going to say, "I'm sorry, but I completed my 20 hours yesterday.  I'll check on him Monday morning."?  No bivocational minister I have ever known would say that.

For years many bivocational ministers have lived by the motto: Whatever it takes.  We are going to do whatever it takes to serve the church God has called us to.  As pastor I would sometimes remind my church that there were weeks I didn't do 10 hours of church work, but there were other weeks I did 40+ hours of ministry for the church.  Different weeks had different needs.  I always felt they balanced each other out and didn't feel guilty about the slow weeks or worry about the busier ones.

Far better than a job description is to have the church agree on certain goals they want to reach in the upcoming year.  The pastor and leaders then agree on what the pastor needs to do to help the church achieve those goals.  That, along with standard items such as preaching, etc, becomes the pastor's job description for that year.  Everyone is then clear on what the pastor's primary focus is for the year.  At the end of the year an objective evaluation can be done for both the pastor and the church based upon these agreed-upon goals.

I know some are concerned that without a job description that some churches will take advantage of the pastor, and this does happen.  Again, in a low-trust church a job description is almost a necessity, but in my opinion it really stifles ministry.  Having a job description is also no guarantee that the church won't take advantage of the pastor anyway.  I know more pastors who got into trouble because they broke the unwritten job descriptions that some people in the church held for the pastor than got into trouble for breaking the official job description.

It is critical that bivocational ministers maintain balance in their lives, and it is critical that churches understand that they cannot pay for bivocational ministry and expect fully-funded ministry.  To accomplish that, it is far better for the minister and the congregational leaders to have regular discussions about expectations and set the goals as mentioned above than it is to depend on a written job description.

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