This is the first draft of the second half of the While We Wait, While We Work(W6) document.
For the first half of this document click here.
While We Work:
Advice for Bivocational Pastors:
Clarity and communication are key—Be clear about expectations all around (both you and the congregation). Be honest about your limitations. Develop relationships in the congregation to provide a network of people that will support you and have your back so you can get a fuller picture of what is going on and get honest feedback and insight into the congregational situation. Spell out as much as you can in your contract so there are fewer surprises. Have honest conversations with the church’s leadership and make plans for covering situations in which the pastor can not be there, i.e. if the pastor can't get there is there a lay leader who can be first response until the pastor is available? The important thing is to have the conversation first which both helps the leadership understand the potential challenge and plan for it.
Boundary setting—You may want to be at church all the time—but you have a responsibility to both vocations, and to your non-paid vocations as well. So leave when you need to leave. It is your duty as the pastor to set boundaries and say no. Setting these boundaries is best done from the start. Then, when you really need to be flexible, you have that consistency in the past to build from.
Be Flexible—once you have the boundaries of both vocations firmly established you can make exceptions as needed, because both the church and the other employer will trust your judgment about balancing your time for the sake of both callings.
Do not worry about office hours—the working/living situation of Americans has changed. Many more people are working during traditional pastor’s “office hours.” People are unlikely to desire to visit the pastor on a 9am to 5pm basis. Technology, from cell phones and email to blogs and twitter, can fit the purposes of the traditional office hours model. Weeknight meetings and busy Sundays will be your stock and trade.
Focus on tasks not time—You and your congregation will need to decide what your top priorities are and you will get them done. Bivocational ministry is not about the number of hours you put in—its about what you get done.
Help the Laity own the ministry—One of the main things a congregation and bivocational pastor will need to make clear is what jobs must the pastor do? The pastor then is there, to quote Ephesians, to equip, “the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” In other words, the tasks of ministry are divvied up, the pastor does that which she is called to do and makes sure the lay-folk have the skills and support to do their tasks.
Network with fellow clergy—Keep a list of the names of area clergy that the secretary or pastor can contact in case something urgent comes up and you are unable to leave your other vocation. Though bivocationality limits the opportunities for a pastor to meet colleague making these connections is imperative.
Suggestions for Candidates Seeking A Part-time or Bivocational Position:
Create a document for yourself that specifically describes your approach to part-time/bivocational ministry. Use concrete examples.
Ask call committee questions such as:
What are the congregational attitudes about calling a part-time minister?
What are the agreed-upon expectations about office hours?
What would a “worst-case” scenario look like regarding pastoral emergencies and funerals? How would the congregation take dropping the ball on something like that?
Who else is going to help lead the important tasks and programs of the church that the pastor won’t be able to do?
Remember this, your type of ministry is a particular gift to the church, especially to your lay folk and to the larger community you serve in. Full-time clergy can more easily get trapped in the “clergy bubble.”
This makes them look at ministry in a particular way. For example, they will likely look at the lay folk who have full time jobs and yet come in and volunteer at the church, with less empathy than you do. You have a higher level of understanding of the strains and demands of, for example, the folk sitting on church council who juggle commitments to both outside work obligations and church.
This also makes non-clergy look at them in a particular way—like it or not their main identity is pastor. This creates a perception of otherness that can make them less approachable. This otherness is less apparent for bivocational pastor, and thus you are more approachable. You get to represent the church in contexts outside of the traditional church setting! You will have more opportunities to pick the brains of unchurched folk than your monovocational sisters and brothers.
Remember also that doing ministry in new ways to fit new situations is what we do as protestants. For that matter, this is what the Holy Spirit does, She stirs things up and creates out of God’s people something new. You are living within a grand tradition!
Advice for Congegations with Bivocational Pastors:
If you are considering calling a Part-time pastor a few important questions to ask yourself as a congregation are:
What are the five most important activities done by the church?
Which must the pastor lead?
How much time should the pastor spend at the church?
Don’t expect a full-time pastor for half-time pay—One of the big dangers of having a Bivocational pastor is that you might accidently (or purposefully) financially abusing them. “The reality is that the living out of social justice ideals espoused form the pulpit applies directly to the fairness with which a church treats its employees, in this case, its pastors.”
Don’t assume “downsizing” from a full-time pastor to a part-time pastor means the congregation is dying—Bivocational pastors bring with them many gifts that can be refreshing to a congregation. Also, thinking that way can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Understand that the pastor will not always be available when you need her/him—they have a second vocation, and that job is of equal import to their being your pastor—just as your non-pastoral vocation is.
When writing your church profile be specific about your expectations of how your minister will be part-time—the practical details of hours on-site, office hours, appointments, committee meetings, and the “what if” questions about pastoral emergencies and funerals must be addressed Be as honest as you can about how the whole church feels. Duties and work schedule of other personnel must be available to the candidate in as much detail as possible.
The possibility of bivocational ministry ought to be brought up to candidates early on. On one hand, candidates have went all the way through seminary and to first call before being told that bivocational ministry is the wave of the future—this can feel like a “bait and switch” situation. On the other hand, there are people who might consider the ministry, but are completely in love with their primary/current vocation—they do not know that bivocational ministry is an option.
We highly discourage requiring bivocational candidates to quit their second vocation as a pre-requisite for candidacy. This is counterproductive.
At some point during seminary try to include information about bivocational ministry both, historically and contemporary, within the Lutheran tradition.
Bring in guest speakers to talk about how they do bivocational ministry.
Spend some time on group dynamics, conflict resolution, and how to delegate. All these skills are important for successful bivocational ministry.
When considering mentors for field ed and supervisors for internship try to pair up people interested in bivocational ministry with bivocational ministers. As it stands internship supervisors are supposed to be full time—in cases of students preparing for bivocational ministry providing them with a supervisor who exemplifies the best-practices of bivocational ministers should be seen as a worthy exception to the full-time rule.
Investigate the educational model of the Roman Catholic Permanent Deaconate (30 credit hours over 4 years, Wednesday evening classes. Supervised Internship. 3 Weekend workshops. Required spiritual direction) as a possible alternative model for educating bivocational ministers.
Many synods train lay leaders for larger roles in the church—for example Saint Stephen Ministers. We recommend Synods start, continue, and expand such endeavors to prepare for the possibility of more Bivocational ministries in the church’s future.
Ensure candidates, especially Bivocational ones, know about the ELCA document Guidelines for Shared-Time Ministries.
Bivocational workshops should be available and Directors of Evangelical Mission should keep up on the latest trends in bivocational ministry.
The ELCA ought to rethink its rules on what constitutes a call. For example, a pastor who serves a church for 10 hours a week should not be considered “on leave from call.”
Requiring a Lutheran Year of candidates who intend to be Bivocational adds unnecessary strain on a candidate who will not be financially compensated as a full-time minister. Potentially moving five times (to seminary, to internship, back to seminary, to a Lutheran seminary, and finally to a first call congregation) is a lot to ask of someone who will be working 15 hours a week at a Lutheran church.
The Church ought to be talking honestly about how the Church and ministry is changing today. It ought to reevaluate the very idea of what a pastor is, could be, might not be, and is not. It ought to also more fully embrace, and advocate for, positive interpretations of Bivocational ministry (see for example the Remember portion of the Advice section above).