This past evening I had a conversation with a denominational leader who asked if I knew of a pool of bivocational ministers. It's not the first time I've been asked that question as these leaders are finding it difficult to find such ministers for their churches. Unfortunately, there is no such pool of which I'm aware.
The denomination in which I've served has a formal listing of pastors who are open for placement, but there are very few bivocational ministers on that list. The reason for this is that bivocational ministry tends to be very geographic. It's unlikely that a minister will come from New Jersey to pastor a bivocational church in Kansas. I've found a good rule of thumb is that most bivocational pastors will be found within a one-hour drive of the church. If they have to travel much more than an hour it really lessens their ministry in the church.
As more and more churches move towards calling a bivocational pastor it is imperative that denominations and judicatories begin seeking such persons to serve these churches. Otherwise, these churches will be tempted to call persons who may not be qualified to serve as pastors. I've seen too many instances where small churches have taken a warm body just to have a pastor who turned out to cause much harm to the church.
I'm convinced that many smaller churches will find their future pastors within their own membership. I've seen several instances when a church called a gifted layperson to be their pastor, and in many cases it has worked very well. Such persons already are trusted by the church and in the community. Because they have roots in the community they are more likely to remain as pastor for an extended period of time, and this is usually good for the church.
Denominational leaders can work with pastor search committees to discern if there might be someone in the church who could serve as pastor. Calling someone into the ministry is the work of God, not of denominational leaders, but we can approach people and ask if they have ever felt that God might be calling them to such ministry.
We also need to be looking in both our larger and smaller churches for others who might possess ministry gifts and begin discussions with them about serving as bivocational ministers. Pastors are often the best persons to initiate these discussions, and as they find people who do sense a call of God on their lives this can be made known to their judicatory leaders.
Every judicatory needs to develop several pools of potential bivocational ministers so they will have people available when their churches begin searching for new pastors. The time to develop these pools is yesterday, but today is not too late! Someone in every judicatory needs to have the responsibility to intentionally focus on this growing need or our smaller churches are going to struggle to find suitable pastors.
Once we have a pool, even a small one, we must find ways to offer training. That will be the topic of my next blog post.