By Chet Harris
(This post is the insights of ministry by Chet Harris and not necessarily policy of the WCA, although as the Regional Director of East Ohio I will advocate for the future of the Small Membership Church as described in the post. Your questions and creative ideas are welcome.)
One of the greatest challenges of the small membership church is the financial support of the minister and programming expenses. Approaching the small membership church as a vital witness and much needed in our communities every effort must be made to secure a valid ministry with a competent minister in leadership. The financial reality will restrict some churches from supporting a minister on their own. I am not in favor of supplementing the salaries and benefits from an outside source. This action in my observation fails to sustain a healthy church as well as a growing church.
The church needs to invest and support their minister in creative ways.
Bi-vocational ministry is a definite piece of the puzzle to equip churches to move forward in ministry and service to the Kingdom. Bi-vocational ministry is sometimes called tent making after the reference to the Apostle Paul utilizing his skill of tent making to support himself and not financially burden the believers he was called to serve. It is not intended as a means merely to save money, rather provide a spiritual leader for a group of believers unable to financially support a full-time minister. In today’s society a minister might decide to become bi-vocational with the intent to release money earmarked for their support as a means to support new ministries. Adding a part time youth minister or worship leader is made possible because of a senior minister willing and able to take a secular job. Another reason for bi-vocational ministry is for relational reasons. Working in the secular marketplace is an excellent way to meet people and bridge them into the church. The bi-vocational minister might really love their secular job and feel God is calling them into ministry, but it is unwise to walk away from their job. The profession of the bi-vocational minister often undergirds and informs ministry in positive ways. In the future we might even witness sizable churches served by a team of bi-vocational ministers each serving in a specific ministry such as administrative pastor, preaching pastor, teaching pastor, youth pastor, calling pastor, and the list continues. The small membership church might discover that having two bi-vocational ministers on staff, each with defined responsibilities is the key to growth and sustainability.
The genius behind the small membership church and bi-vocational minister is an active and forward believing laity. The laity of the small membership church cannot depend on the minister to fill every gap in the church. Minister working forty hours in their secular job will not always be available for pastoral needs. Laity will need training and deployment in critical areas of pastoral ministry. Also, the laity must respond positively to leadership regarding personal and corporate spiritual growth as well as plans to reach people with the redeeming love of Christ.
(Your ideas and responses are welcome.)
All for the Kingdom,
Rev. Dr. Chet Harris
WCA Regional Director of East Ohio
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