Monday, April 25, 2016

Training for bivocational ministers

In my last post I discussed the need for denominations and judicatories to begin to intentionally develop pools of potential bivocational ministers to serve their smaller churches. Just identifying these individuals is not enough. We also need to provide the training they will need to be effective in this role.

Many of the people we identify as possible bivocational ministers will not have any kind of formal ministerial training. Since they have other jobs they may not be able to pursue a typical seminary education. Such education may not be what they need most anyway, but they do need to have training available to them.

When I joined the staff of the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky one of my portfolio responsibilities was a program called the Certified Lay Ministry training. The way it was structured was not working so after a few months we eliminated this for another program we called the Church Leadership Institute. I led a great committee consisting of educators, lay persons, and pastors who developed an outstanding program that has not changed much since its inception. Although originally designed primarily to train lay leaders, a number of people competing the program have gone on to serve as pastors in our bivocational churches.

Similar training programs are found in numerous denominations and judicatories. However, some areas still lack any kind of training for bivocational ministers. This will have to change or these areas will struggle to find qualified persons to serve in these churches. Not every person serving in bivocational ministry will avail themselves of such training, but the best ones will, and they are the ones who will serve their churches well.

Various schools such as Campbellsville University's School of Theology are now offering online programs specially designed for bivocational ministers. I predict we will see more schools offer such opportunities in the future, and denominations may want to partner with these schools to help train their bivocational ministers.

Every judicatory needs to consider offering one or two training events each year specifically for their bivocational leaders. Obviously, most of these will need to be held on Saturdays. I'm leading about a dozen of these events this year for numerous denominations, and it's exciting to see more denominations and schools hosting such events each year.

Just as it's important to be intentional about identifying persons who might have God's call on their lives to become bivocational ministers, we must be intentional about offering them training to help them succeed in their ministries.

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